27 May, 2011
Nils, a frequent commenter on this blog, wrote some articles on his own blog about business models:
He goes into some of the dangers of different business models. I've left some fairly lengthy comments over there, but I thought I'd go into a bit more discussion about different business models.
Long time readers of this blog know I'm a fan of the "free-to-play" business model. Yes, I accept that it can be implemented poorly. But, I don't think there's necessarily anything inherent in a business model that makes it good or bad.
Nils also has his own biases in favor of subscription games. Who can blame him? An all-you-can-eat buffet for a flat price is a great deal. But, at least he's honest about his biases, so it forms the basis for an intelligent discussion. I appreciate Nils putting his thoughts down in a coherent manner, even if I disagree with him significantly. :)
Anyway, as Nils kind of points out, there are some problems with monthly subscriptions, too. But, as I point out, a lot of the issues he brainstormed that could affect free-to-play games could affect subscription-based games as well. I think that a large part of the fear of the "free-to-play" business model is that people are just more familiar with the subscription business model, and therefore more comfortable with it. I won't deny that people have used the business model unscrupulously, but we've seen the same thing with subscriptions, especially in instances beyond the game industry.
There was also an interesting article over on Spinksville entitled: AoC, APB go F2P. What happens when free isn’t enough any more? Spinks mentions that it's harder for a game to get as much attention for being "free" given that there are so many "free" games out there these days. This is true, it's harder to use "free" as a marketing gimmick, but I think the economic benefits are also important here. As I mentioned in my article linked above, subscriptions limit how much money you can make from a player. A proper free-to-play game allows players to enjoy the game and still spend money based on the amount they feel comfortable with, which can often be quite a bit more than the subscription.
Ultimately, you as a player have to look at how a game, including the business model, treats you and decide if the game treats you well or poorly. A subscription-based game can easily set up systems to get more money out of you, as WoW's sparklepony and vanity pets have shown. I would hope that people take a look at games and decide if the company respects the player regardless of business model.
And, that people don't try to batter down my door with torches and pitchforks when a game I'm working on releases with a free-to-play type business model. ;)