Free-to-Play Label on Trial Accounts Needs to Stop!
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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
StevenCrux AKA Tech1Crux
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
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...
*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.
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..
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.
If the trial is unlimited and you're still able to play and interact with other players...than that game is F2P my friend.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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
And at the moment, their only advantage is that I can`t kiss my ass, they can...
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.
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..
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!
Age of Conan
Any Turbine game
Any Sony game
Any EA game
City of Heroes
Any Online FPS
and many more...