Pay-to-play subscription-based MMOs have been around for a very long time now. A fact illustrated by World of Warcraft celebrating its seventh anniversary November of last year. EverQuest turned twelve and Ultima Online is now fourteen. The blossoming of the free-to-play market has been relatively recent in comparison (although buy-to-play MMOs did flourish during this time they haven’t been extremely popular until recently.) As a result, how pay-to-play MMOs have approached attracting users has also changed with this tide.

While trial accounts have seen a worthwhile history, recent changes in the way that they’re portrayed may be doing the MMO industry a disservice. As trial accounts—no matter how open or unlimited in time—are still not even a shadow of what an actual free-to-play game represents.

The recent history and growth of trial accounts

Initially, Blizzard offered limited-time trial accounts for users interested in jumping into WoW. In 2007 trial accounts only lasted 10 days—very shortly after their release, trial accounts were weighted down with vicious restrictions. Of course, we all know why: gold spammers caught wind of the free accounts and flocked to them as spouts for advertising. So Blizzard brought the restriction sledgehammer down on them with a vengeance.

Trial accounts couldn’t invite people to join groups, join or create guilds, own more than 10 pieces of gold, access the global chat, or even private message people who had not added them to their friends list. These restrictions essentially made being a trial account into a somewhat lonely and forlorn experience; but they did make them virtually useless for gold spammers to hawk their wares.

As the years advanced, Blizzard began to realize that while a 10-day taste of the game may have attracted some new players, the bulk of the players who came and stayed didn’t flow through the trial accounts. In fact, after careful examination executives noticed that most players who quit the game did so before hitting the trial cap, but not within a distinct period of time. CEO Mike Morhaime said during an investor call in 2010 that 70% of all trial accounts flamed out before level 10.


So then rolled around the advent of the free-to-play revolution in gaming and in 2011 Blizzard took a new tack to their trial accounts by introducing the “Starter Edition” account instead—effectively replacing the 10-day trial account with an unlimited trial account.

This act provides not just a simple taste of the game but opens up the entire world to players while restricting them to only a small slice of the total content by locking them to never rising above level 20. These accounts retained the same anti-gold-spammer restrictions as the pervious trial accounts, but they never expire.

Now we’ve seen another subscription-based MMO jump on the trial account bandwagon this month with Rift: The Planes of Telara published by Trion World’s also opening up their world to players for free up to level 20 in a gambit called “Rift-Lite.” Similar to World of Warcraft, Rift-Lite appears to have restrictions preventing them from sending mail or private messages or using global chat. Rift-Lite accounts also limit the total amount of currency that can be obtained in game.

In this fashion, Blizzard set the bar for subscription-based MMOs to introduce themselves to new players by giving them the opportunity to have free rein without being tethered to a subscription. Any subscription game marketing is about getting players hooked.

Since its inception, World of Warcraft has been given the moniker “World of Warcrack” (a joke about addictiveness, Everquest also became known as Evercrack.) The approach would be to get new players in, let them discover they enjoy the experience, and then entice them to pay for more. Ideally, new trial accounts wouldn’t limit players to do all their playing in 10 days, then forever remain curious; but would give casual players a chance to enjoy the world at their own pace and then decide.

Where LEGO Universe tried and died

The biggest violator of this was LEGO Universe Online. Their publisher also played the limited free-to-play gambit; but instead of advertising the limitations they pushed that they offered a free-play version. The limitations on the free players in LEGO Universe were fun-crippling: the game restricted users to two zones and essentially gated them form the part of the game that everyone played in. Many players discovered that the “free” portions of the game ended abruptly and left little reason for them to stick around and continue playing the game.

Many players felt cheated by this false form of free-to-play and the game failed to attract enough new subscribers.

In the end LEGO Universe Online went extinct.


Why pay-to-play trial accounts shouldn’t be billed as free-to-play

The grim complication of games like World of Warcraft and Rift (and now the late LEGO Universe Online among others) advertising what amounts to trial content as free-to-play, however, raises a darker specter: that in that they are aping the success of free-to-play games without actually delivering. In the video game world we call this a demo, in the MMO world it’s basically a trial account. Certainly you get to play in the world up to level 20, but much like the demo version of a video game, which provides only possibly one mission, levels 1-20 for WoW barely lets a player out of the newbie content.

The vast majority of the game is walled off from trial players; unlike an actual free-to-play title which makes the entire core game available, like for example the popular League of Legends.

Via advertising their product trial accounts as “free-to-play” accounts, publishers layer onto a confusion that might turn potential players away from actual free-to-play gaming with the optional microtransactions. Anyone who joins WoW or Rift (just to name a few) expecting that they’ll be able to experience the entire gaming world will eventually be sharply turned away at that level 20 barrier.

We love this games but as subscription games they’re offering a teaser, a demo, a trial—but it’s certain that they’re not offering anything like the free-to-play model experience that has been successfully built-up by the industry.

The MMO industry doesn’t need big names like Blizzard or Trion Worlds corrupting the market by co-opting terms like “free to play” even if they then go on to say “from levels 1 to 20.” All of us are better off if they would just up front let people know that they’re offering a short-on-content, trial account to interested players and leave the “free to play” at home.

By Kyt Dotson

98 Readers Commented

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  1. random on August 10, 2012

    they are not lieing you can play for free its your faults to think a p2p will just be given to you…

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  2. Random Person on May 5, 2012

    I see, LOTRO/DDO, isn’t free to play even though you can earn enough in-game currency (TPs if you don’t know), and buy said Expansion/Quest Pack or whatever you damn well please for that matter…. I mean I suggest trying the game or doing a bit of research first before you start trolling or spreading lies…. sure you don’t get said Expansion or Class (WDN/RK), because Turbine feels that people who in fact did pay for said Expansion or Class (normally just be the Expansion), before going “F2P”, feel like they were cheated out of their money…. They’re are some restrictions to lessen the Gold-Spammers, ect., but those can be easily removed without spending a single dime….. You just have to play longer than someone who paid… You don’t like it then leave, always another game you could be playing, or ranting on about, instead of wasting time and energy, complaining how its not “F2P’….. which in fact it quite is…

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  3. CKO on March 25, 2012

    This entire article is nothing but a well hidden rant. You treat players like they are mindless zombies, the advertising is very strait forward and to the point.
    You are either a F2P advocate or a very confused individual. It is up to the consumer to do research and even IF SOMEHOW they are confused into believing, due to a harsh lack of reading comprehension, that they will get to access more content while using a FREE TRIAL, they are out nothing but time that they choose to use on entertainment.
    Whole article is pointless and circle talk without you being brave enough to come out and put your true opinion on the line.

