Aug 9 2013 2:00pm

Gaming Roundup: What’s Wrong With Free-to-Play?

Free to Play gaming roundup

The free-to-play (or f2p, or freemium, as may suit your fancy) business model has been kicking around the gaming industry for a number of years, but it has never before achieved the level of prominence it enjoys today, and its influence only seems to be trending upward. Major titles including DotA 2, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, Hawken, MapleStory (whose enduring success over the past several years can probably be considered the f2p gold standard) and the recently f2p-converted Star Wars: The Old Republic and Everquest have all experience varying levels of success by going f2p. While the (admittedly situational-based) financial viability of the model will keep it afloat in gaming for years to come, especially in the MMO genre, there remains a core group of gamers fundamentally opposed to this growing trend. Why? Let’s take a look.

IGN’s Justin Davis explored this issue a few weeks ago, observing that simple perception plays a significant role in contributing to the negativity some perceive around the f2p model, and the notion certainly has merit. For one, f2p is the OCD gamer’s nightmare. Many players like the certainty that comes with the finality of owning a piece of $60 software, and enjoy the fact that what they achieve and find within their game, they will have earned. There are no doubts creeping in and around the edges of their minds; no second-guessing, no thoughts of “if I spend $5 more to upgrade my battlehammer, I’ll be able to handle the next bossfight in an hour rather than six” or “if I don’t spend money gearing up, I’m going to get my ass kicked online by gamers who spent hundreds of dollars on microtransactions.”

Relating to perception is the thought that f2p elements such as Real Money Auction Houses are an example of nickel-and-diming gamers, especially when they are used in conjunction with traditional pricing models. Diablo III is the poster child for this perspective, as after the game’s first few months of critical and customer acclaim passed by and a true sense of the game’s long-term economy became realized, the Diablo community became split right down the middle. Many gamers felt the presence of a Real Money Auction House—in which developer Blizzard Entertainment took a cut of every microtransaction made—tainted and cheapened the gaming experience, as the mere presence of the RMAH weakened the in-game gold economy, creating the fundamental problem that f2p gamers face: grind it out for eight hours to gather 10 million in gold, or pay $5, $20, or $250 to save your time and move on. The main issue here was that Diablo III created an f2p mentality for a game that was never f2p to begin with, nor had gamers any cause to perceive it as such when it came attached with a $60 price tag. This quickly disenchanted no small amount of franchise fans, and for many, soured their perception of Blizzard, as well.

There is also a general apprehension surrounding the heightened presence of Day 1 DLCs because of this strategy’s similar mix-and-match approach between f2p and pay models. An ever-increasing number of first day, first month, and first year DLCs has elevated the suspicion of those who argue that DLCs, especially those launched close to a game’s initial release date, are just a way to hold back pieces of a complete game in order to charge gamers more money. While DLCs still, for the most part, fall under traditional pay structure, there is potential for the lines to blur, which is an ominous thought.

Finally, there is the issue of game balance. While some games have f2p game balance down to a science, others... well, others do not. Punch Quest’s biggest failing was offering too much for free; however, most games skew in the other direction. While one of the goals of the business model is, of course, to set up the classic f2p choice between hours of time vs. a small out-of-pocket expense which then repeats over and over and over, some developers become overprotective of their content and use cheap artificial barriers to shoehorn players into this decision. When this happens inorganically, navigating a f2p game becomes virtually impossible, and worse from an industry perspective, tedious, which can color the reputation of a developer for quite some time. Another prevalent factor is how developers deal with equalizing in-game power between paying players and free players. Maintaining a fair pay:play ratio can be difficult; paying players need to be rewarded, but not at the expense of being placed head-and-shoulders ahead of free casual players. Balance issues also tend to foster gamer suspicion and paranoia, especially in the aforementioned games that tend to mix-and-match pay models—conspiracy theories regarding item drop rates and game economies begin to make the rounds, further affecting developer perception. The success and reputation of a f2p game, or a game that possesses f2p elements, hinges on community trust, which can be a tricky balance to maintain.

