Top 5 Free-to-Play Games That Ended Up Buy-to-Play

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor March 15, 2018

What do you think when an upcoming game is announced as free-to-play? For some people, that's great news. For others, it puts a big red “Stay Away!” sign on the game.

I understand that second attitude, since a lot of F2P games have had not-the-best implementation, as the developers have struggled to balance the need to make money with the need to make a fair game that's not pay-to-win. Some of them do this better than others.

Others, upon realizing they can't maintain that balance go a different route. Maybe that was the case with Artifact, which was originally announced as free-to-play but just last week, Valve decided it would be a pay-to-play game. It probably won't be the last game to make that kind of about-face.

And it's definitely not the first. The Artifact news got us thinking about other announced-as-F2P games that “changed their minds” later, whether it was during closed development or after the game was made available to players, in one way or another. Here's our list of five such games – including a few that did an about-about-face and went back to F2P.

5. Albion Online

Sandbox Interactive's hardcore PvP game was originally intended as a free-to-play title. I tried it out in an early build and thought it had promise but its mechanics just didn't suit me. For such a niche title, it almost certainly made more sense to make it a buy-to-play game, and that's just what was done when the game launched last July. Sandbox claims 250,000 active players and just released a new update that added the most important kind of gameplay – fishing! – to the game, so everything seems to be going well with its B2P implementation.

4. Atlas Reactor

On the other hand, here's a game that was announced as F2P, then went B2P, then went to a bad F2P model, and now has a good F2P model. Follow all that? If so, then you're a better person than many, who wrote off the game when Trion couldn't decide on a business model. It's still reasonably popular and gets regular updates, though with Devilian gone, it's probably Trion's lowest-end title.

3. Landmark

Like everything that Sony Online did for a while, (EverQuest Next) Landmark was going to be free-to-play, even though John Smedley hated the model. It was almost secondary news – next to EQN's shuttering – when Landmark was announced as going buy-to-play. The all-but-abandoned title did limp its way to a launch in late 2016 and was shut down barely six months later.

2. LawBreakers

Given everything that was going on with SOE/Daybreak, it's at least understandable why Landmark did what it did. LawBreakers, though? We're still trying to figure out why it's not free-to-play, especially with all the mystifying comments Cliff Bleszinski and the staff at Boss Key keep making about how it wouldn't work as a F2P game (or maybe it will). Considering its complete failure as a paid game, it's going to have to make that F2P move soon or else shut down entirely.

1. H1Z1

Like its SOE/DBG cousin Landmark, H1Z1 was going to be F2P once it left early access. Daybreak changed its mind and then changed it back again just last week. Albion's claim of 250,000 players notwithstanding, H1Z1 is the only really successful game on this list. Sure, it fell on hard times recently, but it was pulling in over 86,000 concurrent players at its peak last summer. Going back to F2P has boosted its fortunes considerably, which makes you wonder: Why did Daybreak abandon the model in the first place?

Oh yeah. Paid battle royale game with loot boxes. That's probably why.

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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.

Discussion (7)

Gaming TV 3 years ago
You guys should already know that these developers have give up on their product. (Early year)

ashoppingcart 3 years ago
Lawbreakera is trash... Why is Hunt: Showdown not on here? It was called Hunt: Horrors of the gilded age.

Virgil 3 years ago
h1z1.. best fail in the list

Adam 3 years ago
Right lol indeed

rickshaw 3 years ago
Albion Online will/should go F2P .
It has not much choice of options unless, it thinks it can handle the mundane pressure of holding onto an thin thread like Ultima Online's stubborn as bricks attitude has maintained all these years, which just keeps its client base to a trickle feed for survival & really doesn't seem to want any other players out there to enjoy it by the way of F2P for real.

Curst 3 years ago
Payment model change mid-development is always alarming regardless of which way it goes. From my experience it usually means that developers don't really know what they are doing.
The only exception I've seen is Black Desert where payment model choice was very calculated. They knew they had to make it F2P in Russia because nothing else works here and they also knew they could get away with making it B2P in the West.
But then again, it wasn't really a payment model "switch" with BDO since it was never announced as F2P in the West. So I guess there are no exceptions..? None of the listed games are in a good place right now, that's for sure.

Weilan 3 years ago
It's ironic how they all failed.

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