Okay, so yesterday I was complaining about the P2W tag and it being subjective enough to be useless. Admittedly I was quite agitated at the time and never actually articulated that point.
Today I’m addressing the weirdness with the often associated F2P tag.
It seems somewhat dishonest in a “technically correct but intentionally deceptive” way. They are, technically, free to play. Nobody is going to make you purchase the game, or any other goods/services, in order to play it.
It’s a tried and true business model. These are essentially the “Get a free sample!” tables of the gaming world. They want you to try the product because they need you to want it. In some ways I feel the gaming industry can actually be quite lenient in the amount of content you have access to for free. In many cases you technically have to the whole game, or everything but the latest update(s) or what have you.
Some are obviously less generous, giving hard caps at low levels and/or limited play areas. They want to give you a taste of the game, let you see all these wonderful options that are available to you, if you purchase their product.
I know that I personally am more biased to the first kind than the second, though there are flavors I tolerate more than others. I’d rather have a level cap than restricted race/class choices.
The reality, however, is that you’re probably going to end up spending some money to play for any length of time. The part I imagine is difficult for developers is creating things that people want to buy but won’t complain about wanting to buy. At the end of the day though, they have to make a profit or the game won’t exist.
That’s just how it is. Investors will not continue bankrolling an unprofitable product forever.
Ultimately, despite it’s shady reputation and sometimes questionable implementation, I believe that F2P has been a good thing for players. Not only do we have a wide variety of choices buy they’re easier to try out because there’s no little to no up-front cost. If I go to my buddies and say “Hey, let’s go try out Guild Wars 2,” we’re more likely to walk away with a positive impression having not dumped $30+ each just to try it. More importantly, it creates a very low barrier of entry. The fact that we can even do something like this is remarkable. That simply didn’t exist “back in my day.”
Boots on the ground are good. Nothing makes a game look dead like a newbie zone that’s devoid of players.
That’s one of the things that makes it hard to do too. I have no personal investment in a F2P game. Spending money on something makes you more likely to view it favorably. If you can’t justify the cost to yourself you’ll feel like you wasted the money and nobody wants to feel like they wasted money. This makes you actively want to like the product so you feel better about your decision. F2P doesn’t have that working in it’s favor and I’d love to see some data regarding player longevity in F2P vs B2P.
I’d rather have something that’s free to start than have nothing at all. I don’t mind having to spend money once in a while. If I can spend $15/month on a sub game then there’s no reason I couldn’t spend that, or less, on a different one.