F2P – Baseline Forward

There’s enough hullabaloo (I don’t get to use that word often) about F2P in the blogs today.  I don’t necessarily get the fervor so much but I suppose with RIFT swapping and Neverwinter “officially” launching, we’ve got new competition.  Here’s a thought for the day.

The theory is that in an open market, the market itself self-regulates.  This has a dependence on there actually being an open market, so no collusion (banks and gas) and no monopolies (Windows, Internet Explorer).  Movies are an almost an open market in that the price of tickets from theater to theater is relatively the same.  Cars are similar, since you can do an apples to apples comparison of features and price match between dealers.  Games are close too, since the upper cap for any game is going to be $60 and anything below that seems to be seen as “budget” title.

The new variants to this are the mobile space, DLC and F2P games.  Mobile space has 3 price points – free, 99c and $4.99.  Anything outside of that is an outlier.  DLC is seen as $5 as a price point for any given package, regardless of quality.  This makes season passes effective in that you pay 20$ for the promise of 5 packages (or more).   These prices are set because of market saturation and competition.  Why spend $7 here when I can get the same item for $5 there.  Subscriptions above $15 have never worked.

F2P games are approaching a baseline price model for various features.  For a long time only the East had a model and everyone on this side of the pond basically stuck their thumb in the air and guessed at a price.  Allods is the poster child for how pricing structures can destroy a product.  Up until a few years ago, we basically had Zynga & friends telling us the price for F2P.  DDO swapped with a decent package, then LOTRO, STO, AoC, EQ 1&2 and now a few more.  The market is still somewhat fresh and expectations for pricing points are still somewhat in flux.  That being said, I think we’re hitting the point of what’s acceptable.

A mount at $10 is acceptable.  Costumes and customization at $5.  DLC expansions at $10-$20.  The market is going to decide what is acceptable if you give enough similar choice.  RIFT, Neverwinter, LOTRO, EQ and SWTOR all offer extremely similar services.  Any new gamer looking at the field is going to try to find value for their dollar and right now, RIFT and Neverwinter are setting a heck of an example.  EQ recently (a few months back) increased what was available to the masses.

At the end of the day, each developer needs to make money to pay for servers and staff.  It does not get any simpler than that.  In order to make money, they have to sell something.  Consumers are now in a better position to compare products and value, and invest where they see fit.  This is going to drive the market moving forward.  Voting with your wallet works and is the only true way to make sure something changes.

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