…But F2P creates Subscribers too?

With the recent hubbub around Microsoft’s inane approach to copyright / sharing games on the XBOX One, a title that fills the greatest fanboys with dismay, there’s also been another revival of the “how free-to-play MMOs destroyeth the genre”-discussion in the blogosphere, thanks to Trion’s recent announcement. That one seems to return on a regular basis, like “casual vs. hardcore” or gamification.

And I just realized how these two topics share a connection, or rather a blind spot among their most fervent critics. When it comes to the big copyright debate for digital media in this age of global sharing, the market has been divided for a while now between those who realize that piracy isn’t actually this “big deal” and that free distribution or “pay-what-you-like” models can be used to your advantage – and those who wax hysterical about hypothetically lost revenue. Usually they do so with little proof, a bit like the guys still claiming that sex sells in video games and we totally can’t have interesting female leads in games (also, female gamers are still in the stark minority!….).

So, it takes the voices of smart and insightful non-sales people with some first-hand experience, people like international best-selling author Neil Gaiman, to state the obvious: that copying and sharing does not happen at any conceivable loss to the artist / production company. And that on the contrary, it seems to drive sales up rather than down. I’ve been sharing his video for a while now as it never seems to lose significance and I heartily recommend watching it –

Gaiman’s description applies 100% to my personal experiences. An early napsterer myself (when it was still a shiny beacon of an incoming new age), all this access to free media did for me is let me discover a ton of new artists that I then went to research and order music from. For a while, it was heaven unleashed. Of course I did also download some titles that I never bought later – and never would’ve known about or bought anyway. There was never a minus, only a potential for plus – as in money going into the creative or entertainment industry. I don’t download free stuff with the intention to “steal”, although anyone is free to call it that; what I like is getting sneak peeks, demos and first impressions. Want to make me a fan that buys all your stuff? Give some of it away. I can’t help that I live in an age where I am bombarded with so many offers and choices that I don’t open my wallet right away any longer. It’s the smart companies who react to changing times.

I keep reading about how F2P games are somehow a seal for lesser quality or an admission of failure whenever MMOs go F2P or decide to be from the get-go. Yet, not once have I actually read a conclusive,objective article on why that should be. Why does Rift go from awesome game to disappointment just because it changed payment model? Will its community struggle because of the introduction of F2P – or did it not much rather struggle already and hence the new direction? What does it say about us as players if we make payment models the deciding factor?

Which inevitably brings me to GW2’s continued growth and another article I read on MMORPG.com about becoming an involuntary “F2P-convert”. Chris makes the important distinction between F2P and B2P MMOs and points out rightfully that for games like LOTRO or SWTOR, which were not designed to be free, reverting to F2P was/is a life saver. And hence also and especially for their faithful communities. I think this cannot be stressed enough, along with the fact that there are cash shops and cash shops. There are in fact very few popular MMOs out there offering anything close to a pay-to-win experience. I don’t know what games people are talking about in context with “just buy all your raid gear in the store”? I’ve yet to play such a game (and see how much it truly affects me…). In GW2 the gemstore is such a laughable matter, it might as well not exist.

What the article fails to cover in my opinion is that F2P, much like free sharing does in the piracy debate, creates easier access and therefore more opportunities for games like SWTOR or LOTRO (and certainly also new titles) to sell more subscriptions. That was the original argument pro F2P models: see what you get before you pay for it. Was that really such a bad idea? To me it seems many MMOs simply fail to implement hybrid models where both a limited F2P experience and the usual premium or sub-experience is worthwhile.

I find LOTRO a prime example of this business model. Chris mentions LOTRO in context of F2Ps forcing you to buy individual content; that’s not how I see it. What I see is a rather successful approach to compromising, establishing different ways of playing while strongly suggesting free players may subscribe sometime. That’s what happened to me exactly: I have just renewed my LOTRO sub once more. I would never have considered playing it, had it not been F2P however. Turbine has won me over by letting me play their game and then convincing me that it’s worth paying for. Just as if I had napstered LOTRO, I went to buy it later. Yeah, that surprised me too.

I really wish this aspect was highlighted more in the F2P context, that it’s not a zero-sum game. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find data on account split for active LOTRO accounts, or more importantly on how many players have been shifting between payment models. I’m however convinced that there are many players like myself who only started to pay for (another) sub because they were able to access the MMO for free. And that to me seems wasted potential (of plus when there’s no financial minus involved) for those titles stubbornly clinging to subs only, unless they’re called World of Warcraft and can afford not to care. While I still watch Wildstar from a distance, it makes me hopeful hearing about the hybrid payment model they’re aiming for, although details remain to be seen. And why not, after all? It may convince me to subscribe to their game more than anything else would.

