Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Paying for Access in a F2P Game

Is it okay to charge for access for a Free-2-Play game?

Blizzard is offering a $40 bonus pack for Heroes of the Storm. It has some heroes, some skins, and most importantly, Beta Access. If you didn't get an Alpha invite, this is pretty much the only way to get into Heroes of the Storm.

I got an Alpha invite, and I've played a little bit of Heroes. MOBAs are not really my cup of tea. I've never actually played League of Legends or similar. So I can't really tell you much about the gameplay.

But in my opinion, the label "Beta" is a misnomer. Heroes is pretty much ready for launch. Any company other than Blizzard would have launched already. I'm sure they're going to add more heroes, and do the occasional balance tweak. But that's par for the course for a modern online game.

One could say that Heroes is launching. It's just going to cost $40 for the first couple months and then go free. Essentially, you're paying to play it at "launch". If you're willing to wait, the game will eventually become free.

I don't think this is a bad thing. The Old Republic does this with early access for features for subscribers. Books have traditionally done it with expensive hardcovers coming before cheap paperbacks. Heck, one could say that games do it with sales, especially the eventual Steam sale. The only real difference is that at the end, the company offers the game for free, instead of a nominal $5 or whatever the Steam sale price is.

I also think these types of schemes have other benefits. It rations everyone into the game slowly. Rather than have a massive rush of players at launch, you have several generations. New blood comes in to refresh the community as people start to leave.

In fact, consider a scheme like the following: For the first month after launch, the game costs $60. The second month, the game costs $50. The third month, $40. In the seventh month, the game becomes fully Free-2-Play. I think such a scheme would be straightforward and beneficial, rather than masking the current state by calling Launch "Beta".


  1. That's an interesting way to look at it. And given that just yesterday I was ranting to a couple of co-workers that they should never pay money for early access to a F2P game (specifically talking about Heroes of the Storm!), you've given me some food for thought.

  2. @Carson63000, yeah, it's one thing to pay for a clearly *unfinished* game. But, in my view, the current quality of Heroes is high enough that you can consider it "finished".

  3. It's a Blizzard game, but if you take any studio that pushes their game live on a totally crappy state (*cough* week 1 patches of several GB) be it MMO or just with online functionality... The early buyers get shafted even more.
    I'm not bitter saying this, more from the sidelines, I don't buy many games and even less of them at launch, but just from reading I get reaffirmed in this.

  4. Just a common economic sense:

    As long as consumer is not forced to buy a product, it is okay to use any pricing model.

  5. As long as a player feels it's worth the price, it's a fair price to charge.

    The thing about a lot of the various "founder packs" is that they tend to be giving you a bunch of stuff from the in-game stores either at regular price or at a discount, and then are throwing in the beta access for free. While the beta access is likely the actual draw, it's worth in the transaction is essentially 0.

    Let's also not discount that these packages also work as starter packs (in fact, the Heroes founder pack was literally called the starter pack in the Technical Alpha), giving players a set of resources so that they're not floundering at the start.

    As long as this is the standard, charging for access is fairly reasonable, in my opinion. But at the end of the day, my stance still falls on "Am I getting value for my money?".

  6. I am basically in favor of this system. This is because it puts a price on something - early access - which was not priced before.

    In my opinion, pricing schemes are usually a good idea. This is because pricing something generally means that it goes to the people who value it most. This means a more efficient use of resources.