About Blog/О Блоге

Hi there!

This blog is created to share my thoughts and a bit of insight on the video games industry. It's bilingual - each post created in Russian will be soon translated into English and appropriate link will be added to the top of the post. Later, probably, I will come with a better solution, but for now, please, either use google translate feature or wait for a day or two after new content is added.
Всем привет!

Этот блог я создавал с целью рассказать свои мысли и показать немного "внутряка" игровой индустрии. Блог двуязычный, т.е. пост сначала создаётся на русском, а после переводится на английский. При этом в топ поста будет добавлена соответствующая ссылка. Возможно, в будующем я приду к более элегантному решению. А пока, пожалуйста, или воспользуйтесь гугло-переводчиком, или подождите день-два, если хотите почитать английскую версию.

Why do I believe that future is after F2P games?

'Everyone watch strippers dance and would like girls to be Free-to-Play'
A random quote from Game Developers after party

Hi all!

Basically Free-to-Play is game monetization system, which is based on microtransactions and provides possibility to download the game and play it for free.

And I do believe that future belongs to such type of games. This economical model will in the end provide benefits to both player and game developer. Each time I say this, people throw a bunch of questions and objections on me. I would like to answer and provide my opinion on the most frequent of them.

Why do Game Developers have to give their games away? They spent money on creating the game!
It's hard to argue with this statement. But it should be mentioned that F2P developers in fact may  in the end receive much more money for their product compared to the amount they would earn by selling the game even at price of $60.

Consumer understands that he will neither lose nor spend, if he downloads the game. Current internet connection speed allows to do that without investing a lot of time or spending any money on the game itself. Imagine that at supermarkets companies would give away full packed chocolate instead of it's pieces. There is no doubts that there would always be a queue to such place in the supermarket. This principle means that also a lot of people will at least download and check out the game. What is really good, bigger number of players, who downloaded the game means that more players will stay and play it, and more of them will by the end make an in-game purchase.

Players also benefit from this model. They can download the game and try it out for totally free. And stay playing for free, if they like the game. They even can make no payments at all. As example of the opposite, let's take a look on recent CoD: Ghosts release. You had to pay $60 per each copy of the game, thus providing developers with 1 billion dollars sales at the release day. But in the end game received following reviews from the players. Average 'metacritic' score is at 1.8! Players did not like the game, and it's a really polite way of describing the situation.

Why do I even need to spend money on the game, if it's free?
The key lies in human psychology. People watch movies, go to bars, amusement parks etc. with one common goal - receive pleasure form the process. Games are also part of entertainment industry. You buy them and you have fun while playing them.

F2P games use the same mechanism, but move their accent on satisfying a bit more sophisticated desires, since users should always have fun just playing the game. For example, they can satisfy their desire of result/achievement or desire to desire to stand out. Imagine the regular bar, where everyone sits in really strict black and white clerk suits. And with paying just $1 you can enter the bar in new blue last fashion jacket.

Someone will fall into temptation and do so at the end. Everyone will receive satisfaction from visiting the bar, but someone will also receive pleasure from standing out. In your opinion, how many people will put on the blue jacket tomorrow? And a week after? And if later some new designs with different colors will be offered? And if jacket will be on sale near the New Year and 3 jackets will be offered at price of one?

This is just a very rough example of  the 'hook' game developers use in order to make you invest some money into the game.

Additionally, there is always group of loyal fans who love the game and will always invest money just as a sign of appreciation. This is the way they support the game and help it growth and development.

Nobody will spend $60 on a free game!
Believe me, there are many who spend much more. And this is not a case of several odious personalities in the Internet, who want to feel big and important, while having quite enough money in their hands. It's probably about 10% of players. The secret lies in two factors: time and no competition on the internal game market.

Time. The microtransactions systems bases on the fact that player will spend small amounts of money over long period of time. This month he spends $3, next month he purchases in-game content with total value of $5 because it's his Birthday etc. This fact is actually represented in the revenue formula, around which the whole game is built:
(amount of players) x (life time value) = revenue
where life time value (or LTV, game developers are fond of acronyms -) ) is average amount of money, which can be received from a player during specific amount of time.

Moreover, it's much easier for a player to spend $6 over 10 months than make a single $60 payment. Probably he would not even spend such amount of money on the game ever.

No competition. Once person starts to play actively, he moves from an open market with big competition - Internet - to a closed in-game market with unique monopolist - Game Developer. Player would hardly buy a DLC for $50, because it's a price of separate game or two. But he will easily purchase, for example, rare two-humped brown horse in F2P project just because it has some unique features or design. In most cases it won't even give any in-game advantage at all. User has just decided how he will entertain himself, and there is no rare horses at lower prices. Buy, or play without it. Rare dragon costs $250. In comparison horse is rather cheap...

F2P products has always lower quality than commercial B2P projects. Additionally they are always designed to make players pay again and again.
I admit that such problem exists, but it's obvious that it's a temporary issues. The evil lies in lack of competition on F2P market. This allows game developer to relax. Why he has to make the game better, if it will be played anyway, because there are no other F2P options?

But situation is not that bad. Time goes and high quality projects are developed more and more frequently. For example, 'League of Legends', 'Planet Side 2', 'Rift', 'World of Tanks', 'DotA 2'. These are rather different games, which do not require any investments for playing, if user does not want it. Their quality is just slightly inferior and sometimes even on the same level compared to buy-2-play games with big budget.