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  4. TriSpark on March 6, 2012

    Well reading all this comments is getting me confused, I’m gonna imagine a whole pizza as the whole game and when you eat it, its unlimited :D. No matter how much I eat it, it won’t finish and not to mention I get the whole thing and its FREE!!. If I love this pizza so much, I will add more toppings, which I’d have to pay ^_^. Thats how I think of Real F2P MMOs. But things like Blizzard does goes something like this:-

    Blizzard – “Heres a Big Pizza and its Free to Eat!”
    Me – “FREE!? Woooot I’m gonna eat it!”
    Blizzard – “Okay here’s just a slice”
    Me – “??? I thought you said its free?”
    Blizzard – “Yeah…for a slice, if you want the rest you gotta pay”
    Me – “Wuuuut!! You lie!! Thats not FREE2EAT!! Thats just a FREE SAMPLE!!(Trial account)”
    Blizzard – “MWAHAHAHAHA!!”
    Me- “EVIL EVIL EVIL!!” TT-TT QQ

    “My final words are: WE NEED GAMES FROM GAMERS FOR GAMERS, NOT GAMES FOR BUSNESS MAN TO CUSTOMER!” Quoted by lilfighter

    Nice ^_^ but aren’t people that made League of Legends or Flyff and other Real F2P MMOs are most probably gamers themselves.

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    • Badie on March 6, 2012

      srry 4 the crapy spellin ahead of time

      im not sure but LoL and guild wars are the only games ive spent money on since i quit WoW 3 years ago and quite frankly if they are made by gamers 4 gamers then they need 2 put something like a sugestion box type thing with a limit of 1 segestions per year or somethin or even once per 2 years with a min amount of time play Bn like 30 days of in-game play it might not sound fair but games like LoL with millions of pple playin thats very fair cuz then even if they gett flouded then ill only happin every so often if u have played LoL then u know the min time 4 a single normal match is 20min but an avg game last 45min+ and those who would afk or leave should have the time counted agains them 4 the entire duro of the match

      but meh i dont know if that would work and i know ur gonna say something like ” thats wat forum are for” but alot of pple like my self dont like usin them 4 wat ever the reason maye be

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      • badie on March 6, 2012

        o i meant like in the games settings, not on the site

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  5. hey everyone shut the hell up ok u act liek wow was doigna good thing they werent wow wasnt if ur a paid subsciber to WOW then u would know that LVL.20 barely give u anything its complete cra at least witha video game a demo lets u do 1 levela nd it makes u see the ebst parts in the game for example just casue 2 if u played that demo u would know its really fun and really addicting (except the 30 min cap that people glitched there way through) but still its not fair how game sliek Exteel or otehr ftp game are going away because of stupid P2p game s becoming free and tehy dont offer much the only one that si good is Champions onlien Free for alla dn City of heros which is still good even though u need to be a payed memeber to go rogue but that doesnt really matter now does it ur guys suk asss

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  6. Burtsoon on March 3, 2012

    After all of the pseudo-illiterate ramblings in the comments, my brain has actually started to hurt. Good work!

    The likes of WoW and Rift shouldn’t be advertising as F2P, because they simply aren’t. The likes of LOTRO and DCUO aren’t much better, however not quite as bad considering there is an option to get the majority of the content (even if you have to grind for 20 hours straight).

    There are very few (if any) truly free games out there. It is more of a question as to whether the content offered to those who want to play for free is draconian or not. An example of an MMO doing free-to-play well, would be RuneScape… Regardless of what you actually think of the game, at least the game has a fair model in place which allows for enjoyment to be had.

    TL;DR If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Common sense needs to be applied in regards to these games. Adverts are there to advertise a game, lies are told in adverts; everybody should be aware of this from an early age.

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  7. AktivX on February 29, 2012

    I love how they talk about Blizzard starting this and Rift picking up on it. But what about WAR, who has had an unlimited free trial since the instituted their free trial? It’s not like either company did anything original and should get any of the credit for it, just because their two of the biggest dogs using it, doesn’t mean they should get the credit/blame

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  8. Fragger2k8 on February 28, 2012

    I completely agree with this. It’s just misleading, and actually false-advertising, to label an MMO as free-to-play, when in fact it is nothing but a limited trial of the game.

    They do it to try and get people to flock to it, and to try and get them hooked on the game. Most people don’t read a thing, so they just see the words “Free to Play!” and create an account and start playing, only to find out that after so much time, or when they reach a certain level, that they are locked out and prompted to purchase. So, since they already invested some time into the game, and they want to keep playing, they feel like they are almost obligated to continue on with a subscription. They then proceed to whine to their moms and dads for their credit card. Oh, and don’t forget that plenty of those people will also forget to cancel their subscription at some point, usually from the kids that use their parents credit cards, so that’s even more money rolling in.

    It’s really just a cheap and wrong tactic for the companies to use try to rake in even more money.

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  9. Echo4HHSM on February 27, 2012

    There are no guidelines for F2P so basicly everybody can call their game F2P aslong you can play the game without the need of paying anything. Most of the games you talked about are MMORPGs like WoW, Rift, LotR, aso. Looks like most of you play these genre but i prefer MMO-Racer (Trackmania2, NFS World),MMO-Beat’em up (Brawl Busters),MMO-Shooter (APB Reloaded).
    The problem with most MMORPGs is that everything is compared with WoW. The Problem of WoW is it makes many people addicted to play it. So if you quit WoW and play another MMORPG you get the bad taste of “it’s not like WoW”.
    I dont want to talk bad about WoW but i played it for 4 years and became an adult in that time so for me (i repeat for me) its just a too childish game where every Boss and every player looks like too much colorful cutie.
    I also played AoC for 1 Year and also took a look at it some years later but my problem with that game is PvP balance and the combat system which prefers Caster Classes in PvP and PvE.
    To be honest most of the F2P-MMORPGs are Asia Grinders which annoy me. Games like Silkroad, Eligium, War of Immortals, aso.
    There are some exceptions like Vindictus (yeah i dont know if its beat em up, rpg or whatever), Mythos but they wont catch you forever because of slow extension of End Content and a bit monotone combat system.