30 comments

  1. Puzzle Pirates has ” microtransaction” servers, effectively free to play, but some of the spiffier stuff requires cash (or, importantly, buying a secondary currency from other players who spent cash). They work really well, and they have a corporate attitude that free players are providing content and context for those who do pay. They are still players, and the community and gameplay benefit from having more players.

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/2008/9/29/

    1. Yep. in the end it comes down to the same for both topics ‘those who want to pay, always pay’ and the other extra people never hurt. they have the potential to spread the word, or add content (in your example) or buy something from time to time.

      I really think the community factor and payment model need to be looked at separately. they intertwine to some extent, but much of the negativity is player created.

  2. Yes, free-to-play can give players the opportunity to try a game before they buy it, but there are many ways to do that, most of which do not also affect the development of the game. WoW (and RIFT pre-F2P) let players play for free to level 20, for example. Or take Don’t Starve — I discovered that because they had free limited trials on the Chrome store.

    There is a huge difference between “giving some of your game away to attract players” and “building your game around a cash shop model”, and one does not have to involve the other.

    1. Well, I agree with that last statement. that’s my issue though – I don’t think that second scenario applies for the games you and me are playing. I think this worry is highly overstated. I’ve known (and used) cash shops in WoW, AoC, Allods, LOTRO and GW2 – all completely different payment models. with the exception of Allods which never had a sub (until most recently) and was f2p from scratch fair enough, none of them feel like they are ‘designed around’ the shop, nor is the shop obtrusive. essentially, I still don’t consider LOTRO a f2p game; the store offers 95% cosmetics and convenience items you can do without. and even the content items are basically a ‘partly sub’ in the sense that you can buy extra questing areas that usually would come with the sub. and those are optional – you don’t ‘need’ them. a huge part of the game remains open to you, not just for the first few levels. to allow such a demography always keeps the option open that they will eventually subscribe or buy content.

      I don’t think f2p will be an issue in any MMOs that have to switch half-way; they simply don’t become the kind of deals that you see in Asia with crazy monetized games. they become hybrids that keep the general development course (mostly also because you can’t change everything so dramatically halfway through). how much will Rift really change because it’s maybe going to offer a pvp set? We’ll see. I understand your worry but it would need to put a rather drastic focus on that shop. As for changing development direction – hasn’t that happened already? isn’t that why it lost players in Storm Legion, which lead to the current situation?

      That’s why it doesn’t add up for me to look at f2p as a catalyst. I hate to bring GW2 up here heh, but GW2 is sub-less and is currently the MMO out there with most content patches and a lousy approach to monetization. and aren’t those exactly the things they could do differently because there’s no sub pressure? but they’re still doing it this way.

  3. I agree with your post (which is very good btw). My personal experience is that as my income has increased, I’ve also increasingly bought more and more games (and books and movies etc). Back in the day when I had little or no money, I tended to pirate more – but on the other hand I didn’t really have the money to buy it either. I didn’t choose to not pay, it was either not paying or not playing, meaning my pirating was hardly a lost income for anyone. I think overall, people with money will prefer to buy things and allowing them a taste of your goods is a really good way of getting them interested in a day when there are so many things to choose from, just as you point out. People really shouldn’t be so worried about F2P, I think it’s a great model and it will work well if you know how to use it properly.

    1. Thanks Zinn! I agree, if employed the right way it’s very promising. I don’t even think current MMOs are doing such a bad job. :)
      and thats the funny thing about spending money – you can only spend what you have available, anyway. thats the political attitude of the government here where I live, that piracy is not an issue because all available money is already going into the entertainment industry. I cannot spend nor save money I don’t have.

  4. “Why does Rift go from awesome game to disappointment just because it changed payment model?”

    Because after the transition the game design will be around their shop. The question of content will change from “will this be fun enough so people stay subscribed?” to “will this increase the sales on the shop?”

    The problem when you make a game F2P is systems need to be designed around annoying players enough to pay or give players advantages good enough to buy them. Some games are less annoying than others and offer less advantages than others, but at their core they need to give you a reason to spend money.

    For the piracy part of the article, I strongly agree. Whatever I got for free from the net, I wouldn’t buy it anyway…and all the games I bought I first played them for free and later bought them to support the company but only when the price fell to “normal”(15-20 euro). .

