Why not, I’m game. Let’s argue what a successful F2P MMO brings to gamers that a subscription will not.
Honestly, there’s just one answer. The actual game being available. I think this echo’s Brian’s position. Let’s break it down though, into chunks that are debateable.
One. There is a finite amount of players willing to spend $15 (or whatever amount) dollars a month on a game. There are many more who will pay less and a few that will pay more.
Two. That same finite group will, on average, stick to one sub game at a time. There are exceptions.
Three. A game needs funding for production, marketing, launch and steady state. This is either through venture capital, crowdfunding, cash stops or subscriptions. The wall of finance to get a game out today is higher than 10 years ago. Chris Roberts is an outlier. There are dozens of MMOs on kickstarter that haven’t reached their goal.
Four. The compete with status quo, you have to be as good or better. To beat Wow you need the content and the systems and the social. The first and last are not likely possible with any existing budgets. The middle one, system design, takes a level of talent that is rare, regardless of funding model.
Five. You need ways for players who want to pay more, to give more. Sub games have incentives/cash stops. F2P games are built on this model.
Six. Market share is never equal. There are 1-3 big guys that have 75% of the pie and everyone else gets a small piece. You cannot gain massive market share at launch, this takes time and word of mouth.
Seven. You need in-game metrics to target your development to your baseline and revenue streams. If you sold your game as a PvP game and your stats say everyone plays PvE, then you have some serious design problems. F2P metrics are much more obvious.
Eight. Players have a vested interest in their money. If they have spent $60 in a game and put in dozens of hours and have a social structure, they are extremely unlikely to leave that behind. The “grass is greener” until you’re on that lawn.
Nine. Players in all games cannot be entertained forever. They will wander. They will wander even more when there’s not price at the door. If they like what they see, then maybe they’ll stick around.
Ten. Commitment. MMO gamers from 10 years ago grew up. They have jobs and family and other commitments. 20 year olds today do not have the same mentality to gaming we had, since they have way more selection. It isn’t that $15 is a lot, it’s that you’re vouching that you’re going to get bang for your buck. F2P let’s you dictate when you’re going to pay and play.
I could probably list another 20 that are related but those cover the basics. The main point is that there are very few MMO players willing to give up what they have for new grounds, at a cost. This means that the possible playerbase for any new game is significantly smaller than launch projections would suggest. So either you support a launch of 2 million people and know you can only keep 200K, or you find an alternative. Plus, you need to manage the ghost town after launch – regardless of the business model.
For straight out benefits between F2P and subs, it’s all in the implementation. F2P gives me choice and makes me an empowered consumer. My wallet dictates game development. Are there crappy F2P models? Heck yes. Just like there are crappy subscriptions. I didn’t want pet battles in WoW. I would have preferred something a lot different. But it’s not like they can test that idea. No one in EvE wanted monocles. Few wanted a lot of features from multiple patches. UO has had a long list of “what were they thinking?” moments.
A successful MMO keeps an active community engaged over long periods of time. It provides social economies. It provides content that the playerbase has a voice in. F2P gives MMOs a chance to make money and serve a non-niche target. It provides a cash-positive experience on a wide range of games that would no longer be around today. It allows developers to test ideas, sell them at low risk and see what works.