Like it or not, free-to-play games are a big deal now. The most played games on the planet are F2P and the reason is exactly that - people don’t have to spend a thing. While it’s all too easy to consign anything F2P to the special filing cabinet of your brain labelled ‘Crap’, there’s no denying that some of the totally free games out there are incredible.
They might be swamped by legions of dross, but DOTA 2, League of Legends, Unreal Tournament, Team Fortress 2, and Planetside 2 are arguably all quality. The list goes on and on as well, and we haven’t touched on the F2P behemoth that is Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Like it or lump, free-to-play is a roaring success and it’s here to stay, but is it a good or bad deal for gamers.
My instant reaction to the news of a game being free-to-play is trepidation. There’s too many examples of terrible F2P games out there for me not to be like this. It’s a hangover from the mobile market, which is flooded with plenty of awful F2P games. On PC and consoles, however, there are plenty of greats.
None of us are stupid though, and there’s a reason everyone’s making one. The games might be F2P, but they’re clearly often making more money than full-priced games. Gamers are tempted in by the non-existent price tag, before spending small bits of cash on hats and upgrades and boosters.
The most successful F2P titles play the long game. They don’t want your cash after a few minutes or hours. They might not even want your cash after weeks. They want you playing their games for years, and they know it’s almost an inevitability that a relationship like that will have gamers digging into their pockets. And why not? We’re getting years for enjoyment for no up-front cost, this seems like a fair deal.
There’s clearly a right and wrong way to do F2P. Ethically, anything pay-to-win is going to be met with backlash. You can see with MOBAs how multiplayer games so finely tuned would be thrown out of balance by paid attack boosts or enhanced speed. Cosmetics on the other hand are fair game - even full retail titles seem content to charge for cosmetic items now.
Where do you stand on free-to-play games? Is the term an instant turn-off for you? Or are you more willing to try new things when there’s no upfront cost attached? Pour your thoughts out in the comments below!