The f2p model has one undeniable strength, and that is its ability to resurrect (and in many cases, maintain) general interest in franchises thought to be on the verge of death. Everquest’s f2p transition generated a massive increase in account creation and accordingly, brand awareness, and Star Wars: The Old Republic has reportedly found some success in its transition to f2p as well. Other franchises, like MapleStory, DotA, LoL, and TF succeed through community goodwill and fantastic game balance. There are certainly merits to a successfully implemented f2p model—which is a good thing, as the model is here to stay.

And so we wish to turn it over to you, Dear Reader. What have your experiences been with f2p games in the past? Do you still play any? What are your thoughts? Let us know below.

In other gaming news this week, Valve accidentally confirms Left 4 Dead 3, Neil Gaiman enters the gaming realm, the Elder Scrolls Online bounces back, and whispers emerge of Red Dead Redemption 2. Read on!

  • It appears Valve may have unintentionally confirmed the existence of their next project: Left 4 Dead 3. Whoops... and hooray! Also, you can announce Half-Life 3 any day now, Valve. Any day...
  • Here’s something cool. If you own an Oculus Rift, you can go visit Mars. Virtually, at least. NASA has created a VR simulation for the OR that enables users to virtually experience traversing the terrain of the Red Planet.
  • Nevermore let it be said that video games are a waste of time. Mario Kart saves lives, people.
  • Neil Gaiman is taking the video game plunge for the first time with the upcoming Wayward Manor. The Gaiman-penned game is set in a 1920s Victorian Gothic estate, and situates the player as a ghost attempting to find innovative ways to scare off a pack of unwelcome guests.
  • When Elder Scrolls Online was first announced, it was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, and the early teaser trailers did it no favors. However, according to IGN, the game has come a long, long way in a few short months and could very well be the worthy Skyrim sequel we’re all waiting for.


If there are games you’d like us to cover or blogs you think we should be following for more news, please let us know @tdelucci or @pritpaulbains.

F Shelley
1. FSS
I hate to say it, but I dropped more money than I care to admit on one of the online build your empire games. After awhile, I figured my money was better spent elsewhere and quit. I've since decided that if I can't advance quickly enough to not spend money, I'd be better off not playing a freemium game. So now, if I try a new web-based or itunes game and see the whole minutes to hours timer counting down to when i can do the next thing (challenge, building, whatever), I go ahead and delete it immediately. Except for Real Racing 3- for some reason I can play that (and have for 2 months) without coughing up real money. Then again it may be years before I'm in a bugatti veyron...
Sky Thibedeau
2. SkylarkThibedeau
Mostly my experience with p2p (Battlestar Galactica Online, Star Trek Online) has been OK. I just have an issue with Wallet Warriors griefing all the noobs.
3. chaosprime
You forgot the favorite term for this business model among those displeased with it: p2w, pay-to-win.

I don't really mind freemium games, and I still play at least one minimum-engagement, minimum-competitive-impact-of-payment one, Hattrick. Where the business model becomes really sketchy, I think, is in games where the primary selling point is competitive multiplayer and payments significantly affect that.

Economically, the point of the model is to saturate your demand curve. If you sell your game for $20 and you're done, you get $0 from everybody who won't pay $20 and you get $20 from everybody who would pay more. Which is very wasteful. Ideally, you want $5 from the people who'll pay $5, $20 from the people who'll pay $20, $50 from the people who'll pay $50.

Steam takes a stab at that with their deep discount sales, which doesn't curve-fit as well but is infinitely less ethically troubled. So there are alternatives out there.
Zack Weinberg
4. zwol
I'm always a little surprised when these articles come around and they don't mention The Kingdom of Loathing, which is a f2p in-browser game that generally manages to Get It Right on a bunch of fronts that almost all other such games regularly get wrong. Notable aspects of getting it right include: There is a regular stream of new content, and it's always accessible somehow without spending money. It is possible to play competitively without ever spending money; in fact, there are gameplay modes in which all paid content is locked out, specifically so that everyone has a shot at the leaderboards. And perhaps most importantly, the "pay for goodies" interface is isolated from the rest of the game and only offers in-game items; it's not possible to purchase success directly. Thus they stay away from the really cheap psychological tricks (e.g. "pay up, or lose the last X hours' effort").
TW Grace
5. TWGrace
there remains a core group of gamers fundamentally opposed to this growing trend

You can find a core group of gamers opposed to anything.

