Absolutes, opinion and I don’t know

I know I state things in absolutes. As if I know. And I don’t find that at all strange; if I think I know something it would be silly to state it as ‘maybe’. But I will state that when I don’t know, but I think I can either speculate or opinion-ate, I will say so. It should be assumed that opinions are nothing more then higher then average truthiness speculations, even if it turns out to be wrong (in my head it isn’t). Also – I’m not afraid of admitting when I’m wrong. Sure, it hurts if someone makes a point of shoving it in my face, but I believe that making principled arguments is more important than pretending I’m right.

Having said that, I’d like to add this point about F2P vs P2P.

I recently read an article using available statistics that the idea of F2P being the for sure model is highly overrated. And for several reasons. First, only about 2-3 percent of players pay for 50% of the revenue, only a few, mostly candy crush and copycats makes most of the money and games, such as the one released by the article writer and minecraft shows that P2P works in the must F2P market. Now, most of this was about the handheld market but also in extension the big box players converting games to a smaller format. Something that has not been entirely succesful.

The point he makes is that a lot of the F2P developers are of the ‘end will bring profits’ types. That don’t see making games on these devices as a matter of design and interest, but the prevailing attitude seems to be that get in, make F2P and then profit. His attitude was to make the best game he could think of with no restrictions and would love to play and since 2012 he have made 5 million – enabling him to quit and to this full time. And minecraft with 200mill sold shows that there’s something else in the water than the magic of F2P. F2P developers are shooting themselves in the foot by fighting over the few that pay for these games while starving the market on creativity.

Now all of this is true; and I’m not going to be flippant about my assumption that F2P is here to stay and other games will have to move to this format to be viable. But I think it also plays into the statement I made; the issue here is making a product people want. F2P is really only the vehicle to get people to try it out. There’s just not a lot of players out there that want to plow down a lot of real money on a product to just find that it’s another MMO clone. In a way WoW was in the right place at the right time. When people compare MMOs WoW is generally the bar. So WoW profits from doing it best (but not first), good lore, a loyal player base and being the standard that most similar games are compared too. Beating that standard means being better in all metrics, being the same is just not a compelling reason for WoW players to move away from something they’ve invested so much time in.

That means that Elder Scrolls Online have to be that much better than WoW, to be able to survive as a P2P entity and pull in people that got tired of the subscription model and moved away from WoW and all other P2P titles. And it isn’t. It certainly wasn’t released as a product with a innovative take on MMOs and having burnt that initial impression, how can it get people to get onboard a subscription model if most reviews shows that it’s arguably Elder scrolls but in a MMO clone format?

Now F2P can be a trap; give a game for free and you might just attract gamers that will squeeze everything they can out of it. The trap being that if you can’t make a compelling argument for spending money in the game, it’s no different than a P2P game that can’t sell the virtue of it’s subscription model. And that’s no different than say any previous single player P2P game where the last few decades are littered with supposed AAA titles that crashed and burned. And the MMO world have certainly seen it’s fair share of similar happenings.

SO lets sharpen the stick here and one important nuance. I think in effect developers, with a world of new devices and some mega successes have been blinded by the idea of casual players. Take Nintendo and Wii. They arguably won the console war with Wii (at least last generation) but lost on player base. They courted and won the casual players. The regular folks. But regulars folks are not really players and they’re fickle. Wii was an excellent tennis simulator, but terrible gaming experience. Unless you like to tilt and shake something very inaccurate for some highly dubious reasons to force a gimmick into every single game (see also the six axis debacle on the PS3).

With the emerging mobile phone market we’ve seen an explosion of small games, many of them F2P in the different stores – most of them nothing more then shake that, tilt this and touch here. It’s like Wii on a smaller scale. The question I think the developers should ask themselves is if courting casual players is the gold mine they think it is? Sure, a casual player will possibly buy itself an entertainment value, based on the premise of entertainment. That is dropping 20 bucks on skipping what regular gamers take as granted seems okay, but is it really compelling if the act gives them more touches, pushes, strikes and shakes? If the game is not there, then why would anyone want to spend the money?

Similarly is the success of say minecraft an example of P2P courting of casual, or capturing a wider audience that are gamers but not traditionally computer gamers? See, being a gamer is not just a question of the digital realm, wildly speaking it’s across many different genres. Plus adding a simple, but entertaining, addicting and deep game like minecraft speaks more for the ‘this is brilliantly great’ than an argument that P2P works more than F2P.

I bet a game like minecraft would have sold tons even if F2P wasn’t all that widespread. Ultimately this has to do with quality and creativity. And F2P is just a way to get some to try something they might overlook before paying. It’s really up to the developer to create the need to spend. Finding that balance is very important. DDO have some mixed success in the area, I think the VIP is worth it, others don’t. But there are a lot of other things that gets added that sells as well. Then there are the things that fundamentally break the most important feature of all; spending time in a game.

Like XP stones. Sure, in a small way there’s still plenty of things to do, but if the XP was an argument to get people into Epic and reincarnate, they missed the boat on making ETR such a terrible mechanism.

Don’t get me wrong; I like games like warframe, find Rift moderately appealing and I love the story stuff around SWOTR. But I don’t want to spend real money. I don’t feel the hook. On the other hand I find that buying a game like Second Son was a great choice. Eventho I’ve spent just a fraction of the time in the game compared to DDO. Granted, it’s a different appeal, but it makes me wonder about destiny, as some kind of online first person shooter, RPG, MMO type hybrid.

Lets just say that after all this ranting and speculation I might not be completely sold on the must be of F2P, other than in a MMO it provides an opening – it’s a crowded field and it’s a steep investment for a player to get into it. Creating an effective F2P model might just get people onboard – the rest will be balance.

Meanwhile I’m looking forward to u22 and beyond. And I haven’t found a good reason to quit it yet.


One thought on “Absolutes, opinion and I don’t know

  1. erdrique

    Its definitely a competitive business, developing games!! As you mentioned, if the game isn’t appealing it isn’t going to be successful whether or not it is F2P or P2P. I do believe those games that have that right mixture of both concepts though will be the most successful. However, what is that level of mixture? It probably varies from game to game.


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