Free to Play or Free to Pay: How to tell what type you might be playing right now
If you’re reading this, then you, like many others have come up against the new school models of game design but are unsure as to what makes free to play different from free to pay; because unlike their respective terms suggest -it’s not as clearly defined as one might think.
So, I am going to guide you through the process of understanding the two principles of design and their goals. Caution: if you are sensitive when it comes to your spending habits and what you enjoy- RELAX, I’m not here to tell you how and what to spend your money and time on. This is for informational purposes only and to only express my thoughts on the subject.
Now that’s out of the way; let’s start on the basics. There’s 2 schools of thought – Free to Play and Free to Pay. In reality, there are 3 options- Pay to Play to Pay. Here’s three current examples of these models in action.
Free to Play. Warframe is a perfect example of a free to play game. None of the assets including progression within the game, Warframes, consumables, items, and/or content is locked strictly behind a pay wall. You can either progress through sweat equity or speed up the process by purchasing items and content outright with cash – The choice is yours to make. The game doesn’t have a large bias one way or another. There’s a way to get in-game currency through missions where rare items may be obtained and sold through the in-game market economy. If you decide to go and play Warframe- Remember, Mods hold the most value in the game, not platinum which costs real world money. Mods are found in every aspect of Warframe. But you may find yourself supporting the game as time goes on because of the value that’s there for players.
Free to Pay. Marvel Contest of Champions is a prime example of the pay to play model. Progress is nigh impossible without paying cold hard cash just to be able to play-let alone play properly. The price of entry is steep and there is content locked behind a pay wall at every turn. There’s times where your progress in the game is literally stalled until you pay for a certain item or items unattainable by other means. Be prepared to have the bankroll of Wakanda in order to fund this habit adequately… I’m Serious.
Pay to Play to Pay. Destiny– Enough Said, I don’t want to beat a dead cryptarch, but this happens when you buy a game at full retail price expecting a certain amount of content-including a Story – and get what amounts to a beta version or a pitch project in the industry. Then you are charged for content already on disc, not once but twice under the guise of DLC and still not receive a full working narrative two years on with promises every year to change that scenario with subsequent paid DLC. Also, you cannot play the game as it stands now without that “additional” content.
FYI- I enjoyed all of the games I used here to illustrate the different experiences currently available in the market. Hope this helps you to make the best choice that works for you in today’s gaming landscape.
– Dustin Curran, Photojournalist, Phoenix Genesis
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