TESO spam mails

Free-to-play games and asshat behavior seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly… like Jay and Silent Bob… like black and blue – I mean, gold and white…

Or do they?

In my random morning scan of the Internet, I came across a blog post that doesn’t break too much new ground in terms of its criticisms of certain free-to-play games, talking about players’ perceptions and comparing The Lord of the Rings Online’s F2P system favorably to Star Wars: The Old Republic’s. It’s an entertaining enough read to seasoned gamers like you and me, but there’s one “common sense” point in it that’s always rubbed me the wrong way, and I think I just figured out why:

“Games with no subscription fees do attract bots and asshats, which also end up driving people away eventually (even though you’ll find the same asshats in a game with a sub).”

That’s a pretty much automatic connection most people make: that F2P games are rife with “bots and asshats” (which I’ll just merge together as “jerks”). Sub-based games have a few, too, as the author notes, but people tend to associate a much higher number of jerks with F2P games, usually due to the ease at which you can make an account in a F2P game, and then make another one if the first gets banned.

Except… I’m not sure that’s quite true, at least not in that way.


Here’s my take: Games with a lot of people tend to have a lot of jerks. And, especially at launch and after a sub-to-F2P switch, F2P games tend to be very well-populated. This leads to more “asshat jerks,” because there are simply more people around, and the more people there are, the better the chance that some will be asshats; and it also leads to more “bot jerks,” because gold-sellers and spambots, like any enterprising “businesspeople,” are going to go where the customers are. It just makes more sense to ply your trade in a game with 100,000 players than in one with 10,000.

So you have “Jerks are drawn to games with large populations” and “F2P games tend to have large populations,” which, by the transitive property, means that “Jerks are drawn to F2P games.” But that’s not because the games are free-to-play, it’s because they have large populations.

Think about the last time you played a non-F2P game around its launch, an expansion, or a big content drop. For me, I can remember playing Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online at launch, when both games were packed to the gills with players. The spambots were working overtime, and the overall chatter tended toward the obnoxious more often than I like to recall. These days, I still get the occasional GW2 spam, and map chat can be a bit toxic when big events fail, but it’s nowhere near what it was like at launch (though it’ll probably pick up once the expansion hits).

I can also recall seeing a lot of garbage in chat and getting frequent tells right after LOTRO went F2P, but I hardly get them at all now. Why is that? It’s still F2P, so shouldn’t that still be the case? Or maybe it’s because LOTRO isn’t nearly as populated as it was five years ago, so most of the undesirables have moved on.


And then there’s World of Warcraft. If F2P = lots of jerks, then WoW, with a box price and sub fee, should have virtually none, right? (And I literally wrote this line an hour before Blizzard announced their own cash/gold/sub time system for WoW. I’m not sure how those systems fit into the equation.)

The “jerks in F2P” theory is driven largely by the fact that it’s free to create an account in a F2P game, so the jerks can keep coming back. This might be true for the asshat type, but the gold-sellers are thieves, plain and simple. Many of them work with stolen credit-card info or hacked accounts – both of which certainly require a little more work than just creating a new Gmail account, but once it’s done, the account is essentially disposable, no different from a free account.

I’ll agree that the greater ease of accessibility probably makes jerks in F2P games a little more frequent, but I wouldn’t say most F2P games are overwhelmed by them. As with any game, they pop up more frequently when the game is new and bustling – which is also when you’re most likely to log on, thus making it more likely that you’ll be exposed to that kind of thing and leaving a bad taste in your mouth – but I don’t think it’s an issue that’s endemic to F2P games any more than it is to sub-based ones. See how things are the next time you hop into a pay-to-play game when it’s new or when an expansion comes out.

What do you think? Does free-to-play automatically attract more jerks? Or is it just a consequence of a population boom that affects all online games pretty much equally?

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.