    1. “Because after the transition the game design will be around their shop”

      That remains to be seen? I don’t know any MMOs that switched halfway to f2p and then did that. and I’ve played both AoC and LOTRO. maybe we have different ideas of what it means. also see my reply to Liore further up.

      I also disagree with that “systems need to be designed around annoying players enough to pay or give players advantages good enough to buy them.”. this is simply not the reality in the MMOs I am playing. :) I’ve never been forced to buy shop wares in order to advance, nor have players using the shop impinged on me negatively. it’s cosmetics that make players pay money – you don’t need anything drastical to make a shop work. and the most annoying players I ever met were in WoW. ;)

  5. Hi there, Syl! Honored you would pick up on my post. You’re absolutely right in all that you’ve said. Truth is, I had considered talking about just this topic but bumped up against my word limit :-) In hindsight, I wish I had. The comments section absolutely exploded with arguing. I’m glad you elucidated this side of things (and much better than I could have!). Would you be interested in joining us on the show sometime?

    1. To be honest I mostly ignore comments on big sites, haha. I would have sent you a personal message, but then it kinda became a post of its own. :) it’s an interesting subject and for the most parts I agree with your article. I always find myself drawn back to the big f2p debate, together with other bloggers who are my usual partners in crime.
      And I’d sure be game to chat together on some hot steamy topic sometime (when’s the last time you talked about gw2? /hinthint)! :D I listened to your last show with Liore and really enjoyed it.

      1. Awesome!! We are supposed to have a guest this week (sometimes they line them up and we have to accommodate) but I will send you an email early next to work out a time. Guild Wars 2 would be an excellent topic, I think, and it’s been too ignored :-)

  6. I’m not so sure. As I was alluding to on my own blog the other day, I am finding that so much is given away free now that I just don’t have any inclination to buy anything. Yes, part of that is the GW2 Gem Shop issue, namely they don’t sell anything I want (same in TSW) but it has a lot more to do with plain practicality.

    Modern MMOs are good. Really good. Even some of the blander, more derivative translated ones would do me pretty well if there wasn’t better on offer but there is – MUCH better. There’s all of SoE’s large stable of high-quality MMOs, all of Cryptic’s stuff, LotRO, DDO, AOC, TSW, SW:ToR (not to my taste but undeniably quality product of its kind), just to name the big names that come immediately to mind. Of all of those that I’ve played, which is most of them,just about the only one I’ve spent money in is EQ2, which actually has stuff in the shop I fancy. Occasionally.

    They all play marvelously for free. My feeling is that the companies are being far too generous for their own good. We do it where I work, quite often – offer people money off things they would happily have paid full price for. Customers not only don’t thank you for it – they don’t even realize it’s happening half the time. If you’re going to generate customer satisfaction and loyalty by giving stuff away you need the customers to a) be aware you’re doing it and b) think they are getting special treatment. Otherwise your new right price is the low one and that’s what everyone now expects to be charged.

    1. I was actually thinking of you and what you said in your article. however, it seems we’re really different there and I wonder how representative we are on the whole. for example, I’m not currently playing any MMO that I wouldn’t also sub for. and I am quick to buy cosmetics, especially in LOTRO where most gear looks the same. since the game is so great on the whole and I am very lazy, I don’t want to deal with questing restrictions and similar – so I am subbing. for me those reasons are enough already, although one can definitely keep playing it for free. but are those really the people who would sub otherwise – or wouldn’t they rather not play at all?

  7. As long as the free to play payment scheme is connected to item shops that are directed right in your face at each and every interaction with the game you “love” and devote precious time on then the demonization of the model is not ever going to stop. Because it in each and every case that has been used urges players to spend obscene amounts. And please don’t tell me about control ( that each person is responsible to control his urges ), we need to realise that we are talking about a genre that spurs immense devotion and therefore lack of control.

    The only payment model that is indeed fair is what wow has for asia. Pay by the hour, with the introduction of upper cap (i.e. beyond x hours per month you no longer are charged, or unlimited hour-packs for longer time periods (1-month,3-month etc)). BUT only with the premise that everyone starts the game fair and square and everyone needs to spend time/effort in order to evolve. NO SHORTCUTS. In that case people playing very few hours are actually paying extremely lower than now. I would go even further and suggest that logging in for 1 hour a day is free as long as you don’t engage in pve/pvp content. Enabling people to keep in touch with guild/friends.

