The video game landscape is changing. Sure, the big three are soon to deliver their next generation systems in the constant battle for deciding which controller you use in your living room, but even more interesting than that is the slew of PC games capitalizing on the free to play model. I recently got back into the grand daddy of MMORPGs, Everquest, because it went to free to play. Some friends of mine have been running around Metropolis and Gotham City on DC Universe Online for the same reason.
Other titles that have benefited from the free to play model are; The Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Everquest 2, Age of Conan, Heroes of Newerth, and now Star Wars: The Old Republic. They’ve been raking in the cash and enjoying major boosts in player accounts after the switch.
Meanwhile, games like League of Legends, Diablo 3, and the upcoming Guild Wars 2 are and will be dominating the industry after being released 100% free to play at launch (save the initial purchase of the game for the latter two). All of these games give you access to some, if not all aspects of the game for free, but allowing you to make micro-transactions to augment your gameplay in some way.
Most of these games have become tremendously more successful after embracing the free to play model and rightly so. Speaking from a marketing standpoint, it makes sense. I will not be paying fifteen dollars this month for a League of Legends subscription. I will, however, be spending twenty dollars this month to pick up two characters and maybe a character costume—if I am lucky enough for it to go on sale.
Riot Games makes more money than they would have if they were subscription based, and I chose to make the purchase. I feel happy and feel in control. Everyone wins. Not to mention the increase in sales from word of mouth. Now you can coax your friends to play these MMO’s with you and they can have no regrets! It may seem like smoke and mirrors, but who cares? It is on our terms; the players. So thank you gaming companies for what you all are doing and please continue. It is only a matter of time before Blizzard’s record breaking MMORPG gets on the bus, and the world will be that much better for it.