  1. It’s online games in general that have this sort of thing, it doesn’t matter one bit if it’s sub/b2p/f2p
    TESO, RMT spam, hacks and bots in the early access
    WoW/prety much any new mmo has idiots in chat, like every mmo thats come out in the last 4/5 years there is some twat “hurr durr barrens chat durr”

  2. Well Boting in itself is a fault of developers not model game chose, so its invalid too use it at all. I mean bots are made to make everything faster since Grind stage of the game is unbearable. But ass hats are everywhere f2p p2p b2p it does not matter their there trust me every game has many. For example Tera when it was p2p global chat was to be turned off on log in if you do not wish to watch 12 years old with high allowance rage and troll .

  3. actually, before LoL, WOW had the worst community and still has a pretty shitty community… and aside from LOL and Tera I never experienced this toxic community in f2p, obviously there are assholes everywhere, but compared to WoW, most f2p are quite enjoyable, even Tera has a better community than WoW

    not to say that the problem is the game necessarily, WOW and LOL have a lot of players, so the number of assholes is higher but the number of nice people is also higher, but as a gamer that played both p2p and f2p games I can say that you have a better chance to find a nice community in a f2p game, in my experience at least

    even because, those guys usually draws those conclusions out of prejudice, the idea that f2p players are poor or lazy, so many of the people that judge f2p players are part of the toxic community

    and btw, p2p games have way more bots than f2p, there are bots like hell in WoW and FFXIV, in FFXIV i get at least 3 msg per minute, it is insane, only old f2p games have that amount of crap (games like ragnarok, flyff and lineage 2)

  4. While F2P games might not automatically attract jerks, the barrier compared to P2P games is virtually nonexistant. And because none of these F2P games have the actual balls to IP or hardware ban, if these people go in with the intent of trolling or hack abuse, there is NOTHING stopping them from constantly repeating the behavior.

    While money might not matter to some of these, I would venture to say that if you got your account banned in a P2P game and it would cost you an actual fee to open another, or if one acc was tied to one boxed copy..hence having to buy an entirely new copy..it becomes a deterrent to the larger portion of the population.

    So while F2P =/= jerks automatically, it does draw them in at an exponentially higher rate. No barrier, no rules, no real punishment. F2P hosts are too afraid to lose money to actually ban more than just an offending account.

  5. I think Jason Winter is right even in sub games there is lot’s of trolls not just in free 2 play games. I notice also in world of warcraft that people tend to act like trolls or even pker’s or just bad people been bad towards other people. Look at those players that steals items after they made a raid and advise people it will be main spec before off spec for rolls etc and end up master looting everything and just leave the group with all the items ( ninja as they call them ).

    Then there is the gold sellers in that game, there is not a 2 min that goes by without a chat text going true telling everyone that you can buy gold for a certain amount or that you can buy mounts etc for another kind of amount. ( go on populated servers like : darkspears, blackrock, etc ).

    Sure it is also true when it comes to the fact that people will roll there characters on pvp servers when they only want to do pve things till max level and will start to cry when they get killed while questing and i do understand that they should not cry about it because it is there own fault for rolling on the wrong server and to make it worst blizzard also advise in the list of servers what type of server you are about to roll on eg: pve, pvp, rp, etc. But i think ultimately that there is as much if not more trolls, gold sellers and even people that are just bad people inside sub games as there is in f2p. It is just like in real life, if the devs actually take care of those people then you end up with less otherwise if they just let it slide for any reason what so ever then you end up with a game full of them.

  6. “The “jerks in F2P” theory is driven largely by the fact that it’s free to create an account in a F2P game”
    Is it though? From my experience it’s largely driven by the presumption that F2P games are filled only with worthless scum who can’t afford to pay for their games. And all the talk about how easy it is to create a new free account is often just another way of saying it. Which only shows that P2P players aren’t any better IMO.

    • You see less ignorance from a 20 year old in subscription based games compared to free. This means that more players are able to talk like human beginnings and come into an agreement instead of raging at each other when trouble arises.

      Also, since the revenue isn’t based on cash shops, there is a fear of losing your subscription and not ever playing that particular account again because they have more control.

      7 billion world wide and lets say 500,000 world wide play a particular game at 10 bucks a month. that 5 million a month on subs alone not including a games cosmetic cash shop + subbing. #BalllinOutOfControl

      • I could agree with your points. But I can’t stand people who think they are better because they arguably have more money. This attitude is especially obvious when a game converts to F2P. The masses don’t care about anything, they just want to keep those dam F2P hobos out of their yard.

