Pay To Play vs. Free To Play MMORPGs
What Makes Pay To Play MMORPGs Better Than Free To Play MMORPGs?
Let me start this off by saying when I was growing up I was a very poor kid. I grew up in a poor family and couldn’t afford most video games. I, therefore, ended up renting them.
This lead me to the beginning of my MMORPG career. It lead me to my first MMORPG, and ultimately the creation of this channel: To focus on MMORPGs of all kinds. Mobile, PC, Console. All forms of MMORPGs.
Now, I’ve played a lot of MMORPGs over the years, most of them free to play, and a couple of them pay to play. This was after I got much older though and could actually afford a subscription based MMORPG.
The pay to play games I’ve played have always seemed much higher quality than their free to play counterparts though.
World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, Rift when it was still a good game, TERA when it was pay to play. They all seemed so much better than popular free to play games like Fiesta, Perfect World, Revelation Online, Closers.
So what makes pay to play MMORPGs that much better?
Or for that matter, do you even believe pay to play MMORPGs are? I do.
I know what you’re thinking. “It’s because pay to play MMORPGs have huge budgets! They can put more time, effort and money into their game.”
It’s not because they have larger budgets. We’ve seen games like Wildstar fail with a large budget – and when Final Fantasy XIV launched initially.. man did it bomb. Elder Scrolls Online did terribly at launch as well.
Then, we’ve seen games with small budgets excel further than people thought they ever could. That’s why indie developers have become so popular these days.
With that being said, what makes people so inclined to play a pay to play MMORPG?
Is it because they can technically pay to create a larger world? Maybe it’s because in theory – more money equates to higher quality content?
I believe it’s several things.
Content Keeps Players Busy
Pay to play MMORPGs normally have a larger team working on them. Now, this doesn’t necessarily equate to a higher quality product but it definitely provides an ability to fix bugs faster, release updates more frequently and develop further expansions.
There’s a reason you rarely see actual expansions to free to play MMORPGs.
Yet WoW, Final Fantasy XIV, Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2 get regular expansions every two or so years.
These expansions always provide an exorbitant amount of content for players to progress through – something free to play MMORPGs just don’t do. Sure, free to play games offer updates.
I’m not saying they don’t – and Blade and Soul is a prime example of that.
They just don’t traditionally see them even remotely as often. If ever.
There are free to play MMORPGs that came out 10 years ago that have received zero expansions, and less content updates than a single regular expansion provides.
Regions, classes, quests, advancement to the story, features, fixes. Expansions bring so much to MMORPGs and you’re just missing out if you choose free to play over pay to play.
Players Should Earn Their Way
Next up we have a very widely, very heavily discussed topic in MMORPGs – the pay to win aspect of them.
Free to play MMORPGs are only able to survive through cash shops. If people aren’t spending their cash – then the game isn’t going to be able to pay the bills.
This holds true for all MMORPGs – it’s simply that pay to play games are paying the bills through their subscriptions.
So, if people aren’t motivated to use the cash shop, then the game will inevitably shut down.
This provides companies with the incentive to offer players cash shop items that will be of interest to them – to help them either level faster, get ahead or catch up.
Reinforcing the pay to win agenda.
Being able to purchase items that provide an advantage – any kind of advantage, really, leaves people desparate to throw their hard earned cash at.
Competitive players – kids with egos that need satiating, and people with more money than they have time.
All kinds of people are willing to purchase advantages over other players. It’s just how gaming, well, more aptly.. life, actually is: You take any advantage you can to get ahead.
This leads people without money – people without time – people that just don’t care to get there through their own skill to partake in what they’re being sold.
This isn’t the companies fault, however. Not at all. This is the fault of the gamer. See, just because you’re offered a means of getting ahead, doesn’t mean you need to take it. Especially when it negatively affects the genre as a whole.
If people stopped paying to get ahead, paying with real money to get in-game currency, items, levels and gear, then companies would need to find another way of surviving.
Who knows, maybe they might actually offer something worthwhile that doesn’t ruin the industry?
It's About The Journey, Not The Destination
Many free to play MMORPGs fall victim to the same problem: Some of the most generic leveling experiences in the market.
There’s nothing worse than getting bored due to a lack of motivation to continue even playing.
Now, each pay to play, or even buy to play MMORPG with an active, healthy population offers more or less the same thing.
Final Fantasy XIV, Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, Rift, even.. They all have very detailed stories to push the player through the game.
They all offer various forms of leveling outside of traditional questing in an attempt to lessen the boredom or mononity players often frequently come to.
Even Black Desert Online – a completely buy to play MMORPG offers players a variety of ways to play the game, removing the need to even engage in combat if you don’t feel you want to.
Yet we come to free to play MMORPGs.. and they’re essentially all copies of one another.
They never wanted to offer players something new, something innovative, something that would separate them from the rest of the garbage that polluted the market.
That, in turn, left them no choice but to inevitably follow suit and get left behind just as easily.
Very, very few – and I mean this, free to play MMORPGs have a fraction of the story, gameplay mechanics, or even features that most – if not all of these pay to play MMORPGs have.
Free To Play MMORPGs Need To Learn From Pay To Play MMORPGs
There’s a reason WoW and Final Fantasy XIV remain pay to play. A reason Elder Scrolls Online and Black Desert Online both remain buy to play – and a reason Guild Wars 2 remains locked behind buy to play for its expansions.
Because they’re all good enough to maintain themselves off of their business model.
They all have large teams working on their games. They all have a lack of pay to win (with maybe the exception of Black Desert.. but that’s another story). They all offer their players more to the game than just killing x amount of monsters to hit endgame.
If free to play MMORPGs want to remain relevant – which they’re fast approaching extinction – they’ll want to learn to adapt and evolve.