Free-to-Play is Rising
While there is an understandably large amount of buzz surrounding big-name titles like Bioshock Infinite
and Grand Theft Auto V,
there are smaller, less ambitious games that are quickly working their way into the gaming subculture: free-to-play games. Anyone who has a Steam account knows what I'm talking about. Steam features over 100 free-to-play titles, all available to download directly to your computer, sometimes in a matter of minutes. These titles range from MMOs to FPSs to Racing Games, nearly any type of game you can imagine!
While many of these games are mediocre at best, you will occasionally find a gem like Warframe, Brawl Busters,
or Realm of the Mad God
. This doesn't even take into account titles that aren't available on Steam such as SMITE
or the wildly successful free-to-play League of Legends
. Activision is currently developing a free-to-play dungeon crawler entitled The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot
, and Cryptic Studios is developing a free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons
MMO called Neverwinter.
Basically, the free-to-play model is on the rise.
While the idea of being free-to-play used to be a stigma in the gaming world, it has rapidly become a popular and successful business model. It attracts gamers to new things that they may not otherwise feel adventurous enough to try. It leaves the decision of payment up to the gamer, which can be risky for developers, but can also yield high rewards. I may never have played Warframe
if it had cost $60, but as a free-to-play, I was able to try it out and see how it felt. I've enjoyed it steadily for about two weeks, so I decided to put in five bucks to buy myself some new color options. If it keeps me entertained, I may put in a bit more money to unlock some more rewards. League of Legends
grabbed me in the same way; initially, I was hesitant to spend money on a free game, but the game has kept me reliably entertained for over a year and a half. I've spent easily over $200 on League of Legends
, which may seem like a lot, but I view it as the alternative to retail games.
I could spend $60 on a game like Bioshock Infinite
that keeps me entertained for maybe a month, at which point I have to spend $60 on the next game, say, Star Trek.
If you buy one new game every month, you will have spent over $600 by the end of the year, yet League of Legends
has given me more than a year's worth of entertainment, and I have spent less than half that amount.
I'm not going to claim that blockbuster titles like Batman: Arkham Origins
should be free-to-play or even that such games will fall out of favor in the near future. What I will say is that the impact that free-to-play games are having is growing rapidly, and, sooner or later, the industry will have to deal with it. Games are becoming easier to develop independently, and the quality of free-to-play games is increasing exponentially. While incredibly high-quality franchises like Mass Effect
and The Elder Scrolls
will likely always be successful, the effect will be felt greatly on less popular games. Eventually, gamers will begin to measure their dollars, wondering if a game like Dragon's Dogma
is worth the full retail price when they could play a similar RPG for free. Perhaps this isn't true for the vast majority of gamers, and particularly for gamers who exclusively play on console, but for avid PC gamers like myself, the question is already being asked.
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