Everquest’s f2p transition generated a massive increase in account creation and accordingly, brand awareness

I would say that those two things arent necessarily connected. You can have a "massive" influx of new accounts, and not increase brand awareness one iota, simply by many people creating 'bots - especially in a game like Everquest where having a second/third character around to do "x" (be it heals, or brainless DPS, or brainless tanking) makes going through content much easier.

The real question is whether SOE is making more cash compared to the "$15 a month for each account" model.
6. Lsana
When I first heard about gold farmers in World of Warcraft, my reaction was incredulity. "You mean that this game is so boring that you would literally pay people in China to play it for you? Then why the heck are you playing it in the first place?" When I play a game, I usually enjoy all of it, not just the big boss battles, but exploring the map and having random encounters as well; if I don't I stop playing. I was amazed that there were people whose solution to a game being boring was to spend even more money on it.

I feel similarly reading about these f2p models. If it isn't fun to grind it out leveling up your character, hunting for the best equiptment, and getting enough gold, then the game has failed. It seems like the wrong incentive to tell the developers, "The more tedious you make certain aspects of the game, the more money it will make."
Cain Latrani
7. CainS.Latrani
I've never really understood the animosity towards f2p games by some in the gaming community. Not everyone can afford to drop $60 or more to play. Much less afford to upgrade or buy a new computer for new games.

The f2p model has a place in gaming.

Personally, I play a lot of Neverwinter, and have yet to feel cheated by not being able to spend money on it. To a lesser extent, the same goes for Forsaken World. FW has it's problems, but overall, I reached the level cap without ever spending a dime.

A Mystical Land is another that I enjoy greatly. Plenty to do, and never a need to spend money to do it.

While there will always be a need for these games to make a profit in order to stay available, that shouldn't come as a punishment for those who can't afford to drop a lot of money. I may only spend $5 or $10 when I can, but I am still supporting the company to the best of my ability.

F2p isn't bad. It's all in what you want from a game.
Harry Burger
8. Lightbringer
Having stuff that can only be obtained by paying that is way better than stuff that drops for free is evil. Cosmetic-only improvements that you need to pay for? Knock yourself out. If your level grinding timesucks are long and boring enough to justify paying for saved time, you've designed a boring game, you don't deserve to be paid for it.
if you
Harry Burger
9. Lightbringer
Having stuff that can only be obtained by paying that is way better than stuff that drops for free is evil. Cosmetic-only improvements that you need to pay for? Knock yourself out. If your level grinding timesucks are long and boring enough to justify paying for saved time, you've designed a boring game, you don't deserve to be paid for it.
If you need to try to squeeze me for cash, best way is to have a large number of permutations generated randomly, and let me pay for the on I want made to order.

Example: sword/axe/mace/spear, flaming/frost/shocking/acid/bonus against undead, enhanced strength/dex/con. No combination is /bad/, each drop is random, my character isn't forced to build to one weapon type to the exclusion of the others, but if I want the flaming sword of strength, I can play the well made game and enjoy it, waiting for my ideal drop, or I can pay for the ability to customize my own. But don't let any one permutation be a game breaker.
10. Gerry__Quinn
I think the biggest issue for many people is that F2P creates obvious perverse incentives for the developers in terms of game design. Take a subscription MMO: what developers need to retain subs is for players to have plenty to do and be happy in the game. If it's FtP they want players who don't pay to be frustrated and unhappy enough to pay. Worse, they want 'whales' who will pay a lot to be incentivised to pay more and more. Sure, these incentives can be overcome, and there are good FtP games. But they give the FtP model an unwholesome smell.
Matthew Brown
11. morven
Good point, chaosprime, about saturating the demand curve. Done right, f2p enables those without much money to play the game, yet allows those who have money to spend to spend their money on a game they love, and both groups can be happy.

