Hello readers and newcomers!
I’m Peter, systems designer at Triolith Entertainment and today I will talk about my thoughts and insights gained from the study of two Free-to-Play titles I consider being success stories in offering F2P to the Mid-Core market! Many “free” games offer a lot of content, but to progress beyond a certain point you will have to spend actual money. Other games, among those the two games we will look at today, offer every part of the game for free. That is, apart from cosmetic upgrades (but we will get to that later).
First out, League of Legends. It’s a highly successful MOBA from Riot Games and has gained quite a following in pro gaming. So what makes it so good? Partly, it has to do with the fact that it offers players the opportunity to fully enjoy the game without spending a dime. However, it still has plenty of opportunities for investments; players can buy new costumes, boosts that increase the amount of influence points (soft currency) gained per round played, etc. The player also gets experience points for playing games and thus gains levels. These levels unlock useful gameplay functions, meaning that a higher level player will have an edge over a lower level, regardless of champion selection. This promotes players to buy experience boosts to level up faster. However, because the game attempts to match you to other players of approximately the same level this isn’t a major incentive.
Next, Tribes: Ascend from Hi-Rez Studios, a class based, futuristic FPS set in the Tribes universe. As the game is just now released (incidentally this very day) my observations are based on the beta version. The player starts out with just three out of nine classes unlocked, new classes and improvements can be purchased either for real money or the games soft currency awarded after each game round. As with League of Legends, players can buy boosts that increase the rate of income and interestingly the first real money investment turns the player into a “VIP”, permanently boosting income by 50%. This is quite the incentive for reluctant players to take the most important (from a monetization point of view) first step; actually spending real money. At this point, the only things that can exclusively be bought with real money are boosts and cosmetic skins.
Of note is that neither game contain actual gameplay changes that can only be acquired by real money purchases. Sure, getting what you want will be a lot faster if you choose to invest but granted that you play the game for long enough to gather what soft currency you need you will be able to compete with the huge spenders. I’d say that this is one of the major points that separates mid/hardcore F2P games from the more casually oriented ones. Core players are a lot more sensetive to having to pay for gameplay in a game that is advertised as free. Obviously they are not averse to paying for other things; mid/hardcore F2P games are becoming more and more common and some of them have been around for quite some time. Time will tell if the traditional premium game developers will embrace this business model to a greater extent.
Personally, I was sceptical to the concept of F2P as I was used to premium games with all the content available for a fixed price. However after playing F2P Mid-Core games for some time I find myself more and more excited. The idea of getting a game for free and then the option of paying for things I might find that I want is appealing. I have avoided some premium games due to the cost; if I’m interested but not interested enough to actually buy the game it will stay on the shelf, even if it’s a game I would enjoy if I just tried it. A F2P game I can just pick up, play it for a while and see if I like it. It’s also a lot easier convincing your friends to try it, I mean, the investment is nothing more than the download and an evening of play time.
What we at Triolith Entertainment have learned from this and incorporated into MEGATROID is that we avoid to lock content based on real money investments. We’re perfectly fine with offering stuff faster for the paying customer but we avoid forcing the player to fork over cash to reach the next level. So we decided to charge money for hurry-ups, powerful weapons and armors and the like while still offering our players the option of still enjoying the entire game experience without having to pay. This will even go as deep as the challenge system in MEGATROID: we realize that people want to show off and use their flashy gear but at the same time they might want to go head to head with a friend on a level playing field. So we decided to split the challenges into two modes, one free mode with no holds barred, use what you got kind of play and one with plain, balanced, predefined gear, to ensure a level playing field. Which one is more popular will surely be interesting to see!