There have been a lot of games released in the recent years that can be considered Pay to Win (P2W). These are generally MMOs which are offered as Free to Play (F2P), but require the players to spend real money in order to progress / succeed in the game. Today I want to discuss scenarios where Pay to Win goes from tolerable to intolerable.
There are generally two scenarios which occur with regards to Pay to Win MMOs. Either the MMO releases with a monthly subscription Model and after a few years goes Free to Play with Pay to Win options or the MMO releases as a Free to Play game which initially offers cosmetics upgrades as purchases but eventually turns to a Pay to Win Model. Almost never have I seen a game being released where the publisher announces the Pay 2 Win model prior to the release of an MMO. The idea is always to gain the players’ interest before asking them to burn their cash.
An example of a tolerable Pay to Win model would be an MMO which offers upgrades via a cash shop but also allows players the opportunity to obtain the same upgrades with in-game currencies at a reasonable pace. An intolerable example is where players spending real money have a significant advantage over other players either because players not spending real money are unable to obtain specific in-game items or can only obtain such items after extreme grinding.
The problem we currently face is that the intolerable scenario seems to be the primary method that Publishers are following. In recent years, games such as Black Desert Online and ArcheAge have been prime examples of this. These were two of the most hyped MMOs in recent history and looking back at it now players can agree that they were lied to by the publishers of these titles. Both games seemed as if their cash shops will only offer cosmetic upgrades but that was far from the truth.
Looking at it from a publishers perspective you may think that they can’t possibly offer a true Free to Play MMO due to the investment involved in building such a game. However, nothing is stoping the publishers from offering an MMO with only cosmetics upgrades or even a subscription model to earn back the money and make a profit. Both these concepts have been proven by other titles such as League of Legends (not an MMO but a successful example of a F2P game which offers only cosmetics upgrades) and World of Warcraft.
I believe that a successful community is created based on trust between the players and the publishers of an MMO. Publishers need to gain a loyal following and provide players the experiences they are looking for instead of deceiving them. If the MMO is good, players will pay the required monthly subscription. If the MMO is good, it will automatically gain a large enough following to generate revenue from the cash shop as players always want to try new costumes, mounts, etc.
At this stage, I must admit that Pay to Win is becoming a problem with MMOs and the publishers really need to either:
- Offer a tolerable Pay to Win model; or
- Support their MMO via a subscription model.
In both cases, the focus should be on offering a great experience and building a loyal community. Deceiving players is not the way!