Done wrong, as many iOS games seem to do these days, it's all about manipulating the player into dropping more and more money into a game once they are emotionally invested in it. Done wrong as in unethical, that is; those games appear to be making bunches of money.
Fredrik Coulter
12. fcoulter
I play MMOs, and I would rather play free to play than those that charge a monthly subscription fee. I'm older, and life gets in the way. Some months I play a lot (and spend money), while other months I don't play at all. Paying a monthly subscription and not playing seems a waste of money.
13. Kasiki
I have played a few f2p games and typically i have ended up on the long strategy types. In the short term they seem fairly solid, but when you look at the people that are willing to put a little money in and the advantages they simply can not compete. Most of those types of games require alliances, and people you end up chatting with for a while get pissed when you leave because you know you can not keep up. I supose there is a balance, but by far most view the free portion as the intro to a game and pay to get the full game.

The really jacked stuff is when producers like Microsoft keep adding things to a game every few months for a fee. Yes I like Halo, and several other of their games, but lets add game play so we can milk each of our titles and double out profits.. is really were games start to go the wrong direction for gamers. Some of their updates even conflict with other their own released games and require the system to be sent back and reset for a fee to play a disk. That is simply not right.. make sure your updates don't screw things up and cost me stuff that i had to pay for.
14. Reiko
I very much enjoy the F2P style of online gaming for awhile because it suits my mercurial attitude toward games: I rarely finish one because there are just too many to try. I almost never buy games at full price; I play those that are free or are significantly on sale. I rarely buy physical games these days except for some console games, but I nearly always buy older used games. By the time I've gotten far enough into a F2P game to feel the grind, I've usually gotten tired of it or found something else to occupy myself anyway, so I don't bother buying any perks. I do appreciate the fact that these games are mostly possible because of the hyper-competitive players that do spend a lot, though.

There have been a few exceptions to my very casual treatment of F2P games. The best F2P transition, in my opinion, was Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). The main storyline is all accessible for free now, but the farther you go, the harder it is to be strong enough to follow the storyline without doing optional quests, not all of which are free. Free players also have character slot and other functional limitations. The real trick is that relatively small amounts of the premium currency can be earned in-game by doing special quests ("deeds") and such. So frugally-minded and careful players can earn a few selected premium perks for free. It adds another layer to the game to decide whether pursuing a few more deeds in order to get enough points to buy another premium perk is a good time trade-off.

The deeds give other in-game rewards like titles, though, so it's fun to pursue those for their own sake anyway. Plus there's just a ton of content that's available, hundreds of quests scattered over dozens of vast areas; intricate skill trees; multilayered deeds and other trackable accomplishments. Eventually I got too high on the grind for how busy I was, but this was an online game I thoroughly enjoyed while I played, except for a few particularly difficult quests.

I think SWTOR could be the next LOTRO, as the next major F2P game with vast areas, a main storyline, and a deeply established world and lore. I played it for a little while so far, up to level 10, and was very engaged with what I saw. I did get stuck on the difficulty of one quest without a resolution so far, so I haven't seen the depth of its features yet the way I did with LOTRO, but it's definitely got potential.

The one non-F2P online game I did subscribe to for a time was A Tale in the Desert (ATITD), a very experimental game that contains no direct violence or combat, but focuses entirely on society-building and crafting. It's set in a vast Egypt, intricately rendered, with the Nile splitting it down the middle. What makes it really strange is that it is played in cycles: every year and a half to two years the whole world is reset to nothing. The goal is, as an individual, to pass a series of Tests in seven disciplines to make personal progress, and as a community, to build a series of monuments, one for each discipline, to make communal progress. The cycle is "won" when all the monuments are completed, which doesn't always happen.

