Free-to-play is…

  • Completely free
  • Subscription-free (for the time being)
  • Buy the box, play forever after for free
  • Buy the box, play forever after for free — but there’s also a cash shop
  • Free play… until you hit a level cap
  • Free play with content behind pay walls
  • Free play with microtransactions
  • Subscription / free play hybrid
  • Subscription / free play hybrid with microtransactions
  • Free play with subscription tiers
  • Subscription game with the ability to pay subscriptions through in-game efforts (EVE Plex, etc.)
  • Freemium

Should one term be used to cover such a varied blanket of business models?

Should we be coming up with better terms for these different categories, and if so, what should they be?

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “Free-to-play is…

  1. gameronomist August 3, 2012 / 9:04 am

    You bring up a good question Syp, but I don’t know if there’s a way to really change the market terms unless a certain game that comes up comes up with the name themselves. Like, if GW2 decided to say: “Our business strategy for buying the game and then having a cash shop will be called ‘Flibberty Gibbets!’ ” then everyone would call their business model the “Flibberty Gibbets” business model.

  2. Ambermist August 3, 2012 / 9:10 am

    I was thinking about exactly this yesterday as my husband and I discussed trying Guild Wars 2. It’s hard to know what free-to-play actually means without looking into each game individually. I’m not opposed to doing the checking, of course, but some kind of more-apparent indicator would be nice.

  3. motstandet August 3, 2012 / 9:38 am

    People toss around the “MMORPG” label willy-nilly. “F2P” is this year’s buzzword.

  4. Syl August 3, 2012 / 9:56 am

    It used to be much easier…now, not so much.
    strictly speaking I still think of it as sub-free plus account-free (like Allods); basically free accessing and also no time limitation. not necessarily including things like premium content though or excluding a cash shop – those can still exist in the same game.

    but yeah, we may have to look at terminology soon. and I am also still waiting on somebody explaining to me why GW2 is supposedly Pay2Win – did anyone spot any true indication of that so far? cuz I haven’t.

  5. SlothBear August 3, 2012 / 10:31 am

    I like the school of thought that says “Free to Play” should mean literally free to play, no price for the game or to play it, whereas “Buy to Play” means you have to pay for the game but never for a subscription.

  6. Tan August 3, 2012 / 10:48 am

    Regarding Guild Wars 2 (and Guild Wars 1 for that matter), from what I’ve seen ArenaNet has explicitly resisted the term “Free to Play”, always responding to those who ask if it is on Twitter/forums/conventions/whatever either that it’s “Buy to Play”, or “Pay once, play forever”

  7. couillon August 3, 2012 / 10:48 am

    I reserve Pay2Win for when you find cash shop advantage items that CANNOT be obtained through ingame means. LOTRO comes to mind with some potions/pvp type items as well as items targeted at casual players intended to Bypass/Skip/reduce the excessive grinding required in F2P models.

  8. cyberfemmefatale August 3, 2012 / 11:22 am

    I think this is especially interesting considering that the new Ouya says that all gmaes designed for it will be Free to Play in some form. I think using Free to Play as an all encompassing term is misleading!

  9. Jay August 3, 2012 / 11:29 am

    Free 2 Play
    Completely free
    Subscription-free (for the time being) [until there’s a fee associated]

    Subscribe 2 play (S2P)
    Subscription / free play hybrid
    Subscription game with the ability to pay subscriptions through in-game efforts (EVE Plex, etc.)

    Buy 2 Play (i think this is ridiculous because any game i buy for my xbox is B2P and I never needed to differentiate that)
    Buy the box, play forever after for free
    Buy 2 Play Buy the box, play forever after for free — but there’s also a cash shop

    Freemium is a business model by which a product or service (typically a digital offering such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but a premium is charged for advanced features, functionality, or virtual goods.

    So by that definition…

    Buy 2 Play Buy the box, play forever after for free — but there’s also a cash shop
    Free play… until you hit a level cap
    Free play with content behind pay walls
    Free play with microtransactions
    Free play with subscription tiers
    Subscription / free play hybrid with microtransactions

    are freemium models

    First, If there is a pay wall that halts game play, then it’s not free to play.

    Second I think we need to separate Freemium. You can have Freemium S2P where the pay wall is a monthly subscription that allows for more content and an extension to level cap (a la LOTRO). Freemium B2P would be “Buy 2 Play Buy the box, play forever after for free — but there’s also a cash shop”.

  10. sente August 3, 2012 / 11:36 am

    There is such a variety of potential business models so it is kind of meaningless to try to put most of them in the same basket. You have essentially listed most business models that are used currently with the exception of three:

    * Subscription only
    * Subscription + microtransactions

    and some of them also have a variation of the “buy the box, play the game for free forever” in the form of lifetime subscriptions.

  11. Wilhelm Arcturus August 3, 2012 / 12:33 pm

    At one point I was trying to come up with categories of F2P so I could at least sort them by style. However, after trying for a bit, I decided that we are not far enough into the F2P era for things to have settled down.

    Yes, F2P isn’t new any more. But it is just now becoming the dominant plan. A year ago it might differentiate a game, today, it is the standard. And so I think we’re going to start to see some competition both on the “how free is free” front as well as on the monetization front.

    Right now, F2P is almost a meaningless term because it means something different in every game. Five years from now I would guess things will sort out into a few easy to identify categories, or at least some standard terms. Something like, “Oh, FantasyVentureQuest VII? That is a cash shop funded velvet rope game.” and all of us knowing exactly what that really implies.

    Or maybe chaos will just reign. We’ll see.

  12. bhagpuss August 3, 2012 / 3:44 pm

    I tend to use “F2P” as a synonym for “No Subscription Required”. MMOs that offer both a free and a subscription I call “Freemium”. Beyond that I clarify as required.

    Wilhelm is right that it’s still too early for terminology to have settled down. Look at the music industry or the movies. As genres mature they subdivide and each subgenre acquires a name and jargon of its own that is recognized by a general interest audience, not just the immediate fanbase. We aren’t at that point yet. Give it a few more years.

  13. Green Armadillo August 3, 2012 / 9:51 pm

    The purpose of a word is to convey meaning. “Dog” is potentially a relatively wide range, but you’re expecting four legs, a tail, fur, a bark, and maybe something between 20-120 lbs. If I say a dog is attacking the village, you prepare accordingly, and the creature that shows up has scales, fire breath, and weighs several hundred pounds, I have done you a disservice.

    So yes, the words “free to play” are now almost as useless as the word “casual” has been for seven years now. I endeavor to limit my use of both.

  14. Aly August 4, 2012 / 2:20 am

    Free-to-play is just misleading in general for all the reasons described. I think companies need to come up with supportable plans that aren’t overly convoluted. Lately so many seem to go the route of “We’ll try the sub fee thing and if we can’t maintain the numbers, we’ll switch to a F2P model” so it becomes a bait and switch, and then they have to find a way to keep their existing player base from becoming disenfranchised while still appealing to new players, and there’s all these tiers and it just gets silly after a certain point.

    I think as gamers become more savvy as consumers and realize how much we can influence pricing, these distinctions will become less muddled. Right now it’s like everyone is throwing all these pricing models out there (or scrambling to replace existing ones) and seeing how far they can get us to stretch our wallets. As the risks continue to outweigh the rewards, companies will be forced to stick with proven, sustainable business models in today’s market instead of trying to capture lightning in a bottle.

    It’s up to us to decide what those models are.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s