More and more games are starting to embrace the free to play model. The biggest free to play relaunches of the last few months were Guild Wars 2 from Arena Net and Wildstar Reloaded from NCSoft. Prior to its free to play relaunch, Guild Wars 2 was a buy to play game, meaning you bought it once and never had to subscription fees. Wildstar on the other hand was a more traditional subscription title, sort of like World of Warcraft. Both games are now free to play and that’s a great thing for broke college students like myself. I honestly never had any intention of playing either of these games, as I didn’t want to buy them, but now that they’re free to play I’m actually hooked on Guild Wars 2. I haven’t played Wildstar yet, but I did download it! It’s not just MMORPGs that are going free to play.
Block n Load from Jagex went free to play in early October, 2015. If you haven’t heard of Block n Load, it’s basically Team Fortress 2 / Dirty Bomb meets Minecraft / Sky Saga. You have the hero based FPS gameplay of Team Fortress 2 with the sandbox building of titles like Sky Saga. It’s a bit hard to visualize, but essentially 2 teams of 5 face off against each other and whoever destroys the enemy base first wins. Each hero in the game has a role to play. Some heroes specialize in attacking, while others are best at laying traps and defending. The game is developed by Jagex, the company behind RuneScape. Prior to going free to play, Block n Load was a buy to play title that averaged 300 users online at any given time. Since going F2P, the game has averaged 3K users online with over 8K players during peak hours. That’ an incredible jump, and I suspect Block n Load will maintain momentum, mostly because the game is genuinely fun and unique. It’s a strategic game that actually requires team work. In a way, it reminds me of MOBAs like Heroes of the Storm, because players NEED to communicate to win…
I honestly think free to play is the future of PC gaming. So many games have embraced free to play including classic games like Lineage 2, Aion, Rift and more. There’s no reason for developers to launch subscription or buy to play game games anymore, especially since free to play games tend to make more money than their pay to play counterparts. Free to play games make up a majority of MMO revenues. The average free to play user is worth anywhere from $1 – $4 per year, with paying users worth quite a bit more.
What’s interesting is that mobile MMORPGs tend to be free to play too. Dofus from Ankama Games is launching a mobile version, but unlike the desktop version, the game won’t have a subscription option. Other mobile MMORPGs like Order and Chaos 2 and Blade: Sword of Elysion are free to play as well. I don’t think there are any subscription based titles on mobile, and I don’t think there ever will be. Considering that mobile gaming will make up a bigger and bigger chunk of online gaming, the percent of free to play vs pay to play will shift even further in favor of free to play.
I wonder what the next big MMORPG to embrace free to play will be. Perhaps World of Warcraft? Probably not. I think it could be Final Fantasy XIV. I know that they’ve already said that they have no intention of going free to play, but I think they will in the coming years. Anyone else care to speculate?