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  10. zeon on February 27, 2012

    LOTRO is actually much more F2P than others, the only thing is you have more grind abit more if you wanna play it for free. You do know that you can earn cash shop currency in game just by doing the deeds (eg. kill 200 orcs). Just save up all those turbine pts on multiple characters and buy cash shop quests packs which is account wide. Oh and one trend in Turbine, if your a budget player always use your pts when they are selling stuffs on a discount, NEVER buy anything on the cashshop when its not on a discount. Because they do rotational discounts every now so & then.

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  11. StevenCrux on February 27, 2012

    PSS. The only TRUE “FREE” to play MMO’s right now are Lineage II and Aion once Ascension hits. After that I’d say closest is GW (and soon GW2) because it’s about as “free to play” as a non-mmo: Buy the game, not the game time.

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  12. StevenCrux on February 26, 2012

    This article is a waste of time based on misunderstanding. This is why they should have hired ME to write articles. TRIAL means a limited TIME account with other limitations (usually) WoW and Rift are FREE TO PLAY up to lvl 20 (I believe) This means make X amount of characters on X amount of servers and play FOR FREE. Just like any F2P game with sub options, there’s some things you can’t do/can’t have. So yes those 2 games are F2P to an EXTENT, and it’s not a trial…a trial would be WoW’s old “14 day, lvl 10 limit” trial. Or Rifts old limited time trial.

    Due to the new Hybrid game models. (a F2P game with sub options: LOTRO, AoC, etc) It is acceptable for WoW and Rift to say they are “Free to play” and not “trial”. Keep in mind…I hate WoW and am not defending it as a fan…this is just fact. WoW and Rift are just lvl limited Hybrid game models.

    Thank you,
    StevenCrux AKA Tech1Crux

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    • mmobomb Author on February 26, 2012

      So for you a demo (just because don´t have time limit) is a free to play game to an EXTENT right? Also the WOW old trial version is actually very similar to the WOW Starter Edition excluding the time limit…

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    • Nox on February 26, 2012

      Time Trial and Trial are not the same thing.
      Trial is basically a test, which can run for an unspecified amount of time.
      Time Trial is limited by time.

      With such poor understanding of basic semantics I’m rather glad they didn’t hire you.

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      • StevenCrux on February 27, 2012

        For “MMOers” you sure don’t get the market’s lingo do you? There’s no such thing as a “DEMO” in the MMO world PERIOD. A single player/offline game has a beginning and end, simple as that…anything NOT playing to the end is a DEMO.

        So if you can do most things up to lvl 20 in an MMO, but that’s all…that makes it less F2P then going up to level cap but having NO mounts without paying?

        All F2P games have things you can’t have without paying, only the new “truly Free” aspect limits you NONE. EVE has a trial, Aion (for now, changes here soon) has a trial. WoW and Rift have “limited free to play”. It’s best to LEARN and EXCEPT the terms and such in the MMO genre then start flaming and complaining about “limited free to play” just being called “free to play”.

        They stopped calling them trials because they were no longer the time limited highly restrictive trials as before. Every MMO out there that has developed the “free to play” name has restrictions…all except time. A level restriction is no different then any other.

        I don’t know how many other ways to put it, except “stop being ignorant”

        PS. I’ve played a full F2P MMO that only allowed one character to be created, this aggravated me more then a set lvl cap. (plus most P2P gone F2P limits lvl/content, just closer to the cap then WoW/Rift)

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        • Nox on February 27, 2012

          Mmobomb was actually talking about multiplayer demos, those have no beginning or an end. Thus by your extensive knowledge of the gaming industry they should be renamed to “free to play”.

          Also, I did not mention a demo at any point in my post, I was simply correcting your misuse of the word “trial” and how I’m surprised that such a knowledgeable person doesn’t know the difference. Which you’ve helpfully ignored in favor of your argument, well done.

          Bottom line, there is no clearly defined “f2p” terminology in mmo’s, so this article is valid as one side of the coin and is, in its own right, accurate.

          Now please, good sir, piss off.

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  13. cacalips on February 26, 2012

    Don’t listen to the fanboy trolls who think a HYBRID model is somehow different. IT IS NOT!!!! HYBRID IS A FANCY WORD FOR – EXTENDED TRIAL!!!!!
    PRoof: WoW – Level cap 25, gold cap, no auctioning. No access to extented content.

    All sony games: No level cap but GOLD CAP, CHAT BLOC, NO TRADING, etc. etc..

    The only difference is level and sometimes content…EVERYTHING else is just a trial. In fact, DCUonline even stores your gold over earned in an “ESCROW” account, waiting and reminding you to unlock it with a subscription mode. So…yes, this guy, Nox, is 100% correct. Go get a clue you stupid fan boys

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    • TheGamer on February 26, 2012

      Nothing more to say there.I agree with you 100%

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  14. xlcyruslx on February 26, 2012

    f2p is the real way, look lineage 2, look dc universe online, look team fortress, they have a lot… a lot of new players each day, and, in a fact, there are more epic amazing games they is free to play, and be more amazing that these bullshit called wow

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  15. 70calories on February 26, 2012

    now that would be a crappy coffie shope I can see your medephore behind it but let me put it this way if that coffie shope offered me a smaller FREE sample of the coffie and I drank it and liked it good that would make me more willing to pay for a larger cup same for the mmo if you give me a trial say 14 days (up to level 20) then sure ill play it and if I like it awsome ill pay the fee to keep playing but if you falsely tell me the game/coffie is free then surprise me with somthing like that I will simply pass your product on and go to the next

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    • Nox on February 26, 2012

      Right, that was my point, I was replying to him, not you. :p

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      • 70calories on February 26, 2012

        pffft I know that…. >.> I was seeing if you did and you do so… woo! <.< *caugh*

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        • 70calories on February 26, 2012

          I was so sure I was gonna get another argument I saw your comment as one and replayed as such lawl

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  16. 70calories on February 26, 2012

    Even though there are those F2P mmos that I can laugh about being complatly F2P I have to give my great disgust with WoW and Rift one cause I never found them to be worth the money in the first place but pulling the wool over players eyes by claming that it will be free to play just to serprise them with a level 20 trial run of the game just proves to me there nothing but money hungery now normally this would be fine and dandy if they just said it was a trial but going the length to claim its free to play is outrageous

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    • Megazell on February 26, 2012

      How is it not F2P? At which point is a player forced to pay to play?

