I know a few people who play Trials (and one who makes really awesome videos of it), so when I saw there was a F2P version of Trials, I cheered!

Then I saw it was for mobile devices, and I was sad.

Then I read about how it monetizes, and I was really sad.

We all know that “free-to-play” games aren’t really free. The companies that make them need to make money, after all. But some methods of monetization – I don’t know exactly how to put it – they just irk me more than others.

If you didn’t click on the link, Trials Frontier utilizes an “energy” system (called “fuel”) that lets you play tracks for free for a while, with each race costing you fuel. Run out of fuel and you have to wait for it to recharge or pay money for it.

Maybe that approach works for casual gamers who just want a quick fix every now and then. And maybe it’s ideal for mobile devices and social networks, where people often play games in shorter chunks of time.

But for people like me, used to hours-long gaming sessions, it just offends my sensibilities. I’d almost rather play a blatant pay-to-win game, for as long as I want, reveling in my frugal mediocrity, than be reminded every five minutes that I have to keep feeding the meter.

Everyone’s got their own F2P hang-up, and energy systems are mine. Fortunately, they’re much more prevalent in the mobile and social space and pretty much unheard of in MMOs or FPSes. In those cases, I’d say my least favorite mechanic is the hard pay wall, you can play a certain amount of the game for free and then need to pay to unlock the next area or piece of content. I don’t mind features being locked behind pay walls as much, but I’d like to at least be able to look at all the content I want and decide how much I need those extra bells and whistles.

But I think it’s only my least favorite by default; considering that many F2P games have abandoned the concept and are reasonably generous in terms of handing out their content, only asking for money for cosmetics and advancement speed. Oh, and lockboxes. Those damned lockboxes.

Of course, for some, shall we say, easily perturbed people, even those kinds of generous payment systems are defined as “pay-to-win.” If you try hard enough, you can define just about any F2P monetization model as P2W, and I’ve seen enough warped logic regarding the topic to make my head spin. “If I can spend money to level up faster, then I can get the best gear faster and pwn you in PvP on day one. Hence, pay-to-win.” Sure, we’ll go with that.

What do you think is the most grating F2P monetization model? Energy? Content or feature pay walls? Or are you OK with anything short of straight-up, blatant pay-to-win, i.e., being able to buy a better weapon that non-paying players can never get (or can’t without a massive grind)? Or are you even OK with that?

the author

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

17 Readers Commented

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  1. HHH on September 17, 2016

    AQ3D has some bad monetization methods I admit I hate artix entertainment games due to history even though they won’t admit they are in the wrong but I still can’t help but check out their newest mobile MMO since I been helping them with testing since tech demo phases. But they got really horrible pay walls and combat is horrible and it’s obvious it has strong pay 2 win signs and they developers don’t see the problems the game has they seem more like they wanna quickly get the major bugs fixed and rush it to release. Their indie developer company has had lots of problems mostly with them recycling ingame content as new game content which I hated and their support is horrible but if you logged on AQ3D I guarentee you will see the obvious paid 2 win signs. I admit they got a good idea with the model they built but they got alot of bad ideas which will kill the game in the long run in my opinion.

  2. HD32PLAY on August 24, 2015

    You can tell the quality of a game from it’s paywall. I sure love to harp on about it a lot but Smites system is perfect, buy the god pack and the game is yours, or unlock the gods you want with a fair system. After that the only things you have to buy with actual money are high quality skins that for the most part look like a fair amount of work went into them. The levelling upgrades will not improve you in any way unless you want to get into the gold/legend/diamond skins faster which again are only cosmetic. There are no runes or other beneficial upgrades a paying player will get faster which is why I have sunk so much money into the game, it’s fair, simple as that.

    All an energy system says to me is “THIS GAME HAS NO CONTENT” why would a developer need to restrict your access to the game if there was a wealth of content for it. Luckily energy or time based systems are usually restricted to the mobile/casual market anyways though so it doesn’t bother me. I think my least favorite style of monetization is when players can actually buy power in the game, regardless of whether that game is pvp or pve. When you allow players to pay for an edge, the community becomes toxic and fragmented. If a game cannot support itself simply on customization upgrades then it is simply a bad game.

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  5. Kaos_Monkey on September 29, 2013

    Your most telling statement comes here:
    ” I’d almost rather play a blatant pay-to-win game …”
    You almost want to play P2W model instead of Energy, but not quite, so I guess the Energy monetization method isn’t THAT bad. 😛
    Jes’ trollin’
    But seriously, I agree with you. I don’t like the Energy F2P games either. I’m in the 15% or so that actually pays to upgrade or get rare items in F2P games (less than I used to spend on P2P, but still). I actively avoid Energy F2P games.

  6. Andy on September 18, 2013

    My least favorite is definitely Energy. I’ve played many potentially good games that are ruined by the 5 minutes of play and 3 hours of waiting model. I also really dislike games that try to force you into paying by making free progression seem like a meaningless waste of time. Generally, I try F2P games because I’m short on cash and bored of my existing games. If the games are enjoyable enough to keep me playing then I’ll gladly spend some money on them later on. Any kind of major limitations or feeling like I’m wasting time are met with a quick uninstall and no money spent.

  7. Bic Boi on September 17, 2013

    As I don’t waste my time with facebook or mobile games, my biggest hate of F2P comes with feature paywalls a la SWTOR “Buy access to purple gear/hotbars/inventory space/etc.” Feature paywalls are almost always quality-of-life things that are more need than simply want. They’re the ones that tend to make people miserable the quickest I find.

  8. Golgo28 on September 14, 2013

    Totally agree with you Jason.The whole energy thing that seems to plague mobile and facebook f2p games is the worst.The pay wall for content doesnt bother me much.If it’s done similar to how DCUO does it.Cause I’ll gladly pay for new content in the form of a xpac or dlc.But if the game has pay wall on content that was already prt of the game before it went f2p then it’s bs.

  9. ThiagoW on September 13, 2013

    Like the new Aion Robot class… pay for fuel or wait its to recharge otherwise you will get back to character screen… In my opinion the best monetization model is buy the game play forever (B2P) or buy new and not really necessary content with no monthly subscription “F2P” like dc universe with accessible price

  10. Reavermyst on September 12, 2013

    I remember when Spiral Knights did this monetizing method. Man did that turn me off from the game quick for the longest time until they finally took it down.

    • Gamer X on September 13, 2013

      I remember that but it didn’t take me from the game. I have more than 220h + on it .I think I just dealt with it.

      • Reavermyst on September 13, 2013

        More power to ya xD I’m just glad it’s gone now.

        • Gamer X on September 13, 2013

          haha lol so now you play it again ?

  11. Vu... on September 12, 2013

    Personally I don’t play moblie games because of the same reasons but there r a few games like infinity blade or some zombie games that are really fun and totally free.

  12. Riftmonkey on September 12, 2013

    I’d rather just have a free trial then if I like the game sub and be done with it. Content, skills and gear I can’t touch without being nickle and dimed just gets old.

  13. iluvgamez on September 12, 2013

    Good article!
    Thats kinda like the browser games. wait 24hours or even longer for a building to get finished or to get some energy to do anything or pay for it.
    I dont play mobile games nor do i play browser games so i couldnt care less about this, but i´d rather play a “pay-to-win” game if i think about it. Atleast i can play the whole game (hopefully so) without spending a single cent.

  14. Gamer X on September 12, 2013

    Nice article Jason ! I guess That this is my least favourite style too.

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