Free to play, pay to win and freemium games
Free to play is the new business model
1. Games is a way out for a lot of players
The gaming industry is a multi billion dollar industry and according to Reuters, it could reach $159 billion by the end of 2020 and based on the same article, “Of the 2.7 billion total gamers projected to play in 2020, 2.6 billion will play on mobile devices” but most mobile games are Free-to-Play. How is this even possible? Let’s start from the beginning,when Consoles and PC’s were introduced, you would pay a one-time fee and buy a game.
Remember that was a single player game with beginning and end, once you finished the game, unless you really enjoyed it and wanted to play that again, it was pretty much useless, it would just sit and collect dust until you could resell it and buy a new one but that was not always an option.
At the time this was the best option and the most popular way to acquire a game would be, to physically go to a store and purchase it the “unboxing” was always the best part second only to launching the actual game.
2. Hardware changes
The first Console and Handheld games came in specific cartridges unique to the respective console while the PC games came in Floppy Disks. Although unique, people could copy Floppy Disks even those that contained games, starting the first forms of piracy, the same thing happened with CD’s that came later on, only this time Consoles would use them too. Millions were lost and corporations had no way of controlling this for at least a decade, then the internet was allowing a more game friendly experience and a different way that things could happen.
Cartridge consoles were not available since the late 90’s and in 2003 Steam would be introduced, a gaming library that publishers would use to sell their games based on a unique user system, most of you know what Steam is but for those who are unsure, it is a gaming platform that allows players to buy and download games.
The best part about it is that once you made a purchase, that specific game would be permanently added to your personal collection and could only be launched once you accessed the platform therefore allowing only 1 player per account. Steam is one of the most popular platforms that many gamers and publishers prefer to use to this day!
3. Free to play
Not every title was successful and games were not cheap, reviews were not reflecting the actual game content therefore forcing the gamers to be more cautious and skeptical before buying a new game. This was bad for business, pay to play was becoming obsolete due to the quality of the products from some companies, it did not matter whether it was a famous company or not, the fact that their game did not deliver was enough.
Newly formed companies introduced the free-to-play game, this way everyone could access it, see for themselves and decide if the would play it or not but again, a completely free game would also be bad for business, developers, designers and other employees need to get paid, so a new hybrid was invented, most people right now call it pay to win others “freemium”, from the words Free and Premium. Depending on the game, you can pay to buy in game currency or cosmetics and here is where the distinction becomes more visible.
The pay to win or “p2w” is a name for those who convert real life money to in-game currency and freemium for those who want to improve their character looks by purchasing skins and cosmetics.
4. Trends and exceptions
Nowadays most of the PC & Mobile games are Played Online and also free to play. The game design allows you to see the game up to a certain point since as you grow in levels the cash shop items become a necessity, yes you can still play without them but they are built in a way that its functionality-to-Usability ratio seems trivial and players end up spending money for that game.
Besides some exceptions that certain game publishers force you to buy DLC’s*, the rest offer casual updates in their games for free, which means that you can enjoy the content even if you cannot afford to spend anything on the cash shop.
*DLC is acronym for downloadable content and is available to the player only after he pays a certain amount to purchase it.