What’s So Great About Free-2-Play?
Those darn South Koreans, they get all the luck. First Blizzard gives every Korean with an active sub to World of Warcraft a free copy of Starcraft 2 and now Funcom are releasing Age of Conan with a free-2-play model over there. Top it all off with having the fastest Internet connection speeds in the worlds and you’ve got a country that most geeks would mistake for the afterlife. If it wasn’t for the fact that I have an uncanny ability to accidentally spout off-the-cuff racial slurs at inconvenient moments (my wife’s used to it) combined with their national sport being Tae Kwon Do, I’d be applying for permanent residency as we speak (I’m also afraid of getting nuked by my neighbouring country but that’s a risk I’d be willing to take for the sake of 100Mbit download speeds).
Still, my excitement over the AoC F2P news has somewhat diminished over the past few hours and since then I’ve been starting to ponder the F2P subscription model a bit more. I always used to like the idea of being free of the shackles of a monthly subscription but since I’m still currently subscribed to Age of Conan and yet haven’t logged in in a couple of weeks it put me in the interesting position of wondering how much I honestly care about it all and whether or not F2P would truly have any affect on my gameplay habits. Would F2P suddenly renew my interest in Conan? No, it wouldn’t and, in fact, it might put me off a little.
The downsides of the F2P model are clear enough and you only need to look at the ruckus Allods Online stirred up with their insane pricing schemes to realise that F2P doesn’t necessarily mean a better deal for the gamer. Indeed it could actually end up with the player paying more just to access the content they would’ve had from a flat subscription and there’s always that old chestnut of the slippery-slope argument (what if they devs start introducing uber armour, weapons and spells on the cash shop just to make more money?) to throw in F2P supporter’s faces.
I suppose I find something comforting and reliable about the good old subscription model and personally I admire the elegance of EVE Online’s simple subscription system. You pay a monthly fee, play as much as you want, don’t have to worry about any “extra value items” being sold to players and get every single expansion for free. All in all, seems like a pretty great deal to me and excellent value for money.
And I suppose value for money is one of cores behind the F2P argument, flexibility in payment (i.e. paying only for what you want to use) being the other. Yes, it is kinda unfair that someone who only plays a handful of hours a week has to fork over the same cash as someone who plays 6 hours a day and yes, it does penalise those players who can’t, or choose not to, experience some of the content. However, at the end of the day, there should still be enough content, play time and enjoyment available to contend you and, if there isn’t, then the logical conclusion is that it’s probably not worth playing at all.
Each of us has our own value for money scale in our head and so it’s impossible to give a unanimous thumbs up or down to any one payment system in particular. Still, all I can say is that if $10-$15 a month is too much for someone to pay to play a MMO then that particular game probably doesn’t hold very much value to them at all and it’s highly unlikely that it going F2P would truly change that fact (beyond sparking their interest from all hype that such an announcement creates).
Maybe one day we’ll see some ‘better’ or fairer payment models being introduced but until then I think I’m happy sticking with the simplicity of the monthly subscription model and prefer it the over F2P one. Ultimately we all end up parting with our cash one way or another and it’s just boils down to what we think is worth it.
So nah nah Koreans! AoC going F2P is one less thing I have to be jealous about.