As the days go by, more and more games seem to be jumping on the (what I will term) “Freemium” band wagon. They’re not exactly Free to Play because you can barely play them without spending *something* but certain aspects of the game are free, and you can get by paying a lot less then the regular monthly subscription fee if you want (especially if you’re a casual gamer, and wait for deals).
Surprisingly enough I have NOT been playing the Lord of the Rings Online as a free to play member. I’ve got VIP access until February because I purchased a bunch of 60 day time cards for cheap before the game went F2P. I have been reading up on everything though, and I’ve got a few friends who are playing as cheaply as they can as a test. We’ll call it our online roulette games experiment for the time being, my money is on LotRO being the ‘cheaper’ way of playing compared to EverQuest 2.
I am far more likely to play LotRO as a ‘free’ game then lets say, EQ2, and I’m going to explain why with a few points that really stand out to me as being winners.
- - Turbine points can be obtained in game for completing deeds. This is a great selling point to me. If you enjoy completing every single deed and title you can get your hands on then you’re going to earn yourself turbine points that you can spend in their store. You may even be more willing to spend a few dollars here and there to round out the points you have earned when you make purchases. After all, if they can entice you to spend a little when you would have spent nothing, that’s good. You don’t feel like you’re spending that much because after all, you’ve EARNED points, you just want a few extra to pick up that <whatever> from the store. I am far more likely to spend a smaller amount numerous times, then one large amount.
- - Items in the store are pretty cheap. A piece of cosmetic gear could be as low as 100 turbine points, or as much as 295. Each 100 turbine points is $1 which means you’re not even paying $3 for a nice piece of cosmetic gear. I’ve seen some stores that sell appearance gear for as much as $25 – the smaller your prices SEEM (even if you’re selling each piece individually) the better. I don’t want to buy an entire set, some times I just want a chest piece, or a back piece. I’m far more likely to spend $2 then $25. The most expensive items are the shared vault, and mounts and even those are a far more reasonable price then a lot of games I’ve peeked in at.
- - Sales. If you’re patient, you can purchase what you “need” over the course of time at a very reduced price. For example the riding skill was 75% off a few weeks ago. I picked it up for my characters for less then $1. Three adventure packs were also on sale for 75% off, less then $1 per adventure pack (three were for sale) which is fantastic. Wait long enough and I have no doubt that even more items will go on sale, enticing players to spend just a little bit here and there. If you get a large number of people purchasing a little bit here and there you more then make up for the few who would have paid the $15 subscription fee.
- - VIP perks. As a VIP I have access to everything in game AND I earn myself 500 “free” points a month. Why is this great? Because when my account finally lapses from VIP I’ll have stored up enough points to continue playing on as a free to play customer – an idea that I absolutely love. I also get accustomed to their store as I purchase a few items (mostly appearance so far) here and there with my points.
That doesn’t mean I love everything about this new model, there are a lot of restrictions that I don’t enjoy. Skirmishes, channels, etc. that are locked without making purchases or being VIP etc. I’ve never been against F2P, or Freemium, or any other idea that follows, call it what you will. What I do have issues with is how some games have implemented these ideas, namely EQ2 (as of late). I was a fan of Wizard 101 for a good while, loving the idea of unlocking content as I came to it rather then purchasing $15/m for something I may only play twice.
My issue with EQ2X is as follows:
- - Separate servers from the main player base. I think this was an incredibly poor idea, no matter how many times the red names on forums say that they had the best interest of the players at heart. It turned into an us (regular live servers) vs. them (freemium players) model instead of trying to merge all of your players into one happy family.
- - The cost of items. Things are expensive. Cosmetic gear especially. I am not going to be buying a handful of things in EQ2X for the same price that I would in LotRO, which makes me less likely to spend anything at all as I have to hum and haw over what I’m going to spend my money on.
- - The confusing tiers of subscription plans and what they all unlock. It is not needed. In order to get the “full” subscription to EQ2X you’re paying $18/m on an EQ2X server vs. $15/m on a ‘live’ server. Wha? That also STILL does not unlock everything, as races require further payment.
- - The cost to copy a character from a live server to the EQ2X server. It’s $25 to MOVE a character between live servers. It’s $35 to copy your character to an EQ2X server. I don’t understand the need for that cost, either make it the same amount or simply don’t allow it at all and have everyone start from scratch. Is this an attempt to discourage the current player base from moving over to EQ2X? If so it’s a poor attempt.
Those are my main issues. As you can see it’s nothing to do with what is in the shops, but how the basic designs are set up. With LotRO I don’t feel as though I am being pressured to spending a lot of cash. In EQ2X I feel as though they’re trying to milk players for all they’re worth and then some. Perhaps this is unfair of me, after all you CAN play EQ2X completely free IF you are satisfied with what you will get. That means incredibly limited everything. Gear, spells, classes, and races. Now for some, this is not an issue, but I hardly go to a free to play game expecting it to actually be free, I’m always going to spend *something* – I just think that turbine did a far better job setting their games up.