Thoughts on Free-to-Play Multiplayer Games

Recently, I was asked for my thoughts on free-to-play multiplayer games.  Not to toot my own horn, but I was rather satisfied with my response.  toot toot

Now, for your first question.  I saved it for last as it is a large question.  I know that the free-to-play market has grown drastically in the past several years.  It appears to have followed the trend of casual games becoming more popular that are also free to play.  One could also argue that it ties into culture as well.  People are always expecting more for less.  Also, with several economic slumps, people tend to cut back on entertainment.  When times are good, a $15 a month subscription isn't terrible, but that’s also a lot of money when it adds up over the years.  Given the choice of a free-to-play game that is close to what is offered with a subscription-based title, people will tend to go with the free option.

But, if it weren't a successful business model, development studios and publishers wouldn't opt for producing free-to-play titles.  More and more games are following the free-to-play model and several have boasted increased revenue as a result of the switch.  While there are still a handful of titles that require an initial purchase or subscription fee, the vast majority are moving to or have moved to the free-to-play model.

What this does is flood the market with all manner of games.  From incredibly well made titles like Path of Exile to the laughably bad like League of Angels, there are a plethora of titles to choose from.  In my past experiences, it depends on the market and target audience.  For the most part, the vast majority are of a low to mediocre quality.  These titles tend to originate from the Asian markets and drunkenly stagger over the line of intellectual theft and outright plagiarism.  That being said, there are some marvelous titles that make it easy to forget those other lackluster releases.

The other concern I have with the rise in free-to-play multiplayer titles is the fragmentation of an audience.  Gamers are always looking for the next big thing.  Couple that with our society’s shrinking attention span and you’ll be inclined to agree that most folks usually play several titles simultaneously.  This can make it hard for a developer to foster a community within their own game.  But it also serves as motivation to continually provide compelling content to players in effort to retain them and boost their own revenue.

That all being said, a game is a game.  They can be terrible or they can be brilliant.  I feel it is the responsibility of the person covering the game to present how it plays and what players can expect in the fairest manner possible.  While I may not personally like a game for aesthetic reasons or a character motivations I don’t agree with, I am only one person.  My job as a writer is to educate my audience.  And in that, I strive to do my absolute best.