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      • 70calories on February 26, 2012

        Ah I see what your trying to do however let me ask you this… What is the point in playing half a game…

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        • Megazell on February 26, 2012

          In an MMO what exactly is 1/2 a game? In a MMO-FPS what exactly is 1/2 a game? In a MMO-RTF…etc.?

          There is no such thing. If I play an MMO that is F2P and it caps me at lvl 20 for a lvl 120 game. I’m good with that 20 lvl and will probably come back and redo any of the content that I find entertaining during those lvls (PVP, DM…What have you). There are plenty of other games to then try. I’ve been F2P and Freeware PC gaming since 1988 and it’s been a blast.

          I love playing a F2P game and going with my F2P characters and taking out players that have paid for their gear and what not. It’s like a glorious Gladiator underdog adrenaline rush :)

          In another F2P MMO I am good with getting those quest and checking out the stories and monster.

          It’s all about entertainment for me I have no desire to WIN an MMO or experience that which is not Free for me to do so :)

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      • Nox on February 26, 2012

        You’re not FORCED to pay for anything, but then you won’t have it.
        I own a coffee shop, imagine if I offered free coffee to my customers but instead of a nice smoking cup I’d give them a few beans in a small steel welded box.

        “I don’t see what the problem is, sir. You got your free coffee, if you’d also like a can opener, some hot water and a spoon of sugar you’ll have to pay for that. Oh and if you want us to mix all that in a cup you’ll have to pay extra, it’s our special expansion pack service.”

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        • Megazell on February 26, 2012

          How does a food product have any bearing to do with a software product…a product of want mind you. Where a free offer a food can mean a different thing to people. It could be a meal that someone has not had in quite some time while for another it could be a sample to see if that is a flavor they are willing to pay for.

          Also in the US it would be illegal for a establishment over free food/goods and not provide them to the public in a safe and edible fashion.

          The best example is this – It’s play offering a F2P MMO experience but one which you have a lvl cap. In the end it’s all about the user. Some may feel the ‘need’ to pay to continue while other will sample the game and move on and other will be stay in the sample range with no problem…It’s all about the consumer’s want and choice.

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          • Nox on February 26, 2012

            Right. You’re rather starting to grasp at straws here.
            Coffee is not an essential need. It’s a luxury much like the games.
            And I didn’t say I’d give coffee for an X amount of days, I said you wouldn’t get finished coffee at all, much like in these “free” games you don’t get the finished game due to tons of limitations, that does not make them free.
            You’re entitled to your opinion and it doesn’t have to make sense but I doubt many people share your views that demos are also free games.

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  17. TheGamer on February 26, 2012

    Well, i think a game like DCUO is not free to play, to me, a free to play game need to have no “freemium”, a balanced cash shop, and EVERTHING avaliable, i played LOTRO, really liked the game, but i stopped when i see the whole DLC thing and the premium advantages (destiny points, to name a few), yes, some people REALLY think that LOTRO is free because you can “kill 1000 spiders to get 10 TP”, so its pretty much like RoM, since you can buy things from cash shop our grind for the rest of your god-damm life to have a god-killing butter knife.AOC is not free also, its like LOTRO with more blood.Back to the topic, about the Rift-Lite and WoW:Starter, well, i have pretty much nothing to say here, its a false “free” model, since in WoW:Starter it will block 1/5 of the game content, since in 20 you only have 1 or 2 instances to do, and in level 25 you gonna have way more.Never played Rift, soo…
    They need to stop these “free” advertising, since new mmo players gonna think every TRULY f2p game is also content blocked and just ignore then.Its making f2p mmos gain a bad karma :\ .I think companies must know what they are doing, but when companies started thinking in gamers after all?They just Ctrl-C+Ctrl-V another game, change graphics and name and release saying “Next-Gen MMO” and but a hot girl in front page and the game gets lagged.Iam losing my hope to MMO’s, lets see if something gives me some faith next time…

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    • oldskool on February 26, 2012

      you want a free game that has everything free? the company now makes money by _________ oh i know making unicorns and selling them. DCUO has hundreds of hours of free content lol, i dont know what you are on about. most DLC for major titles are a few bucks. unless you are on welfare, get over it.

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      • TheGamer on February 26, 2012

        Man, DCUO of course have hours of content, but, to really stand a chance on PvP (i love pvp), you need to pay, because the money limit of 1500 is really annoying, because in R&D the best recipes are 1600+ and in the auction house too.The DLC is okay, you can play the game without having to pay, but in the end game the only thing you have to do is PvP or run over the same raids over and over again.Of course game companys need revenue, because making mmo’s, even if it is a clone, costs some money, but not making p2w cash shop, yet, selling unicorns and fashion and maybe some loto tickets.The problem is make you have to pay to stand a chance against others players.This is where DCUO failed with me, and iam 14, and my parents dont want to spend money on mmo’s, so the more free the better to me.
        Lets just dont have a fight here okay?

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  18. Tenaka on February 26, 2012

    Meh.

    *ALL* F2P games have limitations unlocked by purchasing or subscribing.

    Where you stand in this discussion/argument is what you personally value within the game.

    Also in the case of WoW/Rift, they have the advantage that the F2P thing is still quite new and what makes a game F2P varies again based on opinion. If you can play for free you are justified as describing your game as F2P. What mmobomb is arguing is their interpretation (likely shared by many or even the majority) of what F2P means. Unfortunately it doesn’t make them right, it just doesn’t make them wrong.

