Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
From the general to the specific

Mobile phone tariffs and contracts are notoriously complicated and opaque. Choosing the right one for your needs is difficult: Should you take a flat fee subscription plan or some pay-by-minute version? But most people realize that this question can't be universally answered. Some offers are good for some people, but not for others. If you have a mobile phone mainly for emergencies and being reachable, but don't phone much yourself, you'll need a different plan than somebody who is talking all hours. The exact same thing is true for business models of online games: Some plans are good for a specific group of people, but not for others. Flat condemnations of the Free2Play model usually come from those who benefited a lot from the injustices of the subscription model, which is the cheapest option if you play a lot, but makes you overpay if you play little.

I have seen many Free2Play games in which the specifics were very much to my liking, for example I always found the payment plan of World of Tanks very fair, especially since they changed the "gold ammo" to be available through playing. Other people repeatedly pointed out League of Legends as having a good Free2Play model. On the other hand I have played some games in which the monetization strategy was so repellent that I stopped playing quickly, or at least refused to pay. Recently I started playing Warhammer Quest on the iPad, which is a nice enough game, but is obviously designed to net you not enough gold through adventuring, so that you'll buy the gold you need to level up your characters with real cash. There has been some discussion on the gambling aspect of selling "lockboxes" or the keys for them, which are a part of many games, and I'm not a fan of those either.

So I think that the stupid "all Free2Play is evil" ranting is not constructive. It would be far better to discuss specifics, like what shop items in what specific game are fair or unbalanced or overpriced. Which games are discreet about the payment options, in which games do you hit a paywall, and which games shove "you should spend money" advertising down your throat every minute? I do think such discussions can accelerate the spread of best practices in Free2Play business models. Rejecting all Free2Play downright is just Luddite, and will never succeed in putting that particular genie back into its bottle.

I gave Card Hunter one more try and ... I am in love with it. Slow peace, last position/quest always saved... It's like leaving the board game alone and you can go back to it when you want, without losing anything. Cool (and fun, and strategic).

But... there is a but: pizza slices and Club.

The club seems way too expensive for what it can really offer (some gear): 10$ for one month, 50$ for 6 months, nearly 100$ for 12 months.

Same goes for the Pizza slices, that can be converted to acquire gear or purchase figures (which are nice but extremely expensive).

Compared to other games, the "optional payment for benefits/cosmetics" seems very expensive and not worth it.
... "all Free2Play is evil" ...

I don't think anybody is saying that. Free2Play is not the problem. Pay2Win is the issue. In a game of skill, f you can improve your chance of winning by opening your cheque-book rather than by improving your skill, it rather removes the point of the game.

Pay2Win is the issue.

Pay2Win is not an issue, it is a slur people apply to just about anything they dislike. I have yet to find two people on the internet who agree on what exactly is and isn't Pay2Win. I've seen people complaining about Pay2Win in single-player games, and I've seen people defending PLEX in EVE as not being Pay2Win, although you can buy even the biggest ship in the game with real money there.

But... there is a but: pizza slices and Club. The club seems way too expensive for what it can really offer (some gear): 10$ for one month, 50$ for 6 months, nearly 100$ for 12 months. Same goes for the Pizza slices, that can be converted to acquire gear or purchase figures (which are nice but extremely expensive).

The Club is insofar curious as it suffers strongly from diminishing returns: Buying 1 month at level 1 in the game is phenomenally useful. After two months in the beta, the extra gear I get from the Club is all just doubles of gear I already have.

And you're the first one I see complaining about the figures: They are purely cosmetic, and most of the time I see people saying that games should ONLY sell cosmetic stuff.
I don't complain about cosmetics, at all. I just pointed out they're expensive as hell in my opinion.
For me the problem comes from the open-endedness of F2P. In WoW I pay 12E/month. I get all I can access (= more or less everything). Spending more than 12E/month is very difficult, you may get some cash shop pets or mounts, but that's way below the aberration I've seen on F2P games.

After seeing guildies start spending insane amounts of money (hundreds of euros), after seeing people complaining on the forums about a $500/month cap, I wonder if the "whale hunting" does not aim for people with spare cash who want to enhance their fun, but aims for people who are unable to master their spending habits.

I have no problem with the first, but I have a problem with the second, since people going bankrupt playing scratch'n'win games is not exacly a new (or positive) phenomenon. And I'm not sure that translating it to MMOs is positive, either.
Well, Heli, MMOs in general target the addictive aspects of people's personalities. They are a bit like casinos for nerds in that respect. Casinos don't have a spending cap though, so there is that. Whatever game has that is pretty nice.

A lot more people have damaged their lives on subscription games than F2p at this point in history, so I'd like to see how that shakes out before saying F2P is the more dangerous type.

"Pay2Win is not an issue"

That's my quote of the year!
The gambling items concerned me too. Quite how they bypass gambling laws is beyond me.

With regards to the general criticism we see of f2p models on forums, I would again suggest that this issue is blown out of proportion. It is the vocal minority again. They tend to be the subsidised minority that gained so much from subscription models and they are naturally trying to campaign against the f2p models that their casual benefactors have abandoned them for.

No one likes having their free lunch withdrawn.

Although most of the free to play games I checked out tended to sale convenience items like xp and rep boosters which the "18 hour a day" guys don't need a much as those time-limited casual players.
Dàchéng is making the idiotic statement that Free2Play games are taking away from his skill in these games. I really wonder what games he is playing. Can't be any MMORPGs I know.