        Jeez, just look at me. A Russian lecturing someone on human rights and equality. In English. LOL Must look hilarious.

        • Way late of a reply, the point of my post was; if you have some type of control from the audience, their behavior is better.

          Fact is, when you let kids who don’t know better or adults who are immature run loose, its a mad house, and even more behind the screen. Money doesn’t matter at this point, there is too much ignorance this generation and disrespect between the people for no apparent reason, rather than taking it as constructive crit, again, they headbutt faster than a fat-kid loves cake.

          Their personality is also influenced by whats going on in TV. The series of accusation from country to country from the media (News) and the trash talk between each other online is horrendous. They also come from work, school and etc to take their anger from life and toss it into the game to other people, and other varies things that just infects everyone with hatred life a wildfire on dry grass that can never be turned off.

          In the end, there needs to be control to reduce this frustration inside any online gaming community. But no one does anything because “traffic” in the internet means everything and that converts into dollar signs. Also, you can hold back on the English and lecturing comment, It has nothing to do with opinions and a conversation between intelligent people.

  7. I wholeheartedly agree with the points made in this editorial. I’ve seen so many statements dissing on F2P players, but most of them just take the on-hand experience and form opinions without thinking there might be more to this.

  8. It’s not the player. It is the game design. When one player uses the game how it was buily to do what is in the boxes capacity… there will always be a fellow man crying about it. Look at what these fools are writing alrady: “I hate it when some one kills me”…then sorry, that is not the players fault. If the server was not PvP, it would not be people killing. Sure there are fake little rules you can make up “wait dont kill me! Im a player”, but in the end, that killer is just playing the game how it is intended too. “Somethingtosay” is pure example of a fail mmorpger crying because he got pwned.
    Sorry, go play hello kitty online.
    Chat can be ignored. Friends black listed etc etc. Games are exactly how they should be. There are no trolls or bullies. Just regular players. Everyone comes in and wants to tshape the world to their standards. Sorry. Darwin rules. Only the best and strong survive in games based on “higher numbers = higher strength”. I am still waiting for teh mmorpg to be made where numbers go out the window and physical renderation of everything is used. COmbat is based on physical movement and skill and sharpened or blunt weapons (caclculated to the pixel). BAg space is actual physcal space, not slots. Talking and communication actual talking or writing using digital ink and pen pad (if you don’t have it. Talk) etc etc. Until then. One mans heaven is another mans hell. The whole “troll” war is in your head and used as a cheap attack by all concerned.

  9. This why in opened world pvp games if someones being an asshat you can kill him if he isn’t higher than you Or vise verse asshat kills player and huge argument breaks in world chat which nonoe cares but keep going on about it. If they had a 3 strikes and your out system on games for reported offense on a person. The third strike being them being blacklisted like in Las Vegas. I know someone “asshat” probably going to reply this with some answer that I will give no care what this person thinks because this is America and we’re all entitled to our own opinion on what’s possible they could in this situation.

  10. This why is opened world pvp games if someones being an asshat you can kill him if he isn’t higher than you Or vise verse asshat kills player and huge argument breaks in world chat which nonoe cares but keep going on about. If they had a 3 strikes and your out system on games for reported offense on a person. The third strike being them being blacklisted like in Las Vegas. I know someone “asshat” probably going to reply this with some answer that I will give no care what this person thinks because this America and we’re all entitled to our own opinion on what’s possible they could in this situation.

  11. I like to think of it this way……

    Say I offered some great home brewed lager for just $3.00 a pint. I put a lot of effort and money into marketing and PRing the crap out this great beer. I get many tour buses in and a great list of clients who love it and can’t believe it is only $3.00 a pint.

    One day I have this brilliant idea….. Let’s take a week and just give it away! All of a sudden I have 3 times the people coming in. Many are nice and polite, but after 2-3 days I get all kinds of people in and now they are all drunk. The jerks upset the nicer ones and next thing you know I am calling the cops, getting people arrested and shutting down my business.


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