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    • Megazell on February 26, 2012

      This is incorrect. There are a great many F2P games that have NO Cash Shops and No subscriptions service. Games like Allegiance, Elements and so on. This game still fall under the F2P terminology because you do not dl and keep the game like a freeware game title. There are also freeware games like Area 51, Psi-Ops and The Suffering that are full content to be played but require constant internet connection to play…these can be consider f2p also.

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      • Tenaka on February 26, 2012

        Actually, all you did was confirm I was correct, that what F2P means varies from person to person depending on what they are looking for.

        You could argue that almost every game on MMOBomb doesn’t deserve the F2P stamp because they *DO* have shops, which ironically WoW and Rift do not (inb4 some smart ass reckons Blizards store is in any way the same as a typical F2P store).

        You could also argue that the only F2P games that exist are those homegrown games (and maybe those you mentioned that I have never heard of before) where the author has no means to charge you but sticks their game on the internet anyway. I could pendantically argue that as you pay for the internet it’s not genuinely free. Again, it all depends on each persons opinion/view of what F2P means to them.

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        • mmobomb Author on February 26, 2012

          I understand your perspective but Free to Play model (freemium business model) clearly is the microtransactions, integrated advertisements and hybrid models with premium features. Not demos or trial accounts for subscription based games…

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  19. zoren580 on February 26, 2012

    its technically f2p

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  20. Shareware revival? on February 25, 2012

    I am not sure how many of you are old enough to remember the “Shareware” boom, but that is what this reminds me of.. But honestly I think the shareware was better because in an era of pc gaming where everything was episode based, they always included 1 full episode..

    Episodes were multiple levels and usually had a boss fight at the end.. In a sense you could say that this was actually a game in itself.. It had a beginning, middle and an end for no cost..

    If these games wanted to use the Free title, then they should follow the episode script of a beginning, middle and an end to the usage.. Doesn’t have to be very long but don’t lead the player to think that he was just left hanging there in playing the game by allowing him to walk the rest of the world as a lower level or able to view but unable to buy from the auction house..

    Vanguard had it perfect.. The Trial Island.. They called it a trial, but being that they didn’t drop restrictions on you except for being stuck on the island it was in essence Free to play..

    These games need to just develop an area with no restriction on class usage or even game mechanics like broker use, and let the trial players remain there with no limit..

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    • played too many on February 25, 2012

      i remember the shareware days, old duke nukem and doom short campaigns. never did buy the full versions :P.

      champions online has a great setup. there is many hours of enjoyment without paying a cent but you have the option to pay for side campaigns,cosmetics and extra character slots. i spent some dollars on it because i was enjoying it so much.
      DCUO has grown so much with over populated servers with it becoming free to play.

      companies are learning ….slowly, how to make a free to play more desirable other then pay to win. it is not so much as to be forced to become free to play but to focus on it. and thats where apeal comes in. if its a great game that offers extra content and cosmetics/pets/random funny stuff for a couple of bucks the game will make a killing. and i dont mean content that will make you a higher lvl with glowy powerfull gear. more like completing a set story.

      just all my opinion :D

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    • Megazell on February 26, 2012

      I’ve been there since the beginning. I remember shareware and I remember the original F2P MMO’s of MUD days.

      I don’t mind unlimited trials using the F2P terminology.

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  21. lee on February 25, 2012

    The restrictions in RIFT are alot less than they are in WoW actually
    You can join guilds, receive mail, buy from AH and stuff in RIFT and even talk in some of the global chats..

    WoW is the worse, so uh, Attack Blizzard sure, leave Trion alone.

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    • Ebol Hobbs on August 31, 2012

      free account in Rift can not join guilds i know i been invited and game said NO.
      also i am limited on the items i can have and the mounts i can buy and the money i get just like WoW i play that too.

      make a game free to play map wise but need to buy expansions and GOOD gear other wise you get the mediocre stuff and only play the base game.
      Plain and simple… i play other mmo that are build on that premise. and it harder to level up fast if you do not pay. i know i am only about one fifth the level of others.

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  22. Megazell on February 25, 2012

    If the trial for the MMO ENDs and you no longer able to play the game at all until you drop a DIME to the company…then you’re 100% right.

    If the trial is unlimited and you’re still able to play and interact with other players…than that game is F2P my friend.

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    • mmobomb Author on February 25, 2012

      So… the games with a multiplayer demo are free to play games for you right? You have lots of retail games with a multiplayer demo…

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      • Megazell on February 25, 2012

        In my book they are. I still have the Halo Demo installed just to play the MP from time to time. In the end you still placed no more down and you still able to game.

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        • Megazell on February 25, 2012

          That should read – In the end you still placed no “money” down and you’re still able to game.

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  23. Douglass on February 25, 2012

    I’d prefer the big P2P company’s to have a “trial server” opened up with limited time, offering players a nearly max-levelled character to test the game’s potential. This is more of what you can call a real “trial” since you will know how the game will end up like, and you’re not like “WTF, this game sucks, why’d i even pay for it”.

    Not all F2P games are bad. Some are quite triggering you to buy some things. Some games really did trigger me to buy some. As for LoL, Atlantica Online or Loong, i did buy some item mall kind-of-stuff. It makes me feel better to pay once, and have it forever, than having to pay monthly, and have no improvement.

    And, @the first guy of this discussion, not every EA game is bad. For example, Need for speed World. It’s true that, for the best cars you gotta pay some real cash. But whatever. It’s a racing game. This game is just like a FPS where skills matter, not stats. I myself, i drive a Lotus Elise in NFSW. This costed me just ingame gold cash (Not real money). And yet, i nearly always end up as first.
    The MMORPG’s are offering bonus attributes on items, or eventually some cool design. That’s a trigger for me to buy some certain things, as long as the game “turns my joystick on”.

