What you need to know
Just like most things in the world of gaming today we are promised quality with every new release or improvement in every new update. The free to play games market offers players the option to play through the basics of games for free, with the added choice to purchase premium content at a face cost or a subscription on a monthly, or yearly renewal.
This premium content could be in the shape of currency to buy in-game inventory, weapons to improve your character or even to open areas to venture which cannot be accessed by the free users. Freemium vs. premium has long been a grey area in terms of what works best and for who. Does premium give players an overwhelming advantage over the free user or is it just a thank you for believing in the product and rewarding the developer for it? Is this freemium model a giveaway to gamers or is this a business strategy to force people to buy a game they like the look of? Let’s examine the evidence.
The Good, the bad and the nope not playing that!
Some games have used the free to play model very well. In Temple Run (available on iOS and Android) the player can play through the game and purchase cosmetic variants or enhancements to shortcut their game time. The player can also access all of the premium content on their own by unlocking each one through continued gameplay. A model which most likely has contributed to the runaway success and mass of downloads which Temple Run (pictured left) has acquired.
This could also, in turn, have led to the increase of “Endless Runner” games which have made their way onto our app stores. However, not all of them adopt the model as well as the benchmark (Temple Run) and cause the player have to pay to play, or worse, pay just to remove the adverts which make the game unplayable.
These types of games give great free to play titles a bad name, decrease the number of players who want to try the games, and overall stop the good hardworking developers breaking through and gaining the success that they deserve.
Another game which adopted the model well is the award-winning League of Legends (available on MacOS and Microsoft Windows) in which the player takes control of one of 134 different champions as they fight against the opposing team, and their minions to destroy their home base and win the match.
Coming from the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre League of Legends (pictured right) has a perfect combination of free and premium content allowing the free player to contest against a premium with gameplay not being affected. The premium content provides the ability to customize your champion and offers added convenience but will not enable the player to be a stronger unstoppable force and ruin the experience. This is another perfect example of how a game can bring in followers and use the quality of the game to sell premium content to “die hard.”
Sadly not all free to games are as well presented and for the gamer as League of Legends or as brilliantly simple as Temple Run. So many games fall short as a result of their cash-hungry developers and investors after what is often a promising start.
Mobile Strike (available on iOS and Android) looks, at first glance, like a good and easy to use game. However, the premium content creates such a gulf in ability that a free user starting tomorrow would be fed upon like a small fish in a piranha pond. Users have complained of having to continually put money into their game in order to keep up with others and maintain their strength of play whilst others say that as a result of the game constantly updating its content that they fell behind unless they bought the up to date items.
Mobile Strike could be seen as the definition of a bad free to play game. A great strategy concept that brings in players and then ruins their hopes and dreams in one smash and grab press of the nuclear button which was paid for, in full, by someone else.
What often brings this type of game down is not only are you on a pay to play basis, but you also pay for time in most cases as well. You can max out the building of items and foraging of raw materials, then have to wait hours to repeat the process whilst across the map someone is bursting their credit card open to max out the statistics of their faction, destroying all the intelligent life around them in a few fell swoops.
Could you expand on that a little?
There are alternatives to freemium play games in the form of spending your hard earned cash on full games and the expansion packs or DLC that come with them. The games that start all players on a level playing field and allow them to play through the title without buying anything other than items bought with in-game earnings.
Then just when you feel like it couldn’t get any better, the developers throw you a DLC extra layer cake with sauce and sprinkles on it. All topped off with a massive cherry. That is the beauty of some expansion packs. Some of which don’t cost you a single penny or with the added bonus of playing through the game that you know the extra content will be worth the asking price.
Star Wars Battlefront (available on Microsoft, Xbox One and Playstation 4) did this in a great way by allowing you to buy the extra DLC and give people, who perhaps were not convinced of its worth, the ability to have free play sessions with EA Access and free play weekends.
The extra DLC they brought was content that the player had not seen before anywhere in the game with the option of flying and fighting in space and further to that on the most iconic battle station in the history of franchise lore (pictured above). With the addition of new playable characters and vehicles included in the price.
The quality of the game is not hindered by the expansion of the gameplay. Unlike a lot of the freemium type games, these DLCs are checked for bugs and are anticipated to increase revenue. Bad freemium games have a tendency to pack their games out with purchasable content and hope that people will buy it without having it tested properly for all eventualities and purposes.
Pay to win or pay to play
So the question asked is on what side of the fence do you sit. Free to play or premium gaming. The truth is that there is more than one option available to choose from. Although many people have little or no tolerance for freemium gaming, there is also a huge following for the right kind of freemium experience.
This can be demonstrated in the level of commitment to such games as League of Legends and Dota 2 who feature heavily in eSports, however, sadly as we have found, there are games in the genre which bring down the overall opinion of it and for each good free to play game there are plenty more out there which ruin each and every step it has taken to be a benchmark game.
The other alternative is sticking to the tried and tested buying a physical game, playing it through, and capitalising on any expansions or downloadable content the developer throws at you. This, in turn, leads to the developer increasing their revenues and releasing better more equipped games in the future.
There is no doubt that these games have benefitted from the financial advantage given from sales. However, those games had to start somewhere. They began with the logic that they were not in it to earn a quick sale and get out, but to become best-selling franchises with loyal fans who want to give them their hard earned money.
In all honesty, I think most people will probably stick to the physical paid for game. I can also say with some degree of confidence that the freemium market has more support than people think and if the number of bad games in the genre is reduced, then it would be a willing competitor to any household gaming franchise. However, don’t take my word for it. Feel free to play.
Written by Jordan Lyell
What are your thoughts? Join the discussion in the comments below or get in contact by clicking here.