Massively has a post on a recent meeting of the minds in regards to F2P. Cryptic (Champions Online, Star Trek), Riot (League of Legends) and EA (SWTOR) all have a bit to say, though the focus is on the first and last in that list.
I learned that Craig Zinkievich is now the COO of Cryptic. I remember him from the STO days of beta and launch. He quit when they went F2P then came back a few months later. Any comments that Craig puts out, I tend to take with a grain of salt. He’s a solid dev, smart head on his shoulders but sometimes it seems like he lacks an understanding of the genre. A forest for the trees type of guy. Anyways.
Craig’s point that SWTOR was the last great hope for subscription games rings hollow. I’ve said it about 100 times now but SWTOR failed because of lack of incentive to pay 15$ a month to play. Once you reached level 50, there was simply nothing to do of value past the first week. I don’t get why Craig can’t see this as it’s the exact same reason STO went F2P. If you provide people value for their money, they will pay. WoW, Rift and EvE are only 3 of the examples needed to push this point across.
EA has a good line that basically says F2P competition is good for gamers as it increases the quality of games within the pool. While I agree with the comment in spirit, this is so massively not true it’s hard to contain my morning coffee. If this were true, then there wouldn’t be any Prada purse knockoffs and Wal-Mart wouldn’t be around. Competition doesn’t increase overall quality, it decreases it to absurd levels. You might have an outlier with a great product but the mass is still garbage. The only time this comment is true is when competition breaks a monopoly. The iPhone smart phone monopoly and the web browser monopoly are great examples. F2P is currently a massive sea of garbage. Finding anything of quality is more of a measure of luck than content. Hello Zynga?
F2P is not the wave of the future; it is simply a “new” monetization platform. Are the design decisions for SWTOR going to be different now than they were before? No, it’s still a MMORPG themepark-a-palooza. There are still raids, PvP, dailies and all that junk. Instead, they will nickel and dime you through that content. It’s simple math. They need money to operate. How they get that money is up to them.
The difference between a F2P model and a subscription model is in the return on investment. (ROI) A sub model has to wait many years to get all the cash back. SWTOR could have waited 3 years and started printing money but the ROI requirement from investors was to get the cash faster. F2P can make all their money back in the first 2 months (many Asian models are based on this as is Zynga) by gouging players who will pay MORE than 15$ per month. Of course, that initial blip of cash disappears after your game hits month 3. Guild Wars 2 will be showing that off pretty quickly I bet.