There’s a new buzzword making its rounds in the MMO world these days, and it is “Freemium”. A portmanteau of “free” and “premium”, this business model is like a hybrid of the F2P and P2P payment models, brought together into one neat little package. A freemium game is free and there is no monthly fee, but if you want the whole shebang like extra character slots, more travel options, or bigger bag space, etc. you have the option to sub.
As for whether or not it’s a good model, well, that’s all a matter of opinion. Personally, I like the freemium model because of the choices it gives me — I can either play for free, purchase content piecemeal whenever I feel like it, or straight up subscribe to get all the benefits. Factoring time and effort, sometimes going that last route is even considered to be the most economical.
Still, I know plenty of people who play freemium games long-term and still manage to enjoy themselves by paying just the bare minimum, or not a cent at all. Just because you think you’ll be spending a lot of time in a game, doesn’t automatically mean you have to shell out for the premium VIP package. The beauty of the freemium model is the “free” option. FREE! is a powerful marketing technique that few can ignore, FREE! is always awesome.
My brain, however, works in funny ways sometimes. I think some perverse part of my mind still convinces myself that if I don’t pay I won’t play.
It’s not about the restrictions I wish to avoid, or about gaining the upper hand. It also has nothing to do with being suspicious of anything I don’t have to pay for, because I don’t buy the whole “free”-must-equal-”crappy” myth at all. I see freemium games and F2P games the same way I see any other MMO — if it looks good and I happen to be looking for something new to play, then count me in; I could care less about the business model.
Except it does kinda matter, but not in the way one would expect. I’ve looked back at my gaming history and seen that I’ve had a really bad track record of staying committed to “true” F2P games. Why that is the case has nothing to do with perceived quality, but has everything to do with the fact that little motivation comes from little investment. In other words, it’s not the games. It’s me. When an MMO is free, I put things off guilt-free and say to myself things like “I can always just play later” and “Hey, it’ll still be free tomorrow!” I say that again and again and again, and end up never playing at all.
This might sound strange, but I like P2P models sometimes…because knowing I paid $15 this month is a huge motivator. When I pay, I know I will play, as I am compelled to make the most out of my sub. It’s like my great desire to someday learn Latin. As much as I’d love to take the initiative and start on my own, uhhhhhh, it’s not gonna happen. I think the only way I’d ever get off my ass and do it is if I enrolled into and paid for a class. An MMO sub is sort of like that; just a little reminder each day that I should stop whatever work or messing around I’m doing to pay a little visit to my favorite virtual worlds, because I paid for it after all. Yes, I’m ever the procrastinator, apparently even with the hobbies I enjoy.
Anyway, games that offer the freemium model let me do that, but with considerably more choices. Despite what I said about P2P vs. F2P games, I’m definitely not an all-or-nothing kinda girl, and I still get excited when yet another MMO goes the freemium route. For the reasons I gave, most are games I’ll likely still fork over a sub to if/when I jump back in (like Age of Conan: Unchained), but sometimes simply dabbling is enough for me, and there are more than a few MMOs that I’d be happy to log in to for just a couple times a month. At least the freemium model allows me the flexibility to find a balance.