EpicBattleCry - Can "Free-to-Play" Games Really Be Called Free?

Recent events pertaining to the free-to-play model on mobile have sparked debates about the state of the genre and what's a truly fair description of the experience. Nico Viegas P. (@MonkeyBot9k) is curious about our take on the situation and we do our best to answer by offering up some truly free insight.

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Tags: EpicBattleCry, podcasts

Comment by Aaron B on July 31, 2014 at 1:06pm

Free-to-play Micro-transaction games are all about psychological warfare. They're designed to slowly chip away at your will until you give in and buy something in the in-game store. No company is out to make a game for free like tony said; they know that micro-transaction based games are potentially a lot more profitable than paid games.

Just look at clash of clans or candy crush, or god forbid, that stupid kim kardashian game. They rake in the $$$.

Comment by Adventure's Infinity on July 31, 2014 at 2:45pm

I personally think that games with microtransactions are one thing, I don't play games on phones but Smite and Dota 2 definitely run on them. The difference I think is when games incorporate microtransactions as a consequence for failure, I don't think those should be quite considered "Free," maybe "Limited Free play," and besides that I don't think that's an appropriate use for microtransactions and, NO DUH, they're going to design the game so that consequence comes up as many times as you're willing to pay for it. I think games that have a microtransaction strategy like Smite and Dota 2 are doing it right, completely optional, you can play the game all freaking day if you really wanted to and not pay a dime no matter how much you suck, but if you really like certain Skins or other characters you can pay to unlock them and then keep enjoying the game with your new swag. Microtransactions should facilitate the further enjoyment of a game, not be a consequence to keep playing the game, imho.

Comment by Actrip on July 31, 2014 at 10:58pm

It depends on how its done, I really like Blacklight Retribution but the amount I would have to spend to get a lot of the weapons turned me off quickly.  I spent $15 on the game and don't complain about that since I played maybe 7 hours worth but to get later level accessories would cost way more than $60 and the level requirements are way to high to continue.

Comment by Corax on August 1, 2014 at 3:07am

Google pretty much implemented the change the same time they made the announcement.

Any item on Google Play now says either "Free", "Offers in-app purchases" or lists a purchase price (and paid apps with in-app purchases). Which in my opinion completely the correct way to list the store items.

Now this is just how Google lists the items. Candy Crush Saga description is this, so it's not like the apps are banned for using the word free themselves:
"Candy Crush Saga is completely free to play but some in-game items such as extra moves or lives will require payment."

Comment by Joshua on August 1, 2014 at 10:09am

I couldn't disagree with you guys more.

While there are legitimate free to play games out there (e.g. Team Fortress 2), most of them are simply manipulative. They prey on peoples addictions in the same way tobacco companies do. At minimum, I believe they should come with addition warnings.

Comment by Bart Spits on August 3, 2014 at 9:14am

Taking responsibility for themselves =/= companies trying to get kids to buy stuff.I do not so much have a problem with the 'free' part of free to play games based on microtransactions.

To play the game you want to play, it's not free. So I do not consider them free per se. You could say that there is a way to play a shadow of that game for free, but to play the game proper you're going to have to pay money. But whatever, it's a grey area to me. Especially considering there are true free games out there, that are not ad based or microtransaction based. That's right, they are actually free. And you could very well make the argument that there is a consistent difference between modern "free to play" games and the games that are actually free.

The part that I have the most trouble with is the word game. Now there is definitely a split between free to play games. There are the actual games made to entertain, such as Tribes: Ascend, and then there is the vast group of free to play games that have a clear different intention and make up. Such as Dungeon Keeper. The latter are designed around manipulation of the general human mind to make it spend money and not to entertain it. Entertainment is so far removed from their intent that I do not consider them actual games. The entertainment they can (accidentally) provide is solely there because they play into the addictions that most of us are vulnerable to. It's a byproduct that you may or may not call fake. (Where does that leave WoW though? :x)

If we have to call these manipulative programs games, and if we cannot force them to at least add that they are horrible manipulative programs to their description, then I think forcing them to make their intent clear by doing what the EU is doing is the next best idea.

Comment by Michael Bumüller on August 4, 2014 at 9:32am

hi there, its quite a long time since i writting here, 

just wanted to sugest 2 things

1) not always the question on the forums will be great, thats why how bout doin once a week a 20-30 minutes bout gaming news

2) not that much of a sugestion, but!!... just wanna tell u guys, loving this format, .... its gonna take a long while til the show produces an decent incoming and wanna tell you, hang in there, let your passion drive EPC for the opcoming years

danke, und schönen tag 

michael

Comment by Zoltan on August 5, 2014 at 3:08pm

Tony, I love you, listen to your show like it's my religion, but the constant interruptions have gotta stop man. Makes it hard to follow DK or Brent when you don't give them a chance to finish their thoughts sometimes. It's especially noticable this time.

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