Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why are video game companies turning to the Free to Play model?

Over the past decade there have been many games that were once pay to play, where consumers would pay a monthly subscription to play the game, that have now converted the game to the free to play model, where consumers get access to the game but pay with in game purchases. Why are video game companies turning to the Free to Play model now?  

There are several advantages with the free to play model that the subscription model is unable to do. One of the main benefits is that it presents to the player a no risk situation, meaning that they are not spending money a bad game. The only thing that is lost with a free to play title is time. Time, for free products, is incredibly cheap for the consumer so there is low risk for trying the game. If a paid to play game converts itself to a free to play, players who were once interested but did not want to pay for it are the first to play. No risk means no money spent. No money spent means no harm done to the player. So the player will now dive into this game and give it a shot.

Now it is up to the game to keep the player. The player will be judging the game with a couple things in mind, is it fun and is it fair? If the game is fun, the player will continue to play the game. If not, the game is simply deleted and they proceed on to the next game. If they do find it fun, the player will be looking to see if the game is fair. Gamasutra, a leading video game news website, has done an in-depth look into the free to play model and its perceived fairness to the player. This article looks at how players will analyze the game and see if each other player is treated with the same experience and that no one player can purchase their strength or rank.

“Status symbols are valuable specifically because they are difficult to obtain. If you could go online and buy a knighthood for $15, the title "Sir" would no longer be a status symbol.” - Gamasutra

The game is fun and the player is continuing to play it, how does the company make money? Micro transactions or in game purchases, the player will pay small amounts for extra content. For example, purchasing buying extra game content that would be otherwise locked, or changing the way the player’s avatar looks. MMO Hut, a website that specializes in play free to play games, takes a look into what the player thinks about in game purchases.

“I love it when a game gives me the option of being able to buy really cool stuff and accessorize my avatar, or buy XP potions to reduce to horrendous grind to max level so I can start participating in end-game content and PVP” – MMO Hut

To the player, making small purchases is cheaper than paying for an annual subscription. Companies, with the free to play model, now have more players, although are paying less money each money, are making more money than with the free to play model.

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