Thinking

So I read this article today by a developer in a small game company giving me a different view of the F2P and P2P debate. And it was true; not just because the raw statistics supported it, but when he mentioned many of the key factors I realized that I touched on it, but didn’t make it quite the main point I meant it to be.

His essential long article was this; mobile companies are hooked on the idea that everything need to be F2P because it looks like this model is bringing in the big cash. In an industry that’s about 10 billion big it seems to be doing fine; except for the part where a lot of this comes from a few games that statistically hit it big, but is also a tiny sliver of the sea of mobile games. And that 3 percent of the gamers out there stands for 50% of the revenue and games like Candy Crush and similar clones are the bread winners of that pie. Not the industry as a whole.

The point he made that when he talks to others in the mobile gaming industry it seems that they’re doing it for the idea of making profit, that if you build it they will come and not that it takes creativity. Their ultimate goal is profit, so many developers are looking for the candy crush replacement instead of looking for original creative ideas. And they’re doing this by polling gamers, looking at statistics and numbers but missing the point where out of all these games, only a few makes money and out of that a tiny fraction pays for most of the profits.

Meanwhile, this guy made a small game with a budget of 70k pounds (so UK) and since 2012 have made about 5 million. He and his partners decided to simply make a game based on what they wanted in a game, as suppose to look at charts at what anyone thought gamers wanted. The best example he gave was Minecraft – a indie developed game, low budget and that have made something like 200mill. P2P games might not be the end of the road, but what’s killing an industry as a whole is a lack of creative passion for games itself and more of an idea that the end product is just profit once you hit the right button.

Out of this I’d like to clarify one thing with my F2P vs P2P – to me the whole foundation of any model is a good game to begin with. If you as a company is not in it to make a great game as a gamer yourself, then no particular form of model, be it P2P and F2P will matter.

So look at what we have. F2P and Rift. It’s not all that special and fun. It has some interesting ideas, the graphics are gorgeous but it just doesn’t feel like you’re taking part of a journey. It feels like a crowded ant hill with tiny work stations you go to. It has a compress world that shrinks down what would be entire wilderness into a walk away distance.

Take ESO – by all accounts it’s going to stay P2P for now and is similar in the way most MMOs are with people lining up to do quests. I’m sure I’m simplifying it a little but I haven’t heard anything about the game that gives me the idea that it’s unique or that it’s essentially Skyrim as an MMO. So either of these games, regardless of payment method stands and falls on it’s game play. And it’s a crowded me-too MMO and even single player market.

Can DDO survive? I think so – it is a good system. But the problem is that it looks dated and Turbine never advertised it. It’s not the first F2P game that pops into your mind. And people should really try it out. Just to see that it’s really different from Rift and other similar games.

Then you have games like SWOTR, also F2P – and it’s like night and day in the immersion department, eventho it’s similar mechanically to Rift and ESO. Sure, it’s smart enough to mix instances and open world in one platform – that is so the special moments feel unique to each player, but it still have the respawning monsters and you can still see players skittering around killing all the respawning stuff. What makes it different is the story; each quest comes with a cut scene and your ability to respond. To assert how your toon will react. Diplomatically, neutrally or just being a dick. It’s brilliant really – right there is a simple way of making your character an investment in your mind.

All the skills, the cosmetics and abilities are all trivial and a monkey could follow some ones step by step builds. But SWOTR allows you to get the attitude down and that’s not something you see in a lot of MMOs.

So which method is best? Personally F2P is a great way to make people come, but if there’s no game there people won’t spend money. And will you people to hook players into playing a game if it’s P2P? What would the natural balance be? Should companies set a minimum expectations for a player in the F2P department or just leave it open, paying for the niche and the better stuff but allow people to get as far as they can. And how do you construct the perfect balance for micro transactions? Do you cannibalize the longevity of a healthy game by making progress a matter of boosts and even skipping stuff all together for short term bursts?

It can’t be easy. I think DDO went to far; but more as an expectancy. Like the items for shards in the AH – instead of just unbound stuff and maybe mats, they made loot progression a matter of wallet. Or expectations – like releasing subpar products and still charge for in game amenities.

On the other hand I’ve always been fine with boosts and small things like lower level items. Or augments and such. None of it will shorten any longterm goals. Not really. In the end it’s about balance. And by the look of update 22 I hope Turbine is getting their groove back. At least by moving back to excellent content and making conveniences available for players without fleecing them in the process. Is it to late? I say release Epic Shroud and DDO will be back in business.

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