Everybody wants your money. There's nothing Earth-shattering about that. People will beg, lie, cheat, steal, work, wager, guilt, barter, and offer goods and services in exchange for your cash. Do Free-to-Play (F2P) games use any of these tactics?
There may be several different words used to describe F2P's grab for your cash. The words I would use are bookended by the words "cheat" and "lie," but much more subtle. I would choose words such as "coerce," "manipulate," and "tempt." They are like drug pushers giving you your first taste for free, hoping you'll become addicted and pay full price in the future.
The old axiom is true: there is no free lunch. There are no free drugs, and there are no free games in this world. The only thing that is free is free speech, and if you are a regular Tweet and Blog enthusiast, you know that free can also mean worthless.
I like to know what my expenses are upfront. I don't want any hidden fees or any extra applicable charges that would otherwise deter my enjoyment of the "free" offer. Don't tell me I have one night free stay at the Ritz, as long as I pay the resort fee, administration fee, room tax, and processing fee. "Fee," is only an "r" removed from "free."
Popular F2P games such as Runescope, Anarchy Online, Maple Story, and D&D Online incorporate the "free" premise, but are not providing these games altruistically for the enjoyment and enrichment of society at large. You can't begrudge someone from making money from their work, but these games are structured to make you feel like a Third World homeless person when taking advantage of the "free" content.
You won't look very cool defending a fair maiden while dressed in a potato sack. Your saber may have the same stats as the platinum-forged lightning bolt the rich guys are using, but when it's made from a wilted willow stick, it lacks impact.
These games may be free, but if you want to game in style, it's going to cost you. Apparently, costly upgrades and accessories are purely cosmetic, and will have no affect on the gameplay. But people are shallow, and the developers know that if you go the "free" route, you're going to look like welfare case. Others will shun you and your avatar for lack of virtual materialism. It's like high school all over again.
Online factions determined by virtual wealth are already starting to form in these games. It's the "haves" against the "have nots." This ostracizing further intimidates the free play gamers. The developers implement more solo gameplay to keep the free play gamers from positively reinforcing each other. It's hoped many will not be able to maintain their outlaw/outcast status without group support, and ultimately cave to the pressures of virtual materialism.
And then there's the option of purchasing extra content. This is the neighborhood of the rich, where freeloading trespassers are vehemently denied access. Damn filthy online hobos!
There's nothing wrong with throwing the developers a bone. Give the guys some money commensurate with your satisfaction of their product. Buy a new hat, for crying out loud. Have some fun. But know that you're doing it for the right reason, and you're not getting conned or coerced into spending more than you should. This psychological marketing ploy is dangerously effective. Some people are spending their life's savings to outfit themselves with all available upgrades. However, I have no sympathy for anyone in this situation. Buyer beware. No one has a gun to your head, although you might after declaring bankruptcy. But take comfort in knowing that while you look a little worse for wear in your coffin, your avatar looks like a million bucks!
Date: February 10, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*