Hey Console Gamers, Ready For Free-To-Play Games That Aren't Exactly Free?

If you had a job as a video game reporter, you'd not be able to inhale and exhale your way through a day without sniffing the excitement powerful people in the gaming industry have for "free to play" games. These are games that are free for anyone to start playing but then require you to pay either to get ahead more quickly or to access a lot of the cooler stuff in the games.

Free-to-play is hot in PC gaming (yes, EA public relations man, I will try your free-to-play games soon!). Free-to-play is hot on iOS (have you seen the charts?).

Free-to-play already showed up on PlayStation 3 in the form of DC Universe Online and Free Realms.

And next?

Microsoft's putting out a free-to-play Xbox Live Arcade game called Happy Wars later this year. This is a cartoonish, multiplayer competitive brawler whose previously most-notable fact was that, when one side wins, the other side's characters get tied up on stakes and can have stuff thrown at them.

And Ubisoft? Those masters of experimentation are teaming up with the cable channel Starz to give us a free-to-play game based on the show Spartacus. It's called Spartacus: Legends and will be out in January. Note the bit in the trailer about all the cool weapons in the game. Safe bet is that you'll have to pay for some of them. (Not-so-hilarious twist: on Xbox 360, you will have to be a paying Xbox Live Gold subscriber to play these free-to-play games.)

This bit in the Spartacus press release will thrill or chill you:

Utilizing the free-to-play model, Spartacus Legends offers gamers an opportunity to jump into an accessible fighting game. The game ensures that competitive play stays fair through a fame system; the higher-tier the equipment that is available for purchase, the more fame that is necessary to use that equipment.

To sneer at free-to-play would be to sneer at a concept that lets you try a game at no cost and that, if designed well, doesn't force you to pay to do well. But people get worried, because, when a game company isn't charging you up front for a game, then they're apt to think about how they can charge you after you start playing for anything and everything.

The execs love this free-to-play model, gamers, so prepare yourself for more.


    Funnily enough, I just blogged about the problem with free to play gaming. Or at least one of the problems I saw fit to blog about.

    I'm not really a fan of mediocrity. And a lot of these upcoming free-to-play titles have it smeared all over their faces.

    Just my opinion, though. Doesn't need to be everyone's.

      Good oppotunity to link to your blog mate! If you don't want to seem like you are pushing yourself out there, than allow me to ask for the link!

        Didn't think it'd spark interest, to be honest. Only mentioned it due to the coincidence. And those shameless self plugs are something I want to TRY to avoid =p

        But by all means - The more people that read, be it to dispute or agree, the happier I'll be about continuing with the 'ol blogging.


        Thanks for the interest, man. Really.

          With reference to your blog, I get where you are coming from, but personally think the two can co-exist. I like that you make the effort to put your thoughts in writing. It's a good way of formalising your thoughts and opinions, taking the discussion to a higher level than what we usually see in comments sections.

    Dear game developers and publishers,

    I hate free to play. I hate micro-transactions too. Bonus (negative) points for the suspension-of-disbelief moments that can result from it such as NPCs in Dragon Age offering me quests...once I handed over my CC details.

    I am more than happy to pay up front for a full, complete, game. I am also happy to pay for worthwhile expansions (please note- alternate game endings and horse armor are NOT worthwhile expansions, they are pathetic jokes that most people will try via the pirate bay, groan at and then delete).

    Someone who likes games

      Why exactly do you hate free-to-play games?
      Isn't it entirely possible for a free-to-play game to offer the same kind of experience a buy-to-play game offers, but simply giving consumers the opportunity to choose which content they want to purchase?

        Potential possibilities don't account for what the reality of the free-to-play trend has produced. On rare occasions, yes, it absolutely works that way. But in most cases, sadly, it does not.

        The content you "get" to choose is directly related to what content is available. And unfortunately, most free-to-play games don't have much in the way of valuable content. Aesthetic content may be pouring from it's ears, but most times it's just there to appropriate the game to your liking, not actually adding anything to it.

        If you want to pay for a visually different appeal, than by all means, go ahead. Most people want legitimate content though. Not cosmetic gimmicks.

        See: Vanguard's recent F2P release. Not content with level/class/race restrictions, you have to pay to equip any gear higher than grey/white vendor trash.

        If I DO bite the bullet and sub/drop a lot of cash on anything, I hate, hate, hate seeing the giant, prominent, supposedly-enticing but utterly immersion-breaking 'buy' buttons on fucking everything.

      Dear Tom.
      For every one of you that exist, there are enough others that enjoy F2P enough for major developers to switch over to that model.
      If its any consolation, this will be almost entirely composed of developers who have no professional/ethical investment in ensuring good games be made. Those developers who make the retail games that become classics will not likely be swayed by the lure of a quick buck. You need not feel threatened.

      An Indie developer committed to quality and vision over trend-hopping and money-grubbing.

      Free to play can be great IF done right.
      LoL is a good example - you cannot pay to win, let alone need to.
      Only gripe is they follow the M$ points model of pricing. (Amounts you can buy don't match what you have to pay so always end up with not quite enough)

    kinda pissed at F2P or at least how the change over was handled for one of my MMO's. I lost everything that i had accumulated and i have been told i need to pay to get it back.

    sorry but game makers can go ef em selves if its free to play im not paying a single bloody cent.

    I don't mind free to play. The thing is, I am prepared to pay a fair price for an enjoyable game and so it makes no difference to me if the game is free or not - it doesn't effect my enjoyment. The only real consideration I put towards playing a game is whether I will enjoy it or not - not how much I spend on it.

    Free to play on consoles isn't all that new, Crimson Alliance on XBLA was free to play, you just had to buy the characters, and levels... but the game was free XD

    I'm sick of F2P games. Almost always its the case where, If you don't want to be left behind, you have to pay. Then a month or two later, the item you bought becomes obsolete. Causing you to pay even more. The only reason Developers are switching to F2P is because of all the people willing to pay for advantages. It's ok to spend a small amount of money but most the time you end up spending way more simply because you have to.

    There are already a number of f2p titles hidden in the PSN Home environment, the freely available beta project from Sony.
    MOM connected Dust 514 from the developers of Eve online is another ambitious project looking in the F2P direction, although items you need to pay real money for in this tactical sci fi FPS include the ability to use voice comms?!?!

    I remember someone arguing that they pirated because they didn't want to pay full price for a game without testing it first. Isn't f2p a fair answer to that?

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