…acting like some sort of free-to-play evangelist who’s trying his best to convert the unwashed masses is exactly the sort of smarmy, duplicitous behavior that has earned free-to-play the bad reputation that it carries today and that it will carry into the future.
-Jef Reahard, The fallacy of ‘F2P insight’ in the MMO market
To a certain extent, the F2P ship has sailed. You have to be special snowflake, premium, and deemed worthy by a big enough following or you have to be free. That is the dividing line in the MMORPG space, with scant few left on the monthly subscription side of the fence. The market is too crowded in our favored niche, so for many games it is go to the cash shop or go home. So it is a necessary evil, if evil it be.
Which isn’t to say that F2P doesn’t deserve some of the reputation it has acquired. As “Facebook game” has come to mean “spammy piece of shit” to a lot of people, “F2P MMORPG” ends up sounding a lot like, “Cash shop focused, lockbox hyping, hucksterism.” So I get when Jef looks at the MMORPG world and comes up with gems like:
Cash shop “convenience” items are the equivalent of buying a mop and some Ajax from the guy who purposefully crapped on your kitchen floor so you’d need to buy the mop and the Ajax.
I can see where he is coming from.
And yes, you can make a parallel argument about subscription based MMOs.
The point is that, as much as some people want to insist that the business model is a separate and distinct thing from the game, in the MMORPG sphere it seems clear to me that the business model drives the game. If you have a subscription model, you come up with things to keep people subscribed. They may be horrible, grindy, ill-conceived things, but you can see the hand of the business model in the design.
And if you have a cash shop driven business model, you need to get people to use the cash shop if you want to get paid… and then you offer up a subscription in order to bypass some of the more onerous hurdles designed to send you to the online store while continuing to wave lock boxes in your newly subscribed customer’s face.