Monday, August 15, 2011

Free to Play is not an excuse to save every game

A lot of folks recently like to throw around the term free to play as something that any game that seems to be struggling should do, as if it is a simple flip of a switch and suddenly masses of people will sudden rejoin a game and make it profitable. Of course, if it was that simple, you would think every company would do it and the pay to play subscription plan would be dead by now.

Why has LotRO, DDO, and now AoC done so well going the Freemimium/F2P route? Prior to the switch all were heavily modified, tons of effort and developer time went into making the new payment models work for those games. DDO had to get whole new zones, newbie levels reworked, ect.

Then you look at a game like WAR, in which the developers were very up front saying they don't have the resources to do anything at this time. If they don't have the resources to make a pay to play game worth it, the chance of them dedicating the resources for the constant upkeep required by a free to play game will just have no chance. in this case, WAR might see a burst of player activity shortly after going free to play, but then that burst will go away and the game will once again find itself in a position where few people play it.

It is a disservice to both the game and the players if a game, such as WAR, goes free to play, and the devs and studio behind the game aren't fully prepared from the start to support that game. Free to play games require much more upkeep then normal games, as the devs and designers of the games need to have a constant stream of not only new free material to keep bring players in, but also items to the online store that players would want to purchase.

In the case of WAR, if they wanted to go the freemimium route (which I believe is the best current version of the free to play payment types), there is a lot of work they would have to do. The PvP in WAR overall is fine, it is still one of the best in that regard. the PvE though needs major reworking. The game's AI would need to be vastly improved in order for players to not feel like they are fighting against a bugged computer when trying to do even a basic fight. The dungeons would have to be made to actually be worth it, giving enough of a bonus, either with XP, renown, or items to want to run those dungeons. The zones would have to be designed with the freemimum model in mind, I would say keep the entire Human zones tier 1-4 open for free to play, but the Elf and Dwarf vs Greenskin zones would have to be purchased. That's just a start, that isn't going into new mounts, pets, potions, and costume gear that should be found in the online store. Of course there is also the small bit of how terrible Mythic/Bioware's communication been with it's players for the last almost two years now.

Could the freemimum free to play game type work for WAR? Most certainly it could. Do I see it working well for WAR with the current devs running the show? Absolutely not.
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