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MMO Journalist Richard Aihoshi discusses free to play


Omali

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Richard Aihoshi is a big name in MMO journalism, following the growth of MMOs since the mid-90's, focusing on the free play genre.

 

 

 

This past week, I was once again asked a question I seem to get at least a couple of times each month in one form or another. It's the one about why I pay so much attention to the free to play category. Sometimes, the people simply want to know, but at least as often, the wording indicates I ought to stay focused on subscription titles, which they consider far more significant. Occasionally, it's quite explicit, along the lines of "Why do you keep covering those unimportant free to play games?" Every so often, someone even expresses doubts about my intelligence or sanity. Thankfully, such occurrences are uncommon.

 

 

 

The fact of the matter is that I spend a lot of time covering the free to play sector because it is important. Very important. However, it tends to be... out of sight, out of mind. The main reason is simple. The amount of exposure that the category receives in the game media isn't nearly on the same level as its significance, neither in terms of the huge numbers of players nor the major amounts of revenue they represent. As a consequence, if you lean on those publications for information, you get little or none about free to play titles.

 

So, they can't be very important. After all, if they were, they'd get more coverage. Wouldn't they?

 

 

 

Actually, I'm not so sure they would. No matter which revenue model they use, MMOGs are complex, and thus more difficult to cover than other genres. Previews, interviews, reviews et al either take longer, so publications don't assign a lot of MMOG articles. And when they do, it's natural to lean toward those that already have some hype going for them, which tend to be the subscription ones with more support from their publishers' PR departments. This compounds the imbalance; those games that already have visibility get even more.

 

 

 

It's also quite easy to come up with other reasons not to cover more F2Ps. The problem there is that they usually incorporate some degree of spin-doctoring. For instance, the subscription model must be more successful because it's used for World of Warcraft. There are at least two issues here. One is that half of its 10 million subscribers, the ones who play in China, pay by the session, not a monthly fee. Blizzard tends to put this information in a footnote, and... how often do you read footnotes? The other is simply that WoW's popularity doesn't men its business model is superior. If it were, wouldn't the subscription category have more and bigger successes?

 

 

 

Another fairly frequent tack is to denigrate the F2P sector by pointing out that the titles we see launched here can be three or four years old, with technology and graphics from a generation or two ago. My problem with this is that it doesn't fit very well with the positive position the same people and publications put on games becoming more mass market. Isn't it just possible that a key driver of this trend is having games that run on more PCs; i.e. on more older PCs? Or do people actually think new gamers are running out en masse to buy $600 video cards and hot systems?

 

So the F2P category is important because it's a major driver of industry growth, even with it's relatively low visibility. In addition, it offers significant variety. Sure, there are games that can seem clone-like. But isn't that also the case with subscription releases? Yes, there more of them are F2Ps, but that's hardly a surprise given there are many more F2Ps.

 

 

 

The opposite side of this particular coin is that there are also more F2Ps that aren't clone-like. So, if you're looking for something different, you'll have many more chances within this segment. That's another significant reason for my interest. The more games I look into, the more I find interesting features and variations. My main regret is that it gets more and more difficult to try all the ones I'd like to, at least for decent amounts of time.

 

 

 

I'm sure lack of time impacts you too, so another significant reason why I focus on F2Ps is to help shed some light on interesting games, trends, stories and people within the category. As a reader, I'm always looking for sources of information that are interesting and thought-provoking. I hope you'll come to think The Free Zone fills that kind of role for you so that the free to play category won't be out of your sight and mind.

 

 

 

TL;DR

 

 

 

Free play models are usually considered insignificant, which is absolutely false

 

Half of WoW's subscribers are in China, where they pay by the session, not monthly.

 

Just because WoW is popular, doesn't make it a superior business model.

 

These games tend to appeal to the greatest amount of users with low system requirements

 

There are a lot more f2p games than subscription based

 

Games with f2p elements tend to not be "clone games"

 

 

 

He makes good points, free play games do not get the attention they deserve, because the video game media considers them insignificant because they're free, and how they're regularly overshadowed. I never see Runescape in MMO media, except for a couple times over the past two years, considering it's the most popular f2p mmo ever.

 

 

 

If you want to see more of Aihoshi's work, he's an editor on RPGvault, and the above is the first of a weekly article on mmorpg.com

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Hes focusing on MMORPG's and not MMOG's in general. Even though he never once says MMORPG only MMOG.

 

 

 

Games like TF2, CS:S, UT and so on are all F2P MMOG's. As your paying for the game not the online play, this side of things is provided by a community or GSP.

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Hes focusing on MMORPG's and not MMOG's in general. Even though he never once says MMORPG only MMOG.

 

 

 

Games like TF2, CS:S, UT and so on are all F2P MMOG's. As your paying for the game not the online play, this side of things is provided by a community or GSP.

 

 

 

Tf2, CS:S, and UT are not MMOG's.

