There are a few posts going around lately that argue the financial around F2P and the concept of bypassing challenge – or rather quickening your way to reward.
The core concept here is the old addage that time equals money. The modification I would bring is the “fun” variable to time. If I did something I found a lot of fun I would pay extra for it.
If the value is intrinsic, that is the journey is the prize, then either money or time is a justifiable payment. If the value is extrinsic, that is the prize at the end of said journey and that journey wasn’t fun, I’d be more likely to spend money.
The reason for this in my mind is that I make a lot (if not all) of my money working. I know exactly what an hour of my time is worth. It’s easy for me to figure out if doing something boring is worth 5$ for a month or not. The answer is quite often a no. For example, the Sparkle Pony back in the day caused some uproar. This was in the days where you didn’t share mounts and it was a hassle to get new ones. Not in terms of gold so much as time. Buying it gave a ground and flying mount for every character, on every server. In effect, it allowed you to bypass a boring part of the game for a fee. Hence the millions sold. Whether you want to argue poor design in the first place to make that bypass worthwhile, is a different matter.
Where it gets complex is in the mix between intrinsic and extrinsic reward structures. You can only kill bosses for so long before they no longer have intrinsic value. If you’re also not socially driven – say a guild or friends – then there’s even less value after a few runs. Using WoW again, you could run LFR for 2 weeks, see every boss, likely upgrade half your items and be done with it.
It really is a systematic problem with themeparks as a whole. If you’re only concentrating on the end of the road, rather than the journey, then there’s no way that can keep you coming back. If you enjoy the ride, then you can have fun so long as that lasts. If you play the same content for hundreds of hours, it takes amazing design to keep that relatively fresh.
Where F2P shines is in setting up a smooth, repeatable game with items that provide intrinsic worth. The most common example is with consumable customization options – like dyes. Another example is services for alts. It’s a very complex balancing act to maintain and few developers do it well. Too many people are copying successful games without properly understanding why they are successful.
It’s really simple. Get a fresh player, have them play until they think an hour is up. If they are below that when they finish, you have a problem. If they are above it, then you have a damn good game.