Some of the best F2P games aren't the big-budget complex MMOs, either. There are simpler ones like Kingdom of Loathing (already mentioned) as a casual browser-based RPG, or Unicreatures as a collectible creatures game, or Fallen London as a quality-driven branching story, almost like a browser-based choose your own adventure story with a memory of your choices and a detailed inventory. All of these separate their premium content from their free content, so it's completely optional. Unicreatures has a few separate "exotic" creatures that can be bought. Fallen London has a sort of subscription that allows more actions and access to another area, but it also has extra storylines available for the premium currency. The main storyline is all freely accessible.
Matthew Brown
15. morven
I do wonder if part of the genesis for the trend is players who feel ripped off by the "pay first, try second" model of paying for games, which has left customers feeling a bit ripped off when they buy games for increasingly large amounts that they end up not liking and hardly playing.

Done right, a free-to-start game lets you pay your money only towards the games you like. Try SWTOR and don't like the feel of the game? Don't pay them anything. Love it? Buy things according to your love and your budget.
Walker White
16. Walker
There are two very different philosophies to F2P, which I like to call the "virtual quarters" model and the MtG model.

The virtual quarters model is designed for you to have to keep paying to make any progress. It is actually very old school. Games are designed like they were designed for the arcade of old, before video games became something predominantly played at home.

The MtG model is very different. It is possible to have a decent MtG deck with a bounded amount of money. And (in theory) the cards are balanced enough that you cannot just pay to win. What the money unlocks is different cards, not better ones. You are paying to unlock new modes of play.

I have no problem with the second model. And many games (particularly shooters and their weapon varieties) started out with this model. The problem is that abominations like Candy Crush Saga (even if you like the game, you must admit it is exploitive) are making the former the predominant F2P model. And that is the problem.
Walker White
17. Walker
I will mention the main (known) problem with F2P is that you have 10% of the player base (according to most industry measurements) subsidizing the content for everyone. This requires the industry to build their business model around "whales" (just as with gambling) and exploit them.

Honestly, just after you attend a monetization talk at GDC, you will feel like you need to take a bath.
Kristin R
18. Lysanor
I've played many MMOs, most of which have evolved into some derivative of the FTP model. If the items available are fluff (different looking outfits, housing items, non-combat pets), than having a market place to purchase things is certainly not game breaking.

However, when you can buy high end armor which you can otherwise only get from raiding or performing other time intensive tasks, I feel it somewhat cheapens the game. Overall, it seems like a delicate balance to keep the game from becoming trivial if everything can be purchased.
19. TheMadLibrarian
I play STO, in fact I paid for a 'lifetime' subscription shortly after they became available, so 3 years into the game I've obviously gotten my money's worth. One of the things that should be mentioned is the gambling for real money aspect. You can buy 'lockboxes' in game containing very rare items, but what you are paying for is the chance of getting a very rare item, not guaranteed. Some people profit from being lucky and winning, but many people spend lots of money for the chance to maybe get that one in a thousand timeship and never break even. If you have an addictive personality, it's easy to drop hundreds of dollars, just like at an online casino.
Dan Rice
21. driceman
If a game was free when I got it (Real Racing 3 for example) and it THEN asks me to pay for better equipment and such, I don't have a problem with that-although it's annoying when it's literally either pay or play for an extra 50 hours.

My problem is with paying for online content for games I paid for in the first place. If I paid $60 for a game, I should damn well be able to enjoy it without paying for more.
Anna Hivoina
22. nya_anna
Didn't even try to play F2P games, just don't like this idea because don't know how much money i can spend for this game. I want to pay once and enjoy full game. Maybe one day i will try and change my opinion, who knows.
23. Tura
That said, the game developers need moolah to keep going. Making a game where you are have no incentive to spend money would be pointless; keeping the tightfisted freeloaders happy forever is pointless.

It's a difficult balancing act for the games, as of course what was promised is "free play" and being too pushy will alienate people who might have in time made some modest purchases, and have them badmouth the game to their friends as well, but to make it a game where you get no real benefit from buying upgrades would be economically self-defeating. Not that many people are ready to pay for cosmetic changes.
Brian R
24. Mayhem
The tradeoff is the balance between Free-2-play & Pay-2-Win.

