In free to play games there is a border where on one side lies a nation of freedom and prosperity and on the other side lies a territory shaped much like North Korea where armies of 12 year olds fly around in mech suits equipped with laser guided bazookas that lay waste to civilization.  (R.I.P Gunbound).  First of all, what is pay to win A.K.A “p2w” A.K.A “huehuehuehuehue”?  Pay to win is when a game offers content that increases the strength of any player who purchases it but can not be obtained by players who choose not to pay for it.  For instance, in Gunbound, a Korean game that plays much like ‘Worms’, players can purchase nuclear missles that allow them to rise into the heavens and drop nukes that destroy the entire stage and deal massive damage while the assaulting player is safe on a floating platform.  This is pay to win.

pacman pay2win

For just $19.99 you can buy pac-man an M-16 assault rifle

I could compile a massive list of free games games that have wasted all of their potential by becoming pay to win but the list of games that haven’t would be much shorter.  Valve has taken its crown at the top of this list with Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 where the only paid content in either game is completely cosmetic.  Gaben Newell is practically drowning in top dollar pussy as a result of all of the money he’s raked in from lonely nerds that are willing to drop hundreds of dollars on giant golden dildo hats just so that they can get someone to look at them.

Blizzard hopped aboard the money train a while ago with mounts and pets in the World of Warcraft but has since released a free to play card game called Hearthstone.  Hearthstone uses a slightly different approach from cosmetics when it comes to earning money.  Much like every other card game players are able to buy booster packs with real money to obtain cards.  However, much unlike every other card game players are able to earn cards in hearthstone even if they decide not to pay for packs.  This model of monetization gives players the option to obtain cards at a much faster rate if they decide to pay money but does not make anything impossible to obtain for players who choose not to.

Hats off to whoever makes these purchases so the rest of us can play for free

Hats off to whoever makes these purchases so the rest of us can play for free

Killing Floor is a game that most PC gamers have probably played at least once that made bank with game sales and cosmetic skins over the course of 10 years.  Recently, after all of the success Tripwire has had with the sale of cosmetic only skins, they’ve added cash exclusive weapons into the game.  What the shit?  I suppose after 10 years of milking cosmetics their sales started to drop and they decided to go balls out and start selling cash exclusive weapons.  Even though Killing Floor is exclusively co-op that doesn’t excuse it from crossing the border into pay to win territory.

I want to be as valuable and as powerful as my companions to avoid having to get carried because it isn’t fun to leave the heavy lifting to somebody else.  How about instead of shaking down the remaining few dollars people are willing to spend on a 10 year old game you make a new god dang game?  Killing Floor 2 would have sold more than enough copies to cover every cosmetic sale Tripwire has ever made.  There comes a point where post release item sales like cosmetics and downloadable dontent interfere with the integrity of a games design.  Some developers care more about making a buck than they do about making a good game.

There is a lot to be learned from the success and failure of free to play games that perhaps we’ll see a better balance of monetization in the future.  Really the formula is pretty simple.  Allow every player to have access to the same content but make it so that players who pay money are able to access that content quicker.  What that content is and how much faster players who pay to get it is the only thing that requires a little bit of intuition and fine tuning.  If you’re going to make content that is unobtainable to anyone who doesn’t pay money be sure that content is purely cosmetic.  It seems hard to fuck that up, but a lot of developers do.  There is simply a line that you should not cross in any multiplayer game and thanks to the success of a few recent free to play games more developers will wise up.

About The Author

Luke

I'm into massive multiplayer online gaming communities. My online alter ego is 18 feet tall and has wings like an angels, but also like a demons. His name is Yogzula. Yogzula can fuck anything and he will and has. Women. Devils. Angels. Animals. If you meet me online by Grub's tavern, I will show you where the treasure is hidden.

2 Responses

  1. B R U C E

    i think there’s a little more than “Allow every player to have access to the same content but make it so that players who pay money are able to access that content quicker.”

    i recently played a game called PANZAR which was the grindiest most comically balanced shitfest i’ve seen. they did the exact formula you suggest, money = quicker access. my utter disgust comes from the fact that there’s also a leveling system and by the time you can access content, it’s already obsolete. at a certain level (the same level my ridiculous one shot ability started to not one shot people), warriors with cash money weapons would *also* knock you down and get a guaranteed kill on you at that point. warriors who didnt pay money and didnt wait eighteen hours for it to craft got left with their dick in their hand.

    having accessible content that is just made obsolete by the time you get it doesnt get to count as a “good system”

    Reply
  2. Luke VanTrieste
    Luke VanTrieste

    I don’t disagree – that’s where good game design comes into play. In panzar there isn’t a good matchmaking system so the pay to win BRs are put into the same games as people far less geared and leveled than them. If the developers put a little bit more fine tuning into the matchmaking you wouldn’t have ever had the displeasure of getting anally brutalized by a warrior or mortar cannon.

    I also think it’s fair to point out that Panzar did not end up being utter shit because of its poorly tuned cash shop, but instead because of one class being capable of building an impenetrable fortress that turned any capture point into the beaches of Normandy.

    Reply

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