It’s time for another market research report, this one conducted by Austin’s Red Fox Insights. The report, titled “Exploring the Esports Gamer,” strengthens the notion that free-to-play gaming is having trouble winning the hearts and minds of some of gaming’s most dedicated patrons.
As you can see by the chart at the top of the page, gamers in both the US and UK both vastly prefer the pay-to-play, one-time-fee, model to their games, though American gamers still like free-to-play more than their British counterparts. The subscription model, on the other hand, is slightly more acceptable in the UK, though it’s very unpopular in both locations.
Breaking things down by genre, we can see that F2P is still pretty well-accepted for MOBAs — hugely so in the case of gamers from the UK, who also seem not to mind having a subscription for their MMOs. Otherwise, though, the winner is still mostly pay-to-play.
Now come the caveats. In addressing “the Esports Gamer” and placing its poll on gaming news websites — possibly esports-focused, possibly not — Red Fox gathers data from the hardest of the hardcore, as evidenced by gaming habits (more than 5x/week for over 70% of participants) and possibly youth (over 80% under the age of 35) and gender split (96% male/4% female). That’s a group that doesn’t mind paying a premium for its gaming experience and is more likely to look down upon F2P gamers as “noobs” and “plebs.”
Toss in the relatively small reach of the survey — around 800 gamers — and the data set seems remarkably small. Huge swaths of people don’t read gaming news sites, and many of them are perfectly fine with free-to-play gaming. Obviously, by reading this, you (and I) don’t fit in that category, but the key is to remember is that this places us very much in the minority.
I’d also like a better explanation of exactly what the delineation between the various genres. MOBA I can figure out well enough, and I’d figure RPG includes single-player games like Witcher 3 and Fallout 4, while MMO includes traditional MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. But where would a shooter game with MMORPG elements, like Defiance or PlanetSide 2, fit? MMO, RPG, or FPS? How about CS:GO? MMO or FPS? World of Tanks?
While I agree with the general notion that free-to-play isn’t as popular as it once was, that can vary greatly depending on who you ask, and how you set up your categories. So I’m not ready to go with a headline like “5 out of 6 gamers reject free-to-play.” It’s probably a significant number, and F2P is shrinking, but the continued success of free-to-play games — some dramatically so — makes me view this report with a bit of a critical eye.
You can read Red Fox Insights’ entire report on its website.