I play a lot of World of Tanks lately, which has two currencies - gold and credits. Credits you earn in game, gold costs real money unless you are lucky with certain in game events.
Everything you need in game is obtainable by credits and taking time.

The biggest advantage buying gold gives you is you can upgrade your account to premium for a small sum (roughly equivalent to $7/month), which gives you a substantial boost to XP and credits after every battle, which literally saves months of game time. It also allows you to form groups with two other tanks, instead of just one other. However only one person needs to have premium to form the group, normal accounts can join them fine.
The secondary advantage is you can purchase certain in game items like one-off higher level tanks, permanent camouflage or minor stat boosters (like 5%). These do not make it easier for you to win, they simply alleviate some of the lower level pressures like grinding experience. You can also spend gold to transfer experience earned by one tank to another, again which saves time.

All this is considered fair by the community, and doesn't unbalance the actual game play much at all. Someone with day long camouflage gets exactly the same benefit as someone with permanent, they just have to keep paying for it with credits.

The part that is looked down on by the community is the idea of Gold Rounds - special ammunition that directly costs gold that hits harder and does more damage than normal ammunition. The direct pay-to-win idea. Someone with Gold Rounds isn't guaranteed to win, but they will generally do much better than someone without.

I find that the use of premium time is almost essential to progress later in the game, simply because the amounts of credit and XP needed as you get near the top tier tanks becomes exorbitant. On the other hand, once you have a top tier tank, you no longer need to pay, you can just log on and relax, since your credits etc just go to repairs and new ammo. On the whole the game is fairly good value, and it does seem to make good money for the developers.
25. Pay2Win!
I will admit that I play the worlds most P2W MMO this game is f2p but you absolutly cannot complete end game dungeons without rather a large amount of real dough. But thats a choice & i can spend 1-2yrs getting the same gear or pay & have it now .. & I personally enjoy being 10x stronger then the F2P players : ) RoM FTW !!
Ursula L
26. Ursula
Speaking as someone who has only lightly stepped into the world of gaming, when I read this article, and the types of games being described as "free" or "free to play" my first thought was "why are you lying to me?"

Calling these games "free" seems like calling a book "free" if the author and publisher have chosen to put the first three chapters up online to read for free, in hopes that once you start reading for free, you'll be interested enough to buy the book.

Now, I don't have a problem with the drug-dealing model of book marketing. (First taste is free... but you just have to have more!) But that is honest - you get the first chapters free, and we hope you'll like it enough to buy the book, and buying the book is a moral good, because authors who can write well deserve to be paid for their work.

Calling a game "free" or "free to play" when you actually have to pay to play the game in an enjoyable way isn't honest. If you're playing against other players, and there is an advantage for paying players against their non-paying opponaents, or if you can't advance without deliberately tedious play-time unless you pay, then the game isn't really designed to be "free to play", but rather to be "free to be a tedious waste of time" and only actually fun to play if you pay.

There are quite a few games available that are genuinely free to play, either ad supported or a simple game developed by someone for fun, and then let loose in the world.

There also seems to be a moral problem in the undefined costs of the so-called "free to play" games. There are games I can play for free, either online or as downloads. And there are games that I buy, where I pay to get a copy of the game, and then it is mine. But the allegedly "free to play" games seem to have no defined price. And no way to know, before you start playing, what the actual cost of playing the game in the way it was designed to be enjoyed will be.

Which leads to a third problem. I'm not rich in real life. And there are many, many times when I find myself at a disadvantage compared to people who are wealthier than I am, in real life.

If the so-called "free to play" game is one played against other players, and players who can afford to pay have an advantage, that pretty much means that less-wealthy players face the same problems in the game as they do in real life, which is that being poor sucks.

So the wealthy have one more place where they can enjoy an unfair advantage over the less-wealthy (even if they earned their money in real-life, they didn't earn an advantage within the game), and the less-wealthy have one more un-fun situation of being at a disadvantage because they don't have money. (Even if the reason that they don't have money is a good one, such as choosing to do work that is worthy but unrewarded, such as caring for the disabled, or doing daycare so that others can work for more money than they will pay you to watch their kids so they can work, etc.)

