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A better Free to Play Model

Writing this is a hurry but the furore over Allods has further strengthened my believe that there are numerous flaws in the typical Free to Play model. One major flaw is that a small number of players must pay a lot in order to subsidise the majority who pay nothing. Another perhaps more serious flaw is that in order to force people into the cash shop developers have to design inconvenience into the game. Making your customers suffer is surely not a sustainable business model.

Given all this I wonder if the pay for time model as used in China would not be a better approach. You could still incorporate a free to play component - think of it as a form of extended free trial.

Try the following:
Free players can play for up to 10 hours per week.
Additional playing time can be purchased in lots of 10 additional hours at a cost of $5 for 10 hours.
A lump sum payment of $45 buys 30 days (or perhaps a calendar month) of unlimited playing time.
Perhaps further discounts may be available for higher quantity purchases.

No cash shop. No items which give in game power increase.

Comments

Tesh said…
The ideal business model for me is the Guild Wars model. No subs, no fluff. Microtransaction models work best for me when they get close to that, just in smaller chunks. That's why DDO works; I'm effectively buying smaller content packs, like bites of a GW purchase. Prices reflect that.

A "free for 10 hours a week, pay for more" sounds good, too. You play more, you pay more. Fair enough. (Though I'd almost never poke over 10 hours/week, so I'd just be one of those nasty, tricksy freeloaders... but as Daniel James is wont to point out, even free players are building the community and taking part in the in-game economy. We're not just a gaping hole of SUCK weighing down the game.)
Thallian said…
I like both of those, but DDO is working fine for now.
Chappo said…
I think the problem with this is that there are always going to be people who will just not or are unable to pay money for the game.

In my view for a F2P MMO to be successful it has to have some sort of option to allow players to play 'the whole game' without paying a cent.

If you were to do pay/playtime then the developers would have to do a major amount of research on their game such as how long does the average person play every week?

Compounding this difficulty is that people in the end-game will (In my mind) tend to play slightly less then when they were pumping out levels. This could mean everyone in the end game being comfortably able to play without cost.

Great blog, enjoy reading it. :D
mbp said…
Hi Chappo, thanks for your comment. I agree that there are people who want to play for free but you have to ask why should a game company care about these people. I guess it is because a certain percentage of them will eventually spend some money if they get hooked enough but there is probably a point of diminishing returns - If a customer hasn't spent a penny in forty levels then why expect them to start now?
Tesh said…
Again, mpb, Daniel James has addressed it. "Free players" are still *playing*, and tend to contribute to the community and in-game economy. If they like it enough, maybe they will pay someday.

Of course, there's still good reason to boot griefers, but players just along for the ride are actually adding to the community, too.

I don't know if you've seen this article, but it helps:

http://www.penny-arcade.com/2008/9/29/
mbp said…
Thanks for the link Tesh. That is a very good point. Daniel James really is a very good source of insights into this business. I notice he has a blog here: http://thefloggingwillcontinue.com/

I must keep an eye on that for future nuggets.
Tesh said…
More yummy Daniel James data, in this case, a video interview:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=rLyysQ_9vrE
mbp said…
That is a great interview Tesh, thanks for the link.

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