    I guess this model has been viewed as evil in the west due to revenue/profit estimates.

    1. I must be weird – I’ve never spent ‘obscene amounts’ of money in any ‘cash shop’ game. maybe it’s because I don’t play cash shop games; I just play MMOs that ‘happen to also have a shop’.

  8. The situation you describe in returning to LOTRO is exactly what happened to me when Star Wars let people play for free. That game is amazing for what it is and it’s such a huge shame that it had to launch into an oversaturated market with an increasingly fickle playerbase.

    I think there are plenty of game companies these days that recognise that a capturing a player’s time, attention or especially passion can have value far above capturing a single sale, and the companies that fail to realise this are going to have a harder and harder time competing.

    1. Absolutely. WoW is a freak and the sooner developers catch up with that, the less scenarios à la SWTOR will we see in the future. when I started playing WoW in 2004 the market was nowhere near as flooded as today. it requires different approaches to establish a new game in this landscape.

  9. While I’m a pretty unabashed fan of free-to-play as a player and a developer, a few comments.

    About piracy. I’ll quote one of my co-workers from Twitter: “1 pirated game doesn’t mean 1 lost sale. But 10000 pirated games means SOME lost sales.” We can argue endlessly about whether you make up lost sales from people who try and later buy, but ultimately I think it’s up to the creators to say how their work is used. If they want you to pay for it, great. If Neil Gaiman is happy when people pirate his stuff, great for him; that doesn’t mean we should automatically force other creators to embrace pirates.

    As for free-to-play, I think that the best version of the business model also offers a subscription that gives you substantial access to the bulk of the game. It not only makes subscribers happy, but I think it also restricts exactly how exploitative the business model really can be. Most companies are going to be careful not to piss off the subscribers and lose that steady income.

    Free-to-play also helps games appear more lively, because it doesn’t cut you off from your characters that you’ve played before. I might be interested in checking out WoW again, but I have to pony up cash before I can even log on. Compare this to GW2, where i can log on my characters at any time even after I’ve stopped playing quite so much. Despite what was said above, I do think that free-to-play gives more control over expenses to the player. I know how much I’ve spent on DDO, because I’ve spent money when I wanted to; compare this to WoW where I have no idea how much I spent without going back through old credit cards statements.

    In the end, I think free-to-play is helping. People are mostly upset because these MMOs are going from “all you can eat” plans to “a la carte”. Seems players are more worried about the possibility of having to spend more than $15/month rather than the possibility that the game they enjoy might not be around next year.

    1. “…compare this to WoW where I have no idea how much I spent without going back through old credit card statements.”

      It’s odd though isn’t it, how some players prefer this ignorance. it’s like don’t ask don’t tell, I don’t want to know what I TRULY spend on videogames!….maybe that’s why I don’t mind F2P. I am at peace with my gamer consumerism. and if we then also consider the ‘exchange of worries’ you mentioned in your last sentence – what a great improvement is that? how is that even a question? :D

      I agree with all you’re saying really. the one thing I wish about WoW some days is that I could go check back on my character. see if she’s still sitting at mirror lake in Elwynn forest. :) and that would certainly be tempting me to check out the new areas and then, who knows. maybe do a quest. or three. but Blizzard doesn’t need me and in their case it’s pretty obvious.
      one reason why I also don’t worry about Rift’s cash shop is that Trion cannot change course in such a manner that they alienate the subscribers they still have. they can’t afford to lose those and that’s why the cash shop won’t affect the game in drastic ways. we’ll see.

      And about the piracy: I think my main issue is that some people like to style copyright discussions as ethical or moral topics when really, copyright exists for purely economical reasons. and that’s okay. but from that perspective it’s valid to consider how the market changes and whether consumers shouldn’t also dictate how wares are sold. why should the art or entertainment biz be granted the special standing no other industry really has (pharma aside maybe and they too are coming down)?
      to be clear, I don’t support copyright theft or making money with free ware. I would just draw a big question mark around piracy hysteria (which does not mean that I encourage anyone to pirate) and in your friend’s case, I would answer “..and how many extra sales have those 10000 pirated games caused?” – by reaching a wider audience, friends showing friends (who then rather go to a store) etc.?
      I think that’s at the bottom of Gaiman’s video, that pirated stuff creates more total sales than losses. if it’s true, well it’s not up to me to prove that. but it’s an intriguing subject. MS is also thinking that lending games destroys sales and I couldn’t disagree more.