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  24. RandomSimsy on February 25, 2012

    /sign

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  25. jellopy on February 25, 2012

    I agree for the most part with the logic that limited trials shouldn’t be contorted to sound like a full free to play offering but in defense of the two companies: Blizzards ads all state free to play up to level 20, so they really aren’t lying even if there are other restrictions. And while rift doesn’t clearly advertise that the trial client is so limited they do have other nice offerings that compensate, for instance in the event of large content updates they are known to allow free access to the test realm for people to try it out and see if they might be interested in subscribing.

    In all I don’t see any blatant deception here even thought it can be taken to be if you aren’t aware and read about what you are signing up for.

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  26. bill on February 25, 2012

    The point isn’t that these games need to become more free to play, its that they shouldn’t call themselves free to play if they are only a trial. Its a lie, and they know it.

    The reasons Rift and WoW were targeted is because they offer what is equivalent to a free trial/demo and label it free to play. On the other hand, DC Universe and DDO are completely free to play with only some annoying restrictions.

    A pay to play game with a week trial is ok.
    A free to play game were you have to pay after the first week is not ok.

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  27. AtaliskWaffleTyrant on February 25, 2012

    i feel the point of this passage is to highlight the the difference in fully free-to-play and”free trials”
    mmobomb is describing big name games as show-stealers to attract free-to-play gamers to “free” to-play trials. i agree completely this method of advertising is at it’s core-a vicious attempt to push the little guy out of the way. Personaly i’m of the opinion that gaming should never be treated as a dog-eat-dog buisness and if you’re content was made with dollar sighns in mind instead of players you deserve nothing less than to be pushed aside by the people who care. But false advertising should never be the way to do it.

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  28. Germaximus on February 25, 2012

    Thank you. It drives me freakin nuts when people say Rift and WoW are free to play. They simply arent.

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  29. Lonewuhf on February 25, 2012

    This article has gotten the most ignorant responses I’ve seen yet. Games like WoW and Rift NEED at least some restrictions on F2P, otherwise you’d have 2032187397129 times more gold spammers, which isn’t fun for anyone. Also, where does it say that you get to play the whole game free? Rift even labeled it Rift Lite, which anyone who can use any sort of logic could easily come to the conclusion that it’s going to have some restrictions. Come on, use some common sense before posting this kind of dribble.

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    • Oh yeah? (rolls up sleeves) on February 25, 2012

      That’s the solution right? False advertising? So you mean to tell me that the gold spammer couldn’t pay for one account and use free accounts to actually do the “spamming”?

      So you mean, allowing players to only consume 4 of the original 8 or 12 classes helps combat gold spamming?

      Because Free to Play obviously means free spamming right? Because SWTOR or WoW or Rift never had or still has gold spammer at all right?

      You claim to dislike ignorance, but sophisticated ignorance is still ignorance my friend..

      /Dribble away.

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      • Lonewuhf on February 25, 2012

        Where exactly are they false advertising? Where does it say “Play the whole game for free!”? It clearly states the drawbacks once you go to the sign up page. If you can honestly tell me that having no restrictions for chat and trade wouldn’t be a field day for spammers, then I don’t really have any response to that.

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        • Free (small print) on February 25, 2012

          The word free, is a misleading text.. People use it to entice the general public reaction of ” I can has cheeseburger?” when in fact they are just blindly walking into a trap.

          Ever watch Road Runner cartoons? Wile E Coyote used to lay bird seed down and throw a sign that says “Free food”, waiting for the Road Runner to go get some and then trigger a trap to catch him. Of course he avoided them, but was the food really supposed to be free?

          Remember the commercials about Freecreditreport.com? It’s even in the name huh? Free? Oh yeah, at the end they would slip in “with enrollment in triple advantage”, which cost you money.. Was it free? Sure, if you pay them first..

          Everyone knows what a trial is, hell I played them on my consoles just fine and UNDERSTOOD that what I was getting was 2 fighters and 1 arena.. They did not try and pass those trials and demo’s off as Free games..

          DO you know how pissed off people would be if instead of releasing demo’s on PSN and XBox Live they called them free versions or lite versions? Changing the name to include the word “free” instead of reminding people that it is STILL a demo or trial would invoke the incorrect ideas about the product..

          You can word it how you want to, but understand that by doing something just as simple as switching out a word for another can completely change public perception of a product..

          Can you imagine if the Mass Effect 3 demo had the label “Mass Effect 3 Free”, or Lite”?

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  30. gasor on February 25, 2012

    hey CHAMPIONS ONLINE to you can play super limited and the classes or archtype more of 70% need buy it -.-

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  31. Barrack Obama on February 25, 2012

    anyways buy to play games like: Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs Capcom III, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom III, and the soon to be released Diablo III.. these are only examples

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  32. Barrack Obama on February 25, 2012

    I’ve also played free-to-play and pay-to-play games a like.. what I’ve learned from years of playing games that the best type of game is a buy-to-play type of games.. it might not be friendly for the less fortunate people but trust me it’ll save more money than those F2P or P2P games..

    There are pros and cons on both types, if you are serious about your F2P game and be competent, you can’t ignore but to pay some real money; and F2P games forever always releases better items so your bought item before is 2nd rate and when something new comes out again it will be 3rd, and so on.. but no problem if u just wanna try it or be a casual gamer.

    Not much to explain for P2P, basically pay X amount for Y days.. it gives you the feel like paying your electric bills

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  33. byron1848 on February 25, 2012

    Totally agree but also think these companies are really stupid. In my (admittedly limited) experience if you make the game entirely ftp but also make your cash shop items desirable enough (in terms of cosmetic decoration/faster levelling etc.) then suckers (ie:me) will pay far more than they would for a ptp model. I wouldn’t have thought it is rocket science.

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    • lilfighter on February 25, 2012

      Yeah, you are right, many say they would be spending more free2play model of that certain pay2play game they are playing…But then, if the companies would earn more money? Why don`t they make their game fully free2play and stop ruining the real free2play game industry by naming themselfs “free” games?

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  34. lilfighter on February 25, 2012

    I would, and will send this article to every game that throws around lies and random shit, the pay2play games have their beauty too, of course. And most of us started hating their lies…

    And at the moment, their only advantage is that I can`t kiss my ass, they can…

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  35. Comickid on February 25, 2012

    Aion, Lord of the Rings, and Dungeons and Dragons are 3 other games that are like this. It’s not really anything new, games love to attract new players with lies, its how most companies work.
    It’s a safe bet that if you can’t talk on their forums without a subscription than there is no true free to play in the game.