 

 

 

I have already watched a 10 page argument on VALVe forums about this already.

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Hes focusing on MMORPG's and not MMOG's in general. Even though he never once says MMORPG only MMOG.

 

 

 

Games like TF2, CS:S, UT and so on are all F2P MMOG's. As your paying for the game not the online play, this side of things is provided by a community or GSP.

 

 

 

Tf2, CS:S, and UT are not MMOG's.

 

 

 

I have already watched a 10 page argument on VALVe forums about this already.

 

In what way are they not; Massive(ly), Multiplayer, Online or a Game?

 

One server alone might not be classed as massive, but when your competing (for best rank etc) on a 2 or more servers it can be classed as massive.

 

 

 

I just looked though a few pages of the definition of MMOG and its a mixed bag.

 

Is massive over 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 or 5000+ people?

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Hes focusing on MMORPG's and not MMOG's in general. Even though he never once says MMORPG only MMOG.

 

 

 

Games like TF2, CS:S, UT and so on are all F2P MMOG's. As your paying for the game not the online play, this side of things is provided by a community or GSP.

 

 

 

Tf2, CS:S, and UT are not MMOG's.

 

 

 

I have already watched a 10 page argument on VALVe forums about this already.

 

In what way are they not; Massive(ly), Multiplayer, Online or a Game?

 

Well, the fact that those three games usually fall under the FPS genre...and to that effect, I don't consider a MMOG massive until its active account total reaches about 50,000 (in my mind).

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Hes focusing on MMORPG's and not MMOG's in general. Even though he never once says MMORPG only MMOG.

 

 

 

Games like TF2, CS:S, UT and so on are all F2P MMOG's. As your paying for the game not the online play, this side of things is provided by a community or GSP.

 

 

 

Tf2, CS:S, and UT are not MMOG's.

 

 

 

I have already watched a 10 page argument on VALVe forums about this already.

 

In what way are they not; Massive(ly), Multiplayer, Online or a Game?

 

One server alone might not be classed as massive, but when your competing (for best rank etc) on a 2 or more servers it can be classed as massive.

 

 

 

I just looked though a few pages of the definition of MMOG and its a mixed bag.

 

Is massive over 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 or 5000+ people?

 

 

 

An MMOG is a game that can handle hundreds to thousands of players simultaneously on at least on persistant world. What separates MMOG's from games like TF2, Battlefield, and the like is that individual servers can host 64 players maximum, are privately owned (not company run) and do not feature a persistant world.

 

 

 

Simply plucking apart the literal meaning of each word in MMOG would make the term redundant, as any online game would be considered an MMOG, and thus the term would be useless.

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The other factor in F2P gaming is that many are not quite F2P.

 

 

 

Witness the usual rolling arguments that:

 

1. F2P Runescape is an unending trial for P2P

 

2. P2P Runescape is an upgrade to F2P

 

 

 

The model of many F2P games is either optional member upgrade, or "item buy".

 

 

 

Battlefield heroes has a bold idea to have "fair" item buy, with the items being visual, possibly experience boosting, but not altering gameplay, so F2P and item buy compete on an equal footing.

 

 

 

Runescape ensures fairness by making member items and powers unusable on F2P.

 

 

 

 

 

And as for MMOG, the general consensus seems to be that persistent worlds make a MMO, while an online server that fills, empties and resets is not.

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The other factor in F2P gaming is that many are not quite F2P.

 

 

 

Witness the usual rolling arguments that:

 

1. F2P Runescape is an unending trial for P2P

 

2. P2P Runescape is an upgrade to F2P

 

 

 

Actually Jagex has said, on countless occasions, the most recent being Mark Gerhard, that F2P is the full game, and members is an expansion to that game.

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Actually Jagex has said, on countless occasions, the most recent being Mark Gerhard, that F2P is the full game, and members is an expansion to that game.

 

Its more of a marketing gimmick then anything.

 

Its like going into all a restaurant, the bread and water might be free, but you've still got to pay if you want a real meal.

 

 

 

In RS F2P and P2P are getting to the point where they are almost 2 completely different games. The essentials are still the same, but the whole way you use your character is rarely the same.

 

 

 

Its like slice cheese on toast and a fully loaded pizza buffet they both have a the basics the same (cheese and a bread base), but are almost completely different.

 

 

 

ps. I was hungry at the time of typing this if you didn't guess.

 

pps. The are no "set in stone" rules about what classifies a gaming genre so I'm not going to argue about it. I was just saying not everything is black and white.

[hide=Drops]

  • Dragon Axe x11
    Berserker Ring x9
    Warrior Ring x8
    Seercull
    Dragon Med
    Dragon Boots x4 - all less then 30 kc
    Godsword Shard (bandos)
    Granite Maul x 3

Solo only - doesn't include barrows[/hide][hide=Stats]

joe_da_studd.png[/hide]

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