The Frocalypse

Terrible title is terrible but anyway. In a recent interview by Mark Jacobs over at VG24/7 had the remarkably claim that free to play games are heading for some kind of apocalypse in the years to come. It is great to see Mark talking about his payment model more as it is a very important discussion point regarding the game with many being rather apposed to it. It definitely makes a very promising buzz phrase that Wilhelm of the Ancient Gaming Noob claims, that will create some much needed media attention and maybe more potential backers but unlike Lord British’s outlandish comment this one I think has an element of truth to it.

Free to play lately has almost been claimed to be the messiah for mmo’s, bringing them all into the promised land of abundant subscribers and profits but so far that does not seem to be the case. Mostly from what I see the biggest supporters of the model are games that have “failed as subscription games, they certainly bring in a lot of new potential customers but potential is the key word there.

The model only seems to be working for a few select games so far in terms of profit and a sizeable subscriber base and I don’t see this changing to much. Yes there is no price to a lot of these new games but what they neglect is that there playerbase still has a restriction based on their time. It is impossible to play everything regardless of cost and while it certainly lowers the barriers to entry and getting people to try your game it doesn’t really help to keep players sticking around. In the end it will usually come down to the quality of your game rather then the payment style, people will pay if they want to play.

In regards to Payment styles I think many games and publishers have merely accommodated the “free” name to draw people in yet their models are often not conducive to this marketplace. It is often enough not the subtle encouragement to spend on a game your enjoying but the restriction of vital services. I despise this model and I think this thought is slowly becoming more prominent amongst the masses and I believe once this thought becomes more prominent  and gamers more jaded with the model that some sort of frocalypse will occur.

Games like World of Tanks, LoL and even turbines games will probably weather the storm as their models are far less restrictive and more about customisation rather than convenience. Customisation being more about skins and options of play that really only encourages gameplay and promotes enjoyment where convenience is a rather slippery slope from the innocuousness models of maybe bag space and such to tortanicly terrible. it is a hard line to define but it seems an important one in terms of a games survival as even the best game with a terrible cash shop holds little hope of succeeding.

Mark also alluded to the main problem with many competitive free to play games and that is players who either create a toxic place or engage in certain nefarious practices like hacking are hard to punish effectively. For many ftp games it really doesn’t mater that much if you get banned as you can come around and create a new account immediately, technically bypassing any sort of repercussion to your actions. Planetside 2 is having a lot of problems with aim bots and such due to this reason. It is still avoidable by creating a sense of investment in the account based on time played or items purchased but there will always be the ease of infractions.

I really like this article in terms of outlining Marks thoughts about payment styles and it is good to see him so strongly defending his Subscription payment model, looking forward to more articles about other subjects as he certainly has a very keen and critical eye on the mmo industry and many of its practices.

*more stuffz*

quote from Massively

The main points were:

1) There is room for all models (FTP, BTP, P2P). This is the exact same thing I said at GDC a number of years back.

2) That domination of any one model (payment) or device type (we’ve had multiple console meltdowns) is a bad thing and leads to,

3) Tons of companies rush into a space and end up spending more money to create a game than then they see in revenue, they shut down. Devs like Riot will contain to be the market leaders and more people will rush to copy/compete with them (that’s already happening) but many, if not all, of the devs/pubs will end up like the pubs who chased Blizzard and WoW.

4) Market will self-correct, some devs will shut down, pubs will change course again and F2P will remain strong but not as “The One Model” since I don’t believe (as always) that there is one model only.

We are already seeing this in the mobile/tablet space (upwards spiraling dev costs, lower returns except for top titles), FB (Zynga-style games on the downward trajectory, mid-core games now swinging upward) and we’ve seen this over the decades with advertising-supported games (remember AOL & others competing with each to offer free services, games, etc.).

I’m not sure what’s controversial about saying any of this stuff especially since some of it I’ve said before, usually when other people said the same things (The One Model) about companies in the West (my thoughts only apply to the Western markets as usual, I never presume to speak for Asia).

and a few on the reddit post