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  36. The men in the suits want to exploit you anyway they can.. Even if that means stretching the truth or lying to you..

    They smile in pictures (Like Smedley) as if they naturally want to entertain you and enjoy doing so, but they don’t.. Just like a presidential candidate, it’s only protocol and they couldn’t care any less about your “video games”..

    All they want you to do i shut up and pay for their house and boats.. So shut up and start buying..

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    • thepitholl on February 26, 2012

      yep thats the reality, if you want eanything you have to buy it

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  37. lilfighter on February 25, 2012

    These shitty acts of attracting players should really go to hell. Yes, RIFT is good, and no I aint gonna say WOW is good too. But lets be honest RIFT and WOW did the same shit togever, and as far as I know, RIFT might have done it only to launch its way into China, where free2play games is all they play, so behind this attempt is again the money…

    Ok ok, dont go nuts and rage, they need money, they need money, they X4 need money…But you can`t f**king call a game free just like that. You simply cant call a game free just because they let you fall in love with their game, then spam you with ads:”NAO BUY OUR FULL GAME BIATCH!”…Also, the article pointed out good the fact that they are just using the free title knowing they will attract more people only by the fact that they have said its free, and they basically let you “visit” their game, and then the only way is to buy.

    And I think they pretty much know calling thier stupid attemps “demos” will not bring them much profit either, so they are just calling the game free and voila! Tons of players rush into the game and ragequit when they realise whats the truth.

    Dont get me wrong I respect RIFT, and WOW( but just for the fact that it managed to attract so much people), but for my point of view, I totally agree with the last part of the article: I dont want random shit in the free2play industry. From now on I will never look the same to this fail attempts and miserable dis-respect for the free2play industries that some games, like the ones in the comments and the article, bring.

    There will be much hate, but if they didnt call themselfs free games, then maybe the world, and I, will stop complaining about crap and shit they`v been doing…But untill then, we have the right to express ourselfs since they tell lies.

    Okay, in my final point, I have to say RIFT makes an exception, somehow, but fake promises like in the most games today ruin gaming. RIFT has a small excuse that they have been adding new content non-stop and thats freaking awesome, but they too do most of the things for money…

    My final words are: WE NEED GAMES FROM GAMERS FOR GAMERS, NOT GAMES FOR BUSNESS MAN TO CUSTOMER!

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    • badie on March 5, 2012

      “My final words are: WE NEED GAMES FROM GAMERS FOR GAMERS, NOT GAMES FOR BUSNESS MAN TO CUSTOMER!”

      holy mother theres nothing i can agree with more than that ! ! !

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  38. rockmeo on February 25, 2012

    i agree about this :) there should be a rule or something about this legaly , cause to my point of view and others , is cheating , fake , saying what is not .

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  39. ScarySam8 on February 25, 2012

    This is so true and I hate it when subscription based games. Make a infinite trail that cripples you to being able to do almost nothing compared to the subscribers and naming it Free To Play just ruins the image of real free to play games. Games are so focused on making money now they don’t truly make games free to play.. To many pay to win and pay to play.

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    • baddie on April 4, 2012

      alot of the time what happened is pple get addicted to the game(s) like WoW, Rift, and other and try to act as though there not and refuse to get help.
      i know this cuz about 3 yr ago i was one of them but i got in intervention from my familty and friend and thats what made me seek help. i went from playing dual boxing 5 account of fully upgraded WoW to not playing WoW at all it took time but i’m not addicted to WoW anymore.

      but not everyone’s family will see it as an addicted nor will every family plan an intervention..

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  40. Nox on February 25, 2012

    Why attack WoW and Rift? Anyone with the basic understanding of the industry knows those games won’t be actually be free to play. Why not point out the ones who advertise they’re “full free to play” yet don’t even come close, such as:

    Age of Conan
    Any Turbine game
    Any Sony game
    Any EA game
    Battleforge
    City of Heroes
    Savage 2
    Any Online FPS

    and many more…

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    • mmobomb Author on February 25, 2012

      WoW and Rift are subscription based games… Age of Conan and etc. have a hybrid business model, some of them with lots of limitations but that’s another story. But i really understand your perspective.

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      • SnakeTeam on February 25, 2012

        Hey i realy understand what you mean but what mmobomb mean is that they should be free to play and then they can have some limitasions i am sure that you can give some money to a game that you realy like.
        MMOBOMB fan :)

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      • Nox on February 25, 2012

        No, I get the point. I just think it’s rather redundant. Of course WoW and Rift won’t go full free to play, did anyone really believe those ads? Anyone at all?

        But did many people believe and still believe the games I mentioned up there are fully free to play? I’m guessing yes.

        I just think the focus of the article is redundant because two minutes of research will tell you there are level caps in WoW and Rift, however how many of us play these free to play games only to find out half way through you’re not even able to join a guild? I think that is part of the core experience, is it not?

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        • Guazz on February 25, 2012

          Yes 90% of the people who are new to the Free2play/mmo market would not be able to tell that WoW is truly a subscription based game. also a lot of people don’t notice the faded text that says “up to level 20″

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          • Nox on February 26, 2012

            If that really is the case then I’m in full support of WoW and Rift. I always liked companies that made money of stupid and illiterate people.

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      • Connor on February 28, 2012

        I just want to say Wow should go free because it’s fun i have hit lvl 20(cause i did free trial) and i think that everyone should be able to hit lvl 55(death Knight) and beyond cause it is Great!

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    • Tio Z on February 25, 2012

      I kind of understand what you are going for there, but you have to understand the difference between the free to play business models.

      As show above, what dictates a game as an actual F2P is having the core of the game available. You can level up all the way and experience the game as it is. Age of Conan indeed is a half-bastard child of the F2P model as it turns most specialized classes into paid-for content (but you still get the general purpose one for free. I think the only basic class that you can’t play would be the ranger, all else from tanker to rogue to mages is there to enjoy) and it’s expansions into paid-for content as well, but the core content is there. You can level up to cap and raid and all.