Moreover, FTP projects set a new level in game service and support, because it's in game owners interests to make players continue playing. 'World of Tanks' Customer Service normally answers within 24 hours and resolves problem completely within next 2-3 days disregarding how difficult the issue is. In comparison, you won't receive any answer from Support Service of very popular game distribution platform - 'Steam' - for months (!). Of course, service is still has a long way to pass in order to reach banks service level, but for sure it's moving in the right direction.

The most important, F2P project has to constantly develop in order to retain players. Wise developers consider players interests and provide just what players want. That's why F2P products always release constant free game updates, some of which can even be considered an add-on. In fact this system is much more diplomatic to customer than usual DLC system. Some DLC's are created just to get more money from players. For example, Creative Assembly released Rome II: Total War. Yes, they fix bugs with free updates. But their DLC cost money. And they actually add nothing to the game, but just unlock the content that is already in the game itself!

Subscription is still better! This way game developers have no desire to take every single penny from a player. 
This statement is true not for F2P games, but for their parasitic subspecies - P2W - pay-to-win - games, in which in-game advantages over other players can be achieved only by investing real money. Though systems look the same, they differ from the basis - monetization concept. And they should not get mixed.

Subscription is bad, because it forces players to pay for the game. Subscribers have to pay each month for the same content in hope that developers will release 1-3 update a year and change their gaming experience. It's obvious that it's even worth and more expensive than B2P. People just do not feel it because payment is spread across rather long period of time.

Do you agree with me? If not, lets argue a bit. Additional questions, statements, support or negative comments on the topic are welcomed!


  1. I agree totally Vallter. I think free to play games hold the developer resonsible to one, create a good prodcut and two, support it. 99% of the free to play games I have tried, I have spent money on. World of Tanks. Warthunder. LoL. Smite. Guild Wars 2 etc etc etc. I hope current free to play titles keep up with why they started doing what they do. Making a fun and good quality game FOR THE CUSTOMER!! Making money is nice, but making people enjoy something you have created is more rewarding.


  2. I feel sometimes subscription games are a good thing. It tends to favour games which heavily rely on sandbox elements. In this kind of environment the players don't always need new content to keep enjoying the game so some older mmorpg's can be kept alive by a far smaller playerbase than the f2p games.

    EVE online is a great example of a game which would fail if it switched to a microtransaction system. The game is almost entirely a player run sandbox with a very complex economy. Almost everything was either manufactured by a player or looted from an npc and sold by a player, creating a very complex web of supply and demmand (items are also destroyed when a player dies, which can be often). Adding items bought for real money into the equasion even in the mildest form of p2w would be absolutely disasterous. Similarly, one of the core tenets of the game is that you can go anywhere without restrictions (although you might die horribly, it's all a part of the learning curve), so adding expansions with new space you have to pay to gain access to would completely change the spirit of the game.

    In fact an internal email from a developer arguing for a f2p microtransaction business model (later claimed to be playing devil's advocate in a debate) was leaked shortly after the introduction of outrageously priced vanity items for avatars which have no impact on the game but had to be purchased with real money. This caused so much outrage that the large player coalitions stopped fighting each other and turned their attention to the developers, who quickly backtracked.

    One of the big problems with subscription games are the developers. They spend vast sums of money making a game which will require a *lot* of new content to stay interesting and then quickly cast the game adrift when it isn't going to be a WoW killer (I personally don't like WoW's model- I think you should have regular game priced expansion packs OR a monthly fee, not both). Instead developers should make a game which has lots of elements which will be fun for a long tine, like player driven gameplay and get by with a small subscriber base, using it to keep the game running and make expansions which are smaller in scale until the game matures and becomes more popular.

    1. Well, IMO EVE-online is more an exception than common rule. The case is that EVE numbers have never been sky high.

      But I do agree that moving now to f2p model would mostly ruin the game, since it was built for years as p2p sandbox. But I do not agree that such sandbox is not possible for f2p model, since constant addition of new content is only one of at least four most important factors, which create in-game purchases.

  3. Pirates of the Burning Sea once released how their F2P worked out for them. The main issue is that you have to create cash shop content that actually does something. Their cosmetic vanity content such as avatar clothing made less than 10% of their revenue, and POTBS ran without Pay 2 win items. Those 90% came pretty much exclusively from early access to new features or blueprints for new ships (that were not more powerful than existing ships).

    People don't buy vanity content and the line between a good, balanced itemshop and a P2W shop is very easy to cross. WoT failed here, by including tanks that are actually more powerful than regular experience&credits tanks as premium tanks such as the Type 59, the Dicker Max some of the American heavy tanks / TDs

    You might also want to take Rift off that list, it's a failed subscriber game.

    1. Well, now Rift is F2P, and as such it deserves it's place. Though I also don't like it too much.

      As for 'World of tanks' I cannot say that 'Dickermax' is more powerful than 'Nashorn'. On contrary, second is better. And same is with other vehicles. The only exclusion from that rule is Type 59, which is not better, but competes on par with other Tier VIII mediums, while it should have been a bit inferior to them.

      And previously WoT was a more of pay-to-win title due to premium ammunition limited to gold. Currently it's available for in-game credits.