I fail to see how buying a +100% xp scroll in a Free2Play MMORPG is Pay2Win. You can't win an MMORPG. And the amount of xp you gain per day is very much a function of how many hours per day you play, and very little a function of your skill.
I guess if you interpret pay2win as meaning pay to avoid the grind, by speeding up play with XP boosts or beneficial gear than I suppose one could argue that such people aren't suffering appropriately enough with the F2P crowd....or something? Assuming that one is not paying their due and is just speeding to the endgame by paying to bypass the grind is ignoring the problem of grind-based design as a flaw in the first place.

I like the idea of pay2win meaning that in a given game where there is a definite win/lose state (most FPS shooters with pvp, DOTA-types and such) a cash store which lets you by clear advantages (killer guns, immunities, boosts) for money is probably a clear case of P2win but last I checked very few such games do this because they actually are skill-based and their base would revolt if this sort of thing was allowed.

MMOs on the other hand? They're just looking for ways to get your money, and figured out that while people eventually stop paying monthly to grind, they will happily pay a lot more to reduce the grind in a F2P model. That's not pay2win...that's a clever milking of your audience.
If MMO's didn't have level XP caps, would you consider them pay2win?

It depends on the context.They're still pay to win. But for the most part, xp isn't any sort of skill or status symbol.

Personally, i don't mind xp scrolls. But i would mind entry level dungeon gear, even if technically they do not take much skill, like say normal wow dungeons.

You also don't need to "win" in the literal sense of the word. Any sort of game power is "winning", because it makes it inherently easier.That is the same reason people are less offended by xp scrolls. They are time sinks, with little to no status, more than anything else. Hitting level 90 is not an accomplishment anymore.

Imagine Xp scrolls in something like EQ, though... i imagine would be a different conversation.

The trick is selling something that is "worthless" to a hardcore player, but valuable to a newbie, while still keeping game integrity.
I used to like F2P and think it was the future. I was hopeful that eventually most companies would release games with fair F2P models. So far only a small handful out of all the F2P games have done this.

I play the odds when it comes to this. Say only 20% of F2P games have a fair business model. There's a very good chance that the next F2P game released will be one of the bad ones. The odds are not in our favor, so I choose to avoid those games.

Later after other people have taken that chance and found it to be good, I might be willing to try a F2P game. I never play a F2P game at launch, let alone put money into it, until I've read other players' impressions on it.
I already bought pizza slices for the 'treasure hunt' quests, but I bought them for the content not the items.
Tobold, why isn't pay2win an issue? There are people that misuse the term, and people who defend it, but that doesn't mean it isn't a relevant issue. If that were the criteria for something, there would be nothing to discuss.

Are Xp scrolls even enough to run a business on? Or are they simply another example of selling 'hats'? The number of items which fit in "don't increase player power" and "useful" seems exceedingly small.

The other issue about pay2win is that even a workable system is established that makes most people happy, there is always going to be that conflict of interest.

It's the same argument people make with DLC. The only "bad" part is when it's misused, but companies can and will try to maximise their profit, which is not always in the consumer's best interest.

And it's not clear that even if companies overreach, they will always be punished for it. There's plenty examples that bad PR and player angst over something is much more (minority?) bark than bite. Customers are willing to put up with quite a lot in order to play a game. Maybe not constantly online (yet), but it's getting there.

And once it's out of the bottle, and a company shows that x item works as a cash shop, it's not likely to disapear. Normally you might call those fears a slippery slope, but i think there have been enough cash grabs to say that they aren't idle concerns.

I agree with the sentiment that I see p2w used far more as a slur than an accurate description. Certainly, there is no consistency.
The long and more accurate phrasing is: P2W is a significant issue but there is little informational content in seeing something described as p2w other than the author did not like it.
Tyra - I won't relink the Bartle talk on cheating but it is that cheating (and by extension p2w) is about things you care about. I would not care about them selling BiS pvp gear but would be offended by selling crafting materials.
Hellistar, I know a number of people who spend $100 per year in WoW on race and realm changes or used to subscribe to the Mobile AH. So Blizzard does sell some non pet/mounts items to subscribers.
P.S. In most discussions, EVE is an outlier. EVE is clearly p2w since I can buy a trading alt with several years of experience, trade in Jita all day and can never be attacked or lose the years of head start I bought. Yet EVE does not behave like p2w since most people who overspend are "a fool and his money are soon parted." Do you describe a game by what it is or how it functions?

Well Woody, I think it circumvents gambling laws for the simple reason that it isn't gambling. Gambling implies that you have a chance of winning something of monetary value. This is just buying a mystery box of nothing.
Tobold, why isn't pay2win an issue?

I'll do another post to explain it.
I think they should get rid of the somewhat sketchy advertising term "free2play" and change it to 'paywhatUlike". This would help make it clear that the company expects to be paid, but that the payment model is player driven. Then, let players play for things like character slots, 2x experience or even server access > 10 hours/month etc. I can think of all sorts of ways to tailor payment to player needs without resorting to selling in-game power/items.
Dàchéng is making the idiotic statement that Free2Play games are taking away from his skill in these games. I really wonder what games he is playing. Can't be any MMORPGs I know.

That's correct. I'm talking about games of skill, and not MMORPGs.
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