ONLINE GAMING – Free-to-play video games (F2P), also known as free-to-start, are games that give players access to a significant portion of their content without paying. Free-to-play can be contrasted with pay to play, in which payment is required before using a service for the first time.
There are several kinds of free-to-play business models. The most common is based on the freemium software model; thus, free-to-play games are often times not entirely free. For freemium games, users are granted access to a fully functional game but must pay micro-transactions to access additional content. Another method of generating revenue is to integrate advertisements into the game.
The model was first popularly used in early massively multiplayer online games targeted towards casual gamers, before finding wider adoption among games released by major video game publishers to combat video game piracy and high system requirements.
There are two kinds of free-to-play games:
- Shareware, a trial of variable functionality intended to convince users to buy a full license of the pay to play game. Also known as game demos, shareware often gives free users severely limited functionality compared to the full game.
- Freemium games, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, Need for Speed: World and Fortnite Battle Royale, offer the “full version” of a product free of charge, while users are charged micropayments to access premium features and virtual goods, often in a piecemeal fashion.
In-game items can be purely cosmetic, enhance the power of the player, accelerate progression speed, and many more. A common technique used by developers of these games is for the items purchased to have a time limit; after this expires, the item must be repurchased before the user can continue. Another commonly seen mechanic is the use of two in-game currencies: one earned through normal gameplay, and another which can be purchased with real-world money. The second, “premium” currency is sometimes given out in small amounts to non-paying players at certain times, such as when they first start the game, complete a quest, or refer a friend to the game. Many browser games have an “energy bar” that depletes when the player takes actions. These games then sell items such as coffee or snacks to refill the bar.
Free-to-play games are free to install and play, but once the player enters the game, the player is able to purchase content such as items, maps, and expanded customization options. Some games, such as id Software’s Quake Live, also use in-game advertising to provide income for free-to-play games. In addition to making in-game items available for purchase, EA integrates in-game advertising into its games. In August 2007, EA completed a deal with Massive Incorporated, which lets Massive update and change in-game advertising in real-time within EA games. Independent game developer Edmund McMillen has claimed that he makes most of his money from sponsors by placing advertisements into the introduction of a game and the game’s title screen.
In some games, players who are willing to pay for special items or downloadable content may be able to gain an advantage over those playing for free who might otherwise need to spend time progressing in order to unlock said items. In general a game is considered pay-to-win when a player can gain any gameplay advantage over his non-paying peers. Such games are called “pay-to-win” by critics. Market research indicates that pay-to-win mechanics are considered much more acceptable by players in China than in Western countries, possibly because Chinese players are more habituated to recurring costs associated with gaming, such as gaming café fees.
A common suggestion for avoiding pay-to-win is for payments to only be used to broaden the experience without affecting gameplay. For example, games such as Dota 2 and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty only allow the purchase of cosmetic items, meaning that a “free-to-play player” will be on the same level as a player who has spent money on the game. Others suggest finding a balance between a game that encourages players to pay for extra content that enhances the game without making the free version feel limited by comparison. This theory is that players who do not pay for items would still increase awareness of it through word of mouth marketing, which ultimately benefits the game indirectly.
In response to concerns about players using payments to gain an advantage in the game, titles such as World of Tanks have explicitly committed to not giving paying players any advantages over their non-paying peers, while allowing the users buying the “gold” or “premium” ammo and expendables without paying the real money. However, features affecting gameplay and win rate, such as purchasing a 100% crew training level, a premium account, premium vehicles, and converting experience points to free experience points, remain available for the paying customers only.
In single-player games, another concern is the tendency for free games to constantly request that the player buy extra content, in a similar vein to nagware and trialware’s frequent demands for the user to ‘upgrade’. Payment may be required in order to survive or continue in the game, annoying or distracting the player from the experience. Some psychologists, such as Mark D. Griffiths, have criticized the mechanics of freemium games as exploitative, drawing direct parallels to gambling addiction.
Purchases by Children
The ubiquitous and often intrusive use of microtransactions in free-to-play games has sometimes caused children to either inadvertently or deliberately pay for large amounts of virtual goods, often for drastically high amounts of real money. In February 2013, Eurogamer reported that Apple had agreed to refund a British family £1700.41 after their son had racked up countless microtransactions whilst playing the Free-to-Play game Zombies vs. Ninjas.
SOURCE – Wikipedia