Giving Thanks To The People Who Make Free-To-Play Possible

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor


I'm in an oddly forgiving mood right now, which I could chalk up to the holiday season, but really, this is something I've been tossing around in my head for the past few months. It's the result of my mulling a weird jumble of video games, fantasy sports, and website revenue models, and how we perceive all of these, making judgments about one without realizing how similar the others are – and that we often take a very different view, depending on what we're looking at.

There are two major complaints about free-to-play games I see in the comments here at MMOBomb, as well as on other sites: players complaining about microtransactions, and paid players complaining about “freeloaders” or “moochers” who don't contribute anything financial to a game. I've certainly done my share of the first and, as someone who doesn't shell out real money very often, been stung by the accusations of the second. But everyone on the Internet does both, to some degree.

Microtransactions can be bad – no dispute there. Even when they're “good,” limited strictly to things like cosmetics and XP boosts, I still feel a little “left out” when I see someone advancing faster than me or with a shinier sword that they probably got with real money instead of by advancing in the game. It might not impact my game experience, but it's still mildly annoying.

Star Trek Online boxes

At this point, some people might say, “Tough, if you want the really cool stuff, you'll have to pay for it. If you don't want to do that, deal with the annoyance.” That's a valid point, and one I would have been more combative about before a few months ago. That shift in my mentality came to me from, of all things, examination of the recent daily fantasy sports scandal.

In a nutshell, daily fantasy is a “free” way to play and earn real money with fantasy football. Like many F2P games, it doesn't stay free for long, and any serious player will spend lots and lots of cash in the hopes of a big payout. It's essentially unregulated gambling, and that's generated a lot of negative buzz the past few months.

I've seen a lot of folks express glee at daily fantasy's troubles, largely because of the copious amount of ads the two major players in the field, FanDuel and DraftKings, run during football games and on the Internet. They're repetitive, annoying, and borderline dishonest, and most people would love to see them go away entirely, in the same way that F2P gamers grouse about lockboxes and other “scammy” aspects of F2P.

I felt the same way until I was browsing one of my most-visited sites, Pro-Football-Reference. I, and many other sports enthusiasts, visit the Sports Reference family of sites several times a day, and appreciate the easy and free access to voluminous and highly detailed immediate information that's always at our fingertips. It's not easy to manage, though. A few months ago, PFR founder Sean Forman had an afternoon Twitter rant where he admitted the ad model for the site was a poor revenue-generator, but it was the best he could manage for a free site.

Draftkings Fanduel

As I look at PFR now, I notice that every single active player (here's one) has a DraftKings ticker and ad link on his page. This clearly generates revenue for PFR, meager though it may be. If it went away in a puff of smoke because DraftKings was regulated into unprofitability, what would that mean for a site that I, and thousands of other people, use on a daily basis? Not to mention all the other sites I likely visit that take advantage of DraftKings and FanDuel's advertising budget, which is tens of millions of dollar per week during the football season.

I'll certainly do what I can to avoid the most annoying of ads – the “mute tab” Chrome feature is a life-saver, and it doesn't stop video ads from running and generating revenue – and I do have my limits. But I'll let stuff go 99% of the time. I know my ad view only offers a fraction of a cent of revenue, but for all the free content sites provide, I figure it's the least I can do.

Which brings us to my other point: People who use ad blockers are essentially “mooching” off web sites in the same way that F2P gamers who play for free “mooch” off a game. I'll certainly agree that some ads are very “bad” – autoplay video ads, pop-ups, interspatials – but most are simple banners on the side of the page that don't meaningfully disrupt viewing. They are, at most, mild annoyances on par with someone having a shinier sword than you, but it's something you have to live with to keep free services running and available for everyone to use. If you want to get rid of them, you cut off the means for that product to continue.

If it helps keep some of my favorite free sites running, I'll deal with the annoying video ads. And if someone is buying tons of keys to open his lockboxes in an MMO and get shiny (though not pay-to-win) loot, I'll deal with it if it keeps the game running and try to complain just a little less. Understand that this doesn't mean I accept every real-money transaction a game has to offer, but I'll stay tolerant of most of them. Thank you, DraftKings and FanDuel, and thank you, lockbox-key and shiny-sword-buyers. Have an extra leg of turkey this Thursday... you can certainly afford it.

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor

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.

