The game will still be free-to-play, and you can still log in and play forever and progress forever without spending a dime. But instead of unlocking all the different dragons and weapons and everything else in the game for a series of microtransactions, you just have to pay $20 to get it all.
Wyrmbyte’s president, Scott Brown, talked about the unusual transition, saying that “The business model is all percentages of percentages. Isn’t League of Legends the most played game in the world right now? And so a percentage of a percentage is still a lot of people. When you’re a smaller business, a percent of a percent of not as big of a number just doesn’t… it’s not a good business model.”
He makes a decent point. Games like League and Dota 2 and World of Tanks can afford to rely on a relatively small number of players to feed their coffers, since even 10% of their player base is larger than the full player base of most games. The smaller you are, the larger the percentage of players you need to fund your game.
And I like the model he’s proposed, with one exception. A free player will only be able to choose from the rotation of free dragons, similar to League’s free champion rotation. I guess I’d like the option to choose one dragon, even as a free player, to “own,” so you could at least play that one well and feel like you’re gaining skill and advancing, as opposed to having to switch every couple of weeks and “start over” with your mastery. If you want other dragons, fine, pay up. That makes sense.
The other thing that worries me just a little bit about the switch is Brown’s uncertain tone in the interview. I counted eight question marks in his comments (along with “I guess,” “sort of,” and “maybe”), and throughout it he sounds like, “I think this is a good idea, right?” Not that we want him to sound so cocksure about his plans as to be dismissive, but if I was employed by Wyrmbyte, I’d want my president sounding a little more confident in his massive game-altering plan. I’d like to think he looked at some more metrics, did focus testing, talked to a lot of players… just something to sound a little more like he’s sure this is the right direction for the game.
But it’s also nice to hear Brown take a responsible, anti-whale stance. He openly admits that you could spend hundreds, on his game but questions whether that’s a good deal for the player. “That’s not the way we want to finance the title,” he says. “Do you want someone paying you $1000 for your game? Are you selling $1000 worth of value? When you compare it to, say, Diablo that you paid $60 for? Are you really getting that value back? I don’t know.”
Personally, I like this approach, with the one exception I noted above about getting one “free” character to play. For a larger game with more content, like League of Legends, I could see having a few different payment tiers, like maybe $20 for a “basic” pack, $40 for the “advanced” pack, and $60 for the “elite” pack that unlocks everything. Even $25/$50/$100 wouldn’t seem like a bad deal for a game with a ton of content. SMITE’s Ultimate God Pack already comes very close to this, offering every god, current and future, for $29.99, but it doesn’t include skins.
Like Brown, I can’t say for sure how things will go. And hey, it’s not my business I’m risking. Even if it doesn’t work for Wyrmbyte and Dragons and Titans, I like to think it could for other games, with a tweak here or a tweak there. It preserves the “free” nature of a F2P game while also removing the “nickel-and-dime” grousing that a lot of players rightly have. The key point is whether enough people pony up the $20 to offset the whales who spend hundreds. If it works, I look forward to Brown’s next interview.