Financing games with Free2Play
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 June 2013, 4:54 am
If you are contemplating a career in programming games, you need to be aware that it isn't necessarily easier or has shorter hours than programming let's say financial software, but it pays a lot less. But even with rampant exploitation of games developers and the willingness of some people to create games for peanuts, at the end of the month people need some sort of income to pay for food, their car, and their mortgage. There have been plenty of examples of game companies which at some point weren't able to pay salaries any more and went bust. And there have been plenty of examples of online games which either went under with the company, or were closed down to prevent the company from going under. Game companies making money is a good thing, because without that we wouldn't have games.

Once you consider all this you'll see that "Free2Play" is necessarily an illusion. If everybody actually played these games for free, these games would stop to exist after the short period of time it takes for the money of the company to run out. But as Rohan noticed, there is a disconnect on Free2Play, causing people to complain if anything even remotely useful is for sale. A lot of people with no idea on economics believe that Free2Play games should only sell "hats", that is decorative items with no effect on gameplay.

Selling only fluff is equivalent to begging for donations. As I run a Free2Read blog with a donation button, which netted me a grand total of $25 this year, I can assure you that hoping to keep a game alive just on donations isn't going to work. You not only need to sell stuff people have actual use for, but you also need to make sure that the small number of people who have sufficient disposable income can actually find something to spend hundreds of dollars for. That is not to say that there should be items for sale that break game balance. But players value things like having early access to stuff, or having to grind less for stuff, or anything which makes the game more convenient and gives added options, and so this is what needs to be for sale.

A large number of people in a Free2Play game never pay anything, and that is all right. There is some benefit of having them around, for example so that there are always enough players for multiplayer, or so that you can advertise that your game has X million players. It isn't advisable to put "pay walls" in your game or to constantly bombard players with messages telling them to pay. But on the other hand a free player cannot expect the game to carefully avoid ever to advertise the advantages of paying. Because somebody has to pay something for the game to survive, the people playing for free need at least to be willing to be made aware from time to time that they could have some added convenience or earlier access if they paid. Just like you need to live with advertising on TV and websites, it is the normal "price to pay" for free.

I don't own a yacht, or a Rolls Royce, or a villa in some sunny place. I can't afford those things. But the stuff I can afford is because I worked for it, because I achieved certain things in life. Thus the stuff I can't afford is because I didn't achieve more monetary success in life. You won't find me staging a protest in front of the Rolls Royce factory clamoring how unfair it is that I can't afford their cars, because I'd feel embarrassed to say such a thing. Even if I live in Europe and it is the American Dream, I do believe that my success in life has a lot to do with myself, my ambition, and how hard I am willing to work. I don't see myself as a victim. I don't believe I am entitled to everything, and I would be ashamed if I had to live of handouts. Thus I cannot understand the kind of people, the entitlement kids, who not only want to have everything for free, but then also spew hate against those who might be willing and able to spend $100 on a game. The economic reality is that few people who pay effectively finance the game for all those who don't pay, so even if gratefulness is maybe asking too much, the people playing for free at least should refrain from complaining about those who pay the game for them.
Tobold's Blog

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