More Stories by Jason Winter

Discussion (16)

Demonio 8 years ago
FREE 2 PLAY is the Best xDDDDD

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Touhin 8 years ago
Free to play is mostly corrupted by Hacker, Gold Seller, Botter, Negative Community 100%, Exploiter, Bad Management
The Good player has mostly quit all games that became mostly Toxic though the years by the Community behavior that seem to become a death threat also there are player who make money off the Company business by Gold selling in-game. The people who hack video games are nothing but low down player that destroy the game Completely in it state plus they went in (depression State) in every video games nowadays by hacking heavily.

nouser 8 years ago
i could go on for at least about 60 pages and then have a discussion about money, technology, politics, industry, society and all that. but thats none of my business. *kermit*

Cold 8 years ago
MMO games 2010-2015 are dead
( nothing but a cool breeze winter going though games as a ghost town)

seannychwan 8 years ago
Oh yeh .. Thanks for introducing gold sellers spaming , gold bots , louzy community , spoil kids , cheapos , expensive cash shops and making Pay to Win possible

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SqueezyTime 8 years ago
I'm... not really thankful to the people that feed cash shops, given the current state of cash shop focused MMOs... and the gaming industry in general.
I hate microtransactions... the whole idea is very anti-consumer, and publishers are constantly pushing the boundaries on how much they can get away with. I mean, why the hell are there microtransactions in our "AAA" titles that are already over-priced and have half of their content stripped for DLC sales? The thing that pisses me off the most is the fact that there are so few developers out there that are even trying to create anything meaningful or innovative in the gaming industry anymore. You have the occasional gem WELL hidden in the sea of BS known as crowdfunding — a select few groups of people who are actually trying to improve on one aspect or another of the gaming industry or the gaming media — but mostly it's just random dudes trying to cash in on another game's success by remaking the same game with their personal touch put on it, all the while pinning the majority of their financial burden on the paying customers. It's insane, the things that crowdfunding and early access gaming has done to the industry.
In the F2P MMO market, you don't even get those hidden gems fueled by passionate developers... they just don't exist. Publishers are just like "Make generic MMO, throw in attention-grabbing gimmick, add annoying limitations to gimmick, sell cash shop items," and developers are just like "Well, we can't afford sht on our own so lets just do what he said!" and this is the type of crap that makes money nowadays specifically because of the people who pay into microtransactions.
Anyways... I'll buy a game up front and I'll buy it's expansions as long as they're not ridiculously priced, but I'm not going to let some greedy publisher nickel and dime me to get around some annoying obstacle they put in the game... I just wont play the damn game lol. I've payed for specific items in a few F2P games in the past, but it has been a long time since I've played an MMO that was even worth the time played, let alone any mount of money.
I simply can't be thankful for the people who pour money into terrible companies that don't even care about the products they're selling.

rickshaw 8 years ago
F2P started its life as a beta tester, we used to really test the new mmo games in a beta, & as many as we could. This form of game testing was a real skill and we who did it were the skills needed to find solutions to problems within, & were allowed to play freely testing the games properly, by reporting by the second. That's what it was. The trickle of games became a waterfall & then a landslide followed by avalanche, it was really nice to see, this flow affect in mmo games was becoming a F2P theme for real this time, due the amount of games in play & thanks to the Asian community for being bold, brazen & highly skilled at computer programming, they saw it & became the gaming source, they saw a bright light which they lit up with pride! & so F2P concept was born & booming! Us testers had more beta's than we could chew on, but chewed on them & helped this marvellous revolution with guts as much as we could.
A F2P system helps players understand a games idea & helps encourage a player to stay in game or go! The idea of gaming in a mmo world for developer is to keep a player base, without a player base, the game is dead. The whole effort of us testers from the very start created the idea of F2P as we were in there as a number, a player base.
I think the problem with F2P haters is they are newly born & have no idea about the hardship & time consumption it took for this idea to be here in first place. its was born not artificially impregnated.
Today, the F2P system has now changed to become the testing station for new player to find out whether or not they really want to be in the game & stay along within its influence great or not, F2P idea captures a player, therefore maintaining a player base, a surety, a flow of players stream in and out keeping this stream as one leaves another one enters. That's the what the F2P play idea has developed to today.
As for the beta tester well he/she is practically dead & roams mindlessly awaiting a F2P games release, unless of course he/she is inside the industry. This so called TESTING is now been marketed & stolen/taken away by rampant money launderers called founders & kickstarters who don't deliver on games or anything but a never ending encumbrance & aggravation & miss corrections of time.
I say bring back the start again! As a game tester we were the best.

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Guest 8 years ago
Happy thanksgiving! Jason

Peace (Smile)

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