      1. I disagree that copyright is purely an economic law. Yes, the obvious consequences are economic, but a creator can also assert copyright to make sure that his or her work isn’t used in ways that harm him or her. Such as someone taking a characters in a children’s story and putting them into something extremely distasteful like a rape fantasy. At the core, copyright is about having the right to limit copies for whatever reasons not covered under Fair Use (in the U.S., at least). Or, to put it in another context, the same laws that say you can’t make an unauthorized copy of Meridian 59 also say that a large company like EA can’t copy M59 wholesale and present it as their own.

        Yeah, there are some studies that have demonstrated that piracy can cause more sales than are lost. But, even if these studies don’t have fundamental methodology problems (and many do), to use them as a guideline assumes that every situation is the same. They are not. It’s possible in some cases that the number of people who decide not to pay when they would have otherwise is going to be greater than the people who decide to pay who didn’t know about the work in the first place.

        There’s also the reek of entitlement in a lot of arguments that creative people should be *thanking* pirates for spreading their work around. Because the creator couldn’t upload a torrent without their help. Again, I think the right answer here is to let the creator decide what he or she wants to do. If the creator wants to upload a torrent, good for them, but a third party shouldn’t be making the decision and trying to justify it as “I’m helping the creator get exposure!” when they really just want something for free and are spreading it around.

        One thing to keep in mind is that the XBox One (XBone) issue is slightly different, as they’re primarily going after the secondary (“used”) game market. Here the waters are murkier, because you have stores selling games for slightly less than the new price of a game; the game store buys used games for significantly less than they pay the publisher, so the game store makes a larger profit from used games and the publisher/developer gets none of that income. In fact, this is so profitable that game stores will often push used games more than new games, which means that some people that might have paid for a new game will pay for a used game instead. This had created some contention as this is what has allowed game stores to stay in business, but at a time when developers and publishers need to sell more new copies to sustain the rising costs of development.

        The fact that crippling used games also discourages piracy is a nice side-effect for the XBone, but not the focus.

        Further thoughts.

      2. Ah well, I would never go as far as ‘thanking pirates’. :) I just think the debate could be held with much less hysteria than it has been initially, especially for certain industries. you’re right that it matters greatly what products we’re talking about, distribution size etc. what I would actually love to see is studies and hard numbers for all these different cases – books, games, music etc. but it can probably not be done unless you have artists and companies onboard who are up for experiments.

        also note please I live in a place that has a very liberal view on copyright. my final paper at uni was all about why the bazaar is better than the cathedral and shifting from products to services, so I am wearing some colored glasses on this subject! :D

  10. There is a lot of experimentation going on around these payment models, companies ‘feeling’ their way through this F2P/shop/sub balance. And for a lot of the newer MMOs, especially those that have started one way and switched to F2P, I would expect to see more transition as they find the right balance for their players.

    At least I hope so for my MMO. I am a subscriber of TSW but I will be dropping my subscription because it is no longer worth the money. It used to give me access to the game, now it gives me a discount on virtual fluffies at the shop and free future content that doesn’t come regularly enough (and can be bought at the time anyway). Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that their shop is not pay-to-win but ironically it is in part this valuelessness that makes the subscription worthwhile.

    And then you have a game like WURM online which you can play completely free up to a certain level or sink an unlimited amount of money in (which I willingly do) to exceed that skill level and own you own land. Once you are given something so tangible and hard-worked as WURM land, you don’t want to give it up. I think this is a model is a success in terms of value for $$ and possible the themepark MMOs could learn from it although I wonder if the sandpit qualities of WURM provide a level of player stickiness that modern themeparks can’t compete with.

      1. It’s a bit of a riddle in general how those f2p games that have ‘cosmetics shops’ make their money. but quite obviously they DO and it DOES save them from disappearing where subs couldn’t help them. some players take this as an indication of higher spending in cash shops but personally, I take it as a sign that the easier access attracts more spenders in general. and I don’t see how this is ‘malicious’. :D I am probably also rather extreme in that I expect 100% maturity from the audience: if you have a gambling problem, spending problem, whatever – it’s not up to games to save you from that and they can’t do that, anyway. ‘gamers spending too much on virtual ware’ is a third world problem I can’t take seriously.

        “…but ironically it is in part this valuelessness that makes the subscription worthwhile.” I find this very interesting but also plausible. we need to be able to ‘justify the sub’; we do this by always comparing the different deal we’re getting inside the same game (funny enough we don’t cross-compare). so in the case of TSW we would have to say that the sub is not offering good enough differences to the f2p model anymore. that’s a failure in the hybrid model imo.

