How we got to Free-2-Play
Anyone even the least bit interested in the world of MMO’s has seen many games released or converted to free-2-play. Often it is looked upon as a sign that a game has failed when it switches from a monthly subscription to free-2-play, the only exception might be for very old games like Everquest. However, recent reports have shown that free-2-play is a smart business move, not only for those games that struggled with subscriptions, but those who start off free-2-play as well.
So how did we get here, simple, too much product, and not enough people willing to buy it. Remember when Everquest was released there was only one other well-known MMO which was Ultima Online. Once games like, Dark Age of Camelot was released the thought was it would split the player base or some would pick one over the other. Not many, besides wishful sales people and marketers believed a large number would choose to play and pay for both.
As more games were released, many wondered what would be the lasting effect. Since there were still dominant games the idea was that the others would become more niche and could make just enough to turn a profit, but the giants would rule the MMO world. That theory was reinforced when World of Warcraft was released and you still had many other MMO’s on the market including Linage, City of Heroes, Everquest 1 & 2 and more.
It was the Korean MMO’s that used the free-2-play model first namely because there were so many being released and they discovered people were more willing to spend a few dollars at a time then one lump monthly payment. This allowed people to play multiple games and still feel as if they are paying less even though many ended up spending more than a monthly fee would cost in A la Carte selections.
As even more games came onto the market and with so many people playing World of Warcraft more scrutiny was put on new games. A high bar was set and gamers had no problem leaving in mass after the first or second month if a game did not perform the way they wanted or expected. During this time, we saw many games fail and some even shut down, most notably, Asheron’s Call 2 and The Matrix Online.
Many companies needed a way to keep a game afloat if it did not launch well and free-2-play became that way. Just like the 99-cent mp3 or application for your mobile phone sales people realized people would spend if it was in small increments. You might not pay 15 bucks a month for EQ2, but you might play it for free and then buy a horse for 4 bucks here and a piece of armor for 2 bucks there and by the end of the month you might have spent more than 15. Not only that, but by spending real money many people became more attached to their character and stayed longer with a game or came back from time to time to purchase more.
Now we have even newly released games such as DC Online Universe going free to play with many other big name MMO’s following suit. Could we see a giant like WoW turn free-2-play? Perhaps more U.S. based MMO’s will start launching free-2-play. Only time will tell, but the model is here to stay and is working, not only for the companies, but for the players as well and as long as that continues so will the trend.
Now, on with the Cosplay!