The games being described can't honestly be called "free" or "free to play."

Call them "pay to play." Or "pay to advance." Or "pay to have a level playing field." Or "pay to have fun." Or "pay-to-play, but don't ask in advance how much you'll be paying."

A game designed to only be fun or winable or fair if you pay shouldn't honestly be called "free."
27. Eyeless621
I started with Tera when it was subscription based, and when it went f2p I felt like any new "content" they were releasing was just cosmetic stuff like weapon skins and stuff like that for players to spend real money on, rather than actual new content like dungeons or quests (I prefer PvE to PvP). They still have a subscription option which gets you some nice perks that don't over power you above the non-paying players (which is good). But still, I think in general with subscriptions the developers wouldn't be as focused on making things for people to buy in order to stay in business and they could focus on expanding the end-game environment.

I can see from a business perspective why that is a more attractive way to run a game though. Going f2p causes a quick surge in players, and at first everyone is spending a lot of money on the "extras"... there is much slower growth with having subscriptions, so for a game that may be about to die, you can go f2p, make a bunch of money real quick, and then when everyone gets bored from not having actual new content, they'll quit and the game will die anyway... so yeah, it makes sense from a business perspective I suppose. Unless you can be patient enough to grow the subscriptions and keep people interested with new content.
David Moran
28. DavidMoran
As a gamer I generally find the f2p model to be gross at best and actually evil at worst. On the gross end of the spectrum, you're letting players get out of grindy tasks in exchange for money, in effect creating a system where players PAY YOU TO NOT PLAY YOUR GAME. As previously mentioned, this just means you've successfully created an addictive - but boring - game. As long as these things you grind for are cosmetic or just like, new content, I guess that's fine. But not for me as a gamer.

At the other end of the spectrum are games that take payments to make you better than someone else you're competing against. In any tournament in these games, the highest rank is dominated by people who have shelled out lots of real money for the privilege of being there. In any other competitive endeavor, this is called bribery.
29. James Moar
Calling these games "free" seems like calling a book "free" if the author and publisher have chosen to put the first three chapters up online to read for free, in hopes that once you start reading for free, you'll be interested enough to buy the book.Though the closest match for that approach in the gaming world would actually be demos, which as far as I know are generally seen as a positive thing.
Corey Sees
31. CorwinOfAmber
I like F2P when it lets you get a taste of the game before deciding to commit money. If it just wants to give me the first few levels or the most basic mode of play, and then charge me for the full game, I think that's one of the best applications of F2P. There are so many old N64 and Playstation games I would never have bought if I had the chance to play them first.
David Moran
32. DavidMoran
31. CorwinOfAmber

I think as mentioned in one of the other comments, that really falls more into the category of "demo" rather than f2p.
Pritpaul Bains
33. Kickpuncher
@31 CorwinOfAmber - Ditto @32 re: demos (which seem to have been at the height of their popularity in the 90s for PC games, especially in the generous shareware era) - but good point -- a lack of demos for the older consoles led to a lot of unfortunate purchases.

It's nice that one of the biggest perks of the current console generation is the rise of the online marketplace, which at least positions console games to take advantage of try-before-you-buy -- even if modern-day demos generally encompass only a scant 15-30 minute slice of a game, if that.
Ian Gazzotti
34. Atrus
I prefer buy-to-play (B2P) rather than F2P, and/or games that allow both a subscription model and to buy addons separately, like The Secret World. This mostly because a game that allows for one-year subscriptions is a game that believes it's still going to be around, and creating content, a year from now.

F2P is also looked down by many because too often they turn to be "buy to win" or even "buy to play with basic customization" - not because of lack of balance, but because the publisher or the devs actually want it to be that way. Such a game is not free in any meaning of the term, because to get to endgame you're basically forced to spend more money or many more hours than in a normal game.

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