      2. “…so in the case of TSW we would have to say that the sub is not offering good enough differences to the f2p model anymore. that’s a failure in the hybrid model imo.”

        I agree. They either need to fence a valuable part of the game exclusive for subbers only or remove the subs altogether and rely on the cash shop.

  11. GW2 allows you to buy all the things. I hadn’t really thought about it during my time in Tyria, which is surprising considering my personal distaste for PayToWin. Admittedly you buy all the PvP gear in the box price, so if you’re playing you have already bought it. This evidently was enough to take care of the problem.

    They can charge me £15/month for a button that makes PvE really really hard. This wouldn’t really fit the model though. Charge me 800 gems for a button that makes PvE really really hard for a month. Hmmm, is there really a difference?

    These schemes will inevitably get more and more complex. In five years time everyone will be wondering why we have to do so much bloody clicking just to pay for the cool stuff in a game. Devs will offer us a button that pays for a selection of things in one go. Then they’ll offer us a button to set that up to repeat automatically.

    Then we’re all on subscriptions again. It will be the Choose Your Own Subscription model.

    And we will we all be bitterly divided about it.

    1. I’ve a feeling you’re right in that some time in the future, subs might have a revival. all things in culture seem to come back in endless waves.

      “Admittedly you buy all the PvP gear in the box price, so if you’re playing you have already bought it. This evidently was enough to take care of the problem.”

      I’m not sure I follow here – can you elaborate? what pvp gear do you get with the gw2 box? :D

  12. It’s interesting to hear your opinion of F2P models that help to encourage and convert free players to subscribers. For myself, while it sounds perfectly acceptable on paper, I find that I never quite make it over the hump as it’s very easy for such games to place roadblocks in the way of, and treat F2P players as second-class citizens. I end up feeling like the whole F2P experience is an extended trial, complete with intrusive ads trying to sell me a ‘premium’ subscription.

    Furthermore, it seems to make it hard for developers to balance and treat both F2P and subscriber cohorts fairly in the cash shop. After all, $15 a month is not the end of what they’d like from you. If they can further part subscribers with more money per month, they will.

    And what one seems to end up with is a whole linear spectrum of players from F2P players paying nothing or very little and having the least advantages all the way to subscribers who pay even more every month to get the ultra-VIP treatment.

    I suppose that model works for some games. I ultimately decided that I prefer to patronize and support games with a more level playing field and a two-way interaction between F2P players who may pay nothing in terms of money but contribute time and paying ‘whales’ who are happy to drop cash for convenience to save time.

    It’s easier for me to switch between either “side” depending on what I have more of that month, and offers me more control and choice as to when I feel like playing the game all out and when I can leave it on the backburner without feeling guilty that there’s an expensive sub burning a hole in my pocket being underused.

    1. Ofc most games turn to f2p only after the subs ‘failed’. but the interesting bit is why they’re failing so hard when a f2p model then seems to keep the same games sustainable. why can it not be done with subs? to me, the answer is clear: the restricted total access. it may just be psychological (with the same players spending 45+$ in the shop that would’ve bought them a 3-months sub) but it’s doing more harm than good? I don’t believe that RIFT will become a worse game or develop completely different content now just because it goes f2p. that’s just not what happened to LOTRO or other MMOs in the same position. if anything they went f2p ‘because’ things were already not going well and they’ll try everything to keep the subscribers they still have (as they usually keep hybrid models).

      “I end up feeling like the whole F2P experience is an extended trial, complete with intrusive ads trying to sell me a ‘premium’ subscription.” I do think f2p always needs to remain second class to some extent; personally, it doesn’t bother me. it’s exactly why I choose to upgrade to first class in LOTRO and it was a good way of t-easing me over. I do however not appreciate in-your-face ads the way Allods or EQ2 did. I think there can be better ways…like showing you the wonderful Shire with all the NPCs that then won’t talk to you. ;)

      I like hybrid models best by now. like you, I want to be able to switch when it suits me, depending on what else is happening in my life or what friends are currently playing most. ideally, we’d all play the same game that we’re also subbed to…but alas.

  13. For what it’s worth, TOR got me to sub after I had not only a free weekend to play with but I tried leveling a toon to L15 (when it was F2P to do so).

    There’s also been more than one occasion that I’ve considered subbing to one of my other F2P games because I like it so much, but budgets keep me from doing so. I guess you could say I’m a poster boy for the F2P bringing in subs approach.

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