      I do wish most would follow the model AION is going for as F2P, but not all companies see that as the perfect cash cow.

      Still, yeah, WoW and Rift falsely advertise the game has F2P accounts as they, well, can barely do squat.

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      • Nox on February 25, 2012

        I think the difference is in our interpretation of “core gameplay”, I consider core gameplay the core of the game, as in the basic game without the updates, expansions and cash shop items, AoC does not give you the core game because such basic things as classes are locked. Same thing for Turbine and Sony games. And I find it silly to complain about WoW’s trial when there’s a massive private server that Blizzard allows to operate without any prosecution of the owners or the players. If you really want free WoW just go there, it’s quite clear Blizzard just doesn’t care.

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    • Doom on February 25, 2012

      Omg are u serious? Look at Aion…10x better then Rift and WoW..and its going Free to Play without this trial bs..and will most likely attract a decent amount of playerbase with its new business model.

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      • Nox on February 25, 2012

        10x better then WoW and Rift? That’s based on…personal opinion, I’d guess. Considering Aion was an overhyped disappointment when it came out and has been systematically loosing playerbase since then thus being forced to go free 2 play…and all. NcSoft didn’t make a successful game since Guild Wars and CoH. Exsteel, Auto Assault and Aion all left a large enough hole in the company that NcSoft even singed off Aion to Gameforge which is the first time in the history of company they did this. They rather shut down AA and Exsteel then gave them up.

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        • jay on February 27, 2012

          +1 on this

          aion better than wow and rift made me laugh a bit. I’m not a huge fan of rift anymore so my opinion of them is very low anyways. wow is just a great success whether players like it or not, that game alone is setting the bar for new games now….

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    • Borntown on February 25, 2012

      Dude.. Turbine, AKA LOTRO, and DDO Do a great job on free2play, you can actually play for free, by earning things in game. Its been done.

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      • TheGodReaper on February 25, 2012

        @Borntown F2P model means that the game is completely free, and that everything relied to story or gameplay is free. LOTRO’s shop contains pretty much every single party quest or raid. The PVP is reserved to subscribers (which destroys f2p model as well), and you must buy DLCs. There is no way this can be called free to play, it’s just free to access server.

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        • Durian10 on February 25, 2012

          actually PVP is now free, (well only on the monster side, but in the end the monster side is way cooler than goodie two shoes guys)

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    • Vinvoro on February 26, 2012

      need to refine ‘free to play’ and ‘trial’,
      both wow and rift show the differences.
      as more f2p games show up these days, p2p games need some revolutions, instead of killing themselves…

      btw, they nvr talk abt DCUO, it is free to play, but more forcing ppl to p2p from f2p, as they limit several features…market/guild/so on..

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    • Saex_Conroy on February 26, 2012

      Man, I’ve played A.V.A for more than two years (Online FPS) and I can tell you, it’s absolutely FREE TO PLAY. All you need to play it is skill, with the worst weapon, you can own the best players with the best weapons… or just those with the best weapons.

      Trust me, there is no such thing… at least not about A.V.A.

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    • cacalips on February 26, 2012

      YOU ARE 100% CORRECT. Don’t listen to the fanboy trolls who think a HYBRID model is somehow different. IT IS NOT!!!! HYBRID IS A FANCY WORD FOR – EXTENDED TRIAL!!!!!
      PRoof: WoW – Level cap 25, gold cap, no auctioning. No access to extented content.

      All sony games: No level cap but GOLD CAP, CHAT BLOC, NO TRADING, etc. etc..

      The only difference is level and sometimes content…EVERYTHING else is just a trial. In fact, DCUonline even stores your gold over earned in an “ESCROW” account, waiting and reminding you to unlock it with a subscription mode. So…yes, this guy, Nox, is 100% correct. Go get a clue you stupid fan boys

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    • Dantiko on February 26, 2012

      Why attack WoW and Rift, because there may be free games that are way better than them, WoW just got old but they didn’t make it F2P like Global Agenda(which had people who paid for it), because they feared that actual subscribers would leave the game, for paying it for years and suddenly realizing they could have waited, and also the fear for gold-spammers, well, GA managed to fix it by making previous subscribers premium and the game free, that prevented the game from dying like Lego Universe Online, if they had made the same stuff, making it 100% F2P and just some slightly benefits for P2P, well, then they could have lived.About Rift I really don’t know, just not much advertise of it, since I never heared about it until some time ago.

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      • Nox on February 26, 2012

        “…then they could have lived.” Huh? Are we now considering 10 million subscribers as death? I guess we might as well call the whole scene dead then.

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        • badie on March 5, 2012

          u know ive read up to this point and 4 the most part i have 2 agree with nox cuz ive played all but lego trash and the only good game named in this entire comment strip is probly Guild wars and LoL which aren’t all that great

          honestly tho i have gotten tire of the fake f2p and and i would rather play the old mario carts on nintendo 64 . . .

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    • SeriousPeanut on February 27, 2012

      Wowow…You can’t compare those games any of them with Rift and Wow..>Why you ask > Because WOW and Rift are milking it + they are very bad games. Played both

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      • Don'tReallyCare on April 3, 2012

        But if these games are so bad, why do so many people continue to play them? I think Angry Birds is a “bad” game, and yet millions of people play. I don’t play Rift, so I can only speak for my experiences on WoW. People leave, people join. But if you think the game sucks, you leave and never give Blizzard another dime. You spend your money where you are having fun and like the product.

        But in the grand scheme of it, if the product was bad and people didn’t enjoy it, then they wouldn’t spend the money or continue to support those businesses. People don’t go to restaurants and eat where they hate the food. You don’t typically shop in a clothing store that sells nothing you like.

        “Bad”, as pointed out, is an opinion. And while there are people who don’t like Rift/WoW/other MMO’s….there are still 10 million people paying for it every month.

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    • Scourge on September 23, 2012

      Battleforge IS a EA game
      and don’t forget to mention Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of The Rings Online wich may seem free but but u merely experiance half of the areas,classes,races,items,etc.

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