When you think about the free-to-play model for games it likely makes you cringe and shutter with disappointment. This isn’t always the case but free-to-play games don’t have the best reputation with gamers because we’ve been used to a certain way of acquiring and playing our games for such a long time. The fact is though that free-to-play games have and still are becoming more popular due to the large possibility of money there is to be made. The free-to-play system could be broken up into a few different models. You can have a game that is free to download and play for a certain period of time or a specific number of levels but then require a payment to unlock the full game. This is more considered a trial game, or you could think of it like a demo. There are also free-to-play games that are free to download and free to play through the entirety of the games content, with optional IAP, usually relating to something aesthetic or paving the way for convenience. Then there are the bane of free-to-play games existence, the ones that require the gamer to pay-to-win, essentially needing numerous IAP to continue playing past a certain point because the game becomes too difficult otherwise.
Free-to-play itself isn’t a bad thing. It can often be a great way for developers to get their game out there and lets face it, we all like free stuff, but not when it’s masked with the guise of completely free then coming to gamers hands out and attempting to reach into our pockets early on, or rather at all. Free-to-play also wound’t be such a problem if the pay-to-win system wasn’t something that was forced upon developers. According to pocket gamer, some game publishers are requiring or will only consider a game if the developer agrees to put the game on a pay-to-win structure which ultimately results in large amounts of cash for the publisher. With the pay-to-win system a free game that could have easily cost $3 or $4 if was a paid game, can turn into a game that people spend hundreds of dollars on. There are a couple of great examples of publishers forcing the free-to-play system on developers for the help of publishing the game to app stores. One of those games is an upcoming puzzle/platformer called Pablo Caverez from developer Bloodmonkey, who reportedly was pitching his game to publishers with the idea of offering the game for free so gamers could try out the first level, and then pay to unlock the full game afterwards. This is the first scenario we talked about above. It’s a great way for a developer to earn the gamers trust and gamers tend to love the nature of trying out a great game, usually having no problem with purchasing it later on for a full unlock if they like it. None of the publishers were interested however and were requiring a free-to-play model that could generate recurring revenue instead of a one time purchase. Bloodmonkey didn’t want this for the game which is why it’ll end up getting self published.
Another example is with the game Aerena: Clash of Champions. The games developer Cliffhanger was determined to make the game free-to-play with IAP but also fair, without trying to gouge gamers for hard earned cash just have the ability to continue game progression or “pay-to-win.” When shopping for publishers themselves before the games release, they were told by one publisher that they weren’t interested simply because the game model wouldn’t be set up on a pay-to-win structure and that publisher in question only accepted pay-to-win games. Whatever your feelings are on any of the F2P models that games are currently being published under, F2P is here to stay and most likely for quite a while. There is nothing wrong with a free game that has optional IAP, and often times some of those games can be quite fun. League Of Legends is a great example of a working free-to-play game on PC that is insanely popular. Gamers love it. Free-to-play games on Android that have a large following and optional IAP are games like Real Racing 3 and Asphalt 8. You can buy the convenience of boosters, new cars, and other stuff but none of it is required and can be obtained by simple game progression. Some of it might take a while, but if you have time to spare and play the game without paying, eventually you’ll acquire the items you want. The issue with the pay-to-win games is that it’s extremely lucrative for publishing companies to follow this model and as long as people continue to throw money at this type of system, it will continue to stick around. Cut off the flow of money to a pay-to-win system however and companies will stop dumping efforts into it. They’ll go where the money goes. Until there is a shift in how people spend their hard earned cash for games, pay-to-win is here to stay.