I’m not a fan of free-to-play games. No, really, I don’t like them. I know it’s hard to imagine, but there it is, I said it, I don’t like something. Are you happy now? Good. I don’t like the idea of Free To Play because in my rather limited experience with the model, the only result is I end up playing a tiny portion of the game, forever. Even if it’s the best, most life-enriching, coffee-delivering, ball tickling super-great game in the world. Because I’m sure as hell not going to pay money if I don’t have to, and the problem with Free to Play is that there’s an option.
Take unhealthily addictive and beautifully balanced iOS turn-based strategy Hero Academy. Hours I’ve poured into relentlessly trying to out-wit Guesty whilst he presumably takes his turn solely from the locale of any available toilet seat. It’s a commode of fun, and if you haven’t got it yet, I highly suggest you go download it immediately, it’s free, after all.
Now, obviously free to play means there’s a trove of THINGS secreted within the game’s flabby folds to buy, with money. And as much as I love Hero Academy, I’ve never once bought a single thing. Because the prelude to that transaction is, well, do I really want to pay £1.99 for an extra team, when that would be the maximum price for the game itself anyway? Do I really need to change the little bar under my avatar to blue? Do I really need to change the name of my team? Do I really need a picture of a masturbating dwarf as my logo? And the answer is no. Always no. Especially the dwarf thing. I’ve got the game, and I can play it just fine like it is. So thanks but sod off.
Now that may sound incredibly situational, and it is. But it certainly applies to the bigger picture in some ways as well, and what’s more these last few weeks we’ve seen all sorts of suited skittles out in force telling us that Free to Play is undoubtedly, inarguably THE FUTURE. One way or another, we’ll all be buying digitally in the years to come.
This essentially means my gaming prospects are doomed to demo-length snippets for all eternity, I’m the git eating the Greggs free-sample and then not buying a sausage roll of the gaming world. Boo. I’d rather pay 40 quid for an entire game than play Gears of War for free minus every character’s clothes; £6.99 for the Marcus Fenix crotch-less underwear pack. Not that you don’t get to see what a glorious prick he is any way.
On top of all this free to play suit splurging, not so long ago it was ousted that F2P console shooter Dust 514’s most expensive in-game payment was $0.24. Yep. Twenty four cents. I don’t know about you, but that’s a price point I can get on board with. At least, I thought I could, that was until I discovered that your equipment perishes when you do, so basically, it’s 24p a life. Every time you die, you crack your wallet out for another go. It’s like the arcade but you don’t get a charming Insert Coin graphic, or vomited on by the alcoholic in the gambling section.
So, is THIS the future? We all walk around like mindless gurgling cash dispensers hooked up via our wallets, perpetually depositing tiny amounts of money at regular intervals via an intravenous drip that leads directly into the pockets of insatiable Publishers who’re increasingly fatter with money than James Cordon is with bad jokes. And fat.
I don’t like it. Not one bit. Who’s coming up with these crazy payment ideas? Peter Molyneux, held at gun point frantically bellowing business model ideas in the face of a frightened gazelle who’s somehow been tasked with minute taking upon pain of death. Although presumably that’s how he came up with Fable.
There’s a free to play Ghost Recon coming out, aforementioned Dust 514 follows this wacky new gambling machine style model, and what’s more Epic, Crytek and EA have all recently said Free to Play is an inevitability, the future will be almost exclusively free. And by extension, more expensive, depending on how pessimistic you are. What do you think? Do you enjoy the Free to Play model more than shelling out forty quid for a game you might not like? Are you a ruthless obsessive who, given the opportunity will blow every penny they could ever hope to earn on tiny digital bullets and supremely questionable underwear? Are you slightly unsure where you are, and couldn’t possibly comment until you’ve at least figured that one out? Yeah, me too.