Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Penny Arcade on F2P

A few days ago, Penny Arcade posted a comic that matches a lot of my feelings on F2P:

I preferred those days too.


  1. The F2P boom reminds me of the dotcom boom (the bit where every online company was offering crazy cheap/free deals because they wanted more eyeballs on their site.)

    I just don't see how it can work once they can't guarantee getting huge numbers of players unless they can find a way to produce games/content more cheaply.

  2. You could say the same thing on Valor and Justice and Commendations and....

  3. Difference is you don't buy Valor, Justice, etc. with real money like tickets and vouchers in TF2

  4. Talking about F2P is like talking about politics rather than, say, democracy - there are many different models of F2P. Most of them, including the one I co-designed and ran for three years, make awful decisions so I can see where the sentiment comes from. But there is one model that is pretty hard to criticize and I'll use Path of Exile as the case in point. (I compare it with D3 because it's the closest competitor which happens to combine the worst aspects of F2P with a forced upfront buy-in.)

    For F2P, I imagine a Venn diagram in which there are two sets - the store and the gameplay/community. The more the circles overlap, the worse it is. The store and gameplay in PoE are almost disjoint. Diablo 3's RMAH is pretty much a subset of its gameplay (though the RMAH is irrelevant as P2W until Blizzard adds a competitive element such as PvP or Ladders).

    Path of Exile has absolutely no P2W in the game. They offer something like 24 unrestricted characters per account. Free accounts have ample storage. In fact, the only things you will ever be able to buy, aside from additional (excessive) stash space and character slots, in case you don't find 24 to be quite enough, are cosmetic in nature. The additional stash space is more convenient than making mules and/or other accounts but not necessary. In other words, the entire game really is actually completely free.

    What is there to criticize, then, except the possibility that an awesome game and dev team might go out of business while folks are still enjoying the game? But PoE hasn't left closed beta and they've made over a million in support partly because the game is bloody amazing, partly because the dev team (18 people) interact daily with the community in a friendly, constructive, and transparent manner, partly because there's peer-pressure/envy/guilt from seeing others with cool kiwis and levels of support, and partly (mostly?) because the type of community this game/team fosters is a breath of fresh air (especially given D3's situation).

    I was first in my local EB to pre-order the Diablo 3 CE based on Blizzard's reputation, hype, and leaked content (that was unfortunately systematically cut and/or mutilated just prior to release). That's $110 that has left a more than bitter taste in my mouth. And I'll never buy another Blizzard game without seeing weeks of positive feedback on their forum again. Yes, I'm soft-boycotting Blizzard. (In fact, most games that I buy outright seem to end up so blah or without replay that I end up setting them aside within a month if not sooner.. and for $60+!)

    I gave GGG $250 for PoE knowing it won't give me any advantage in game and I'm finding it really hard to resist upgrading to the $1000 package before open beta hits. Why? Maybe I'm just crazy.. but it's hard to resist supporting awesome. (I've supported a half-dozen quality YouTube artists over the last few years as well.)

    I don't expect everyone to see things the same way - certainly not everyone will like PoE, for example - but surely this form of F2P (and this form of developer-community relationship) is more than acceptable?

    What am I missing aside from that F2P is, regardless of individual merit, stigmatized? Is it so difficult to break past this and judge a game/developer itself? What more do folk get from paying forced subscriptions except perhaps the feeling that the game must be better because they're charging for it? Is it really F2P that folk dislike or just certain poor decisions (like P2W) that most, but not all, of them seem to have in common?

    Perhaps, in isolated cases, folks have it backwards. Perhaps games that charge up front, like D3, do so because they know that if it's played first they won't see a dime and games with a non-P2W F2P model, like PoE, do so because they know they have something good that folk will want to support as long as they continue playing.


  5. Personally, I never played a F2P game that had a lasting appeal. I feel like they're generally inferior in quality. Also, all these F2P games with cosmetic item shops (claiming they're not P2W) make me wonder about two things. 1. Are there really enough people spending money just for looks? Enough to cover the game companys' costs? 2. Are the regular items in the game so crappy-looking that people must buy items to upgrade their appearance instead of, let's say, just farming for a cool sword?

    I think F2P model can work for certain games, as they obviously are. But, I prefer paying a straight up cost. Or subscription, assuming you get good regular content updates. I think that's better for the consumers too. I feel like cash shops are game within a game, adding unnecessary complexity even when it's not P2W. Also, they feel a little sneaky somehow.