It’s that time of year in the sporting world where the talk turns to honoring the best of the best. If you follow Major League Baseball at all, you’re probably aware of the recent Hall of Fame voting results, and the NFL is also gearing up for the enshrinement of a new class soon.
I thought it would be fun to try and come up with my own version, the Free-to-Play Gaming Hall of Fame. Like the real halls, my rules for enshrinement will be mostly arbitrary and opinionated. And although the whole enterprise is not to be taken nearly as seriously as its sporting counterparts, I expect plenty of debate and labeling of myself as an idiot for my picks.
(No, this isn’t some attempt to create an actual award or virtual monument. It’s just an exercise that popped into my head. Please, no speeches. I’m begging you.)
So what makes a game worthy of my F2P Hall? The only real rule I have is that its free-to-play nature has to be an integral part of its history or success. That’s why a game like EverQuest – while certainly a worthy candidate in any kind of gaming hall of fame – doesn’t make the cut. I’d say that most people, when they think of EverQuest, don’t think of its current F2P nature as a major reason for its place in history.
Other than the nebulous notion of “worthiness,” I’m also going to say – at least for my Hall of Fame – that a game has to have been around for a while to be enshrined. How long is “a while”? Good question. Again, refer back to the part about being arbitrary, but that’s why a games like Path of Exile, Dota 2, and Hearthstone won’t be found on the list. Maybe in 2016.
Finally, I’m going to limit myself to five inductees, which seems like a nice, round number and is keeping in line with other Halls of Fame that limit the number of people voters can select (10 for MLB) or the number that can be inducted (four to eight for the NFL).
With all that in mind, here are my selections:
Team Fortress 2
F2P since: 2011
Billed as “the most fun you can have online,” Team Fortress 2 was a solid success even before going free-to-play. Once it made the switch in 2011, it sold more hats than a French boutique and monthly revenue was a dozen times higher than it had been before the switch. It’s still seen as the gold standard of free-to-play games, with nary a complaint about pay-to-win.
Launched (F2P): 2009
With over 70 million registered players, and about half that active on a monthly basis, League of Legends is an easy addition to any F2P Hall of Fame endeavor. It’s the game that put e-sports on the map and is largely responsible for the modern MOBA craze – not to mention the term “MOBA” itself. Those are good or bad points, depending on your point of view, but there’s no question that League is deserving of the highest recognition.
Launched (F2P): 2011
Like League of Legends, World of Tanks makes the list for its massive player base (75 million registerd users) and high-level competitive play. And, like the early MOBAs, it’s spawned numerous other “tank battle” games. If those aren’t enough to ensure one’s place in history, I’m not sure what is.
Dungeons & Dragons Online
F2P since: 2009
In terms of active player base and financial success, DDO is quite a bit smaller than the other games on this list, but its historical significance and impact on the Western F2P market can’t be overlooked. Turbine took a big risk when it converted the struggling MMORPG to F2P in 2009, and its success inspired countless other games to take that F2P plunge, either at launch or later in their life cycles.
Launched (F2P): 2001
It ain’t pretty, and it’s often scorned for its huge botting population, but more accounts have been created in Runescape than in any other MMO, World of Warcraft included. It was accessible right from the start, being both free-to-play and browser-based before either were cool (and for many folks, they still aren’t), and it’s still going strong after 14 years.
So that’s my five-member Free-to-Play Hall of Fame class. What’s yours?