Why do some people say they hate free-to-play so much?

Former Battlefield developer Ben Cousins says when game mechanics are so closely aligned with financial activity, that can feel "kind of sacrilegious" to some developers.

The free-to-play business model may be rising in popularity, but it's also attracted a healthy amount of skepticism, and in some cases, disdain. Why is that? According to former Electronic Arts developer Ben Cousins, who worked on the free-to-play Battlefield Heroes at Electronic Arts before leaving the company, some developers are wary to embrace the model because it challenges tradition.

"The mechanics themselves [of free-to-play games] sit right next to consumers' financial activity. For many developers that's kind of sacrilegious," Cousins told GamesIndustry International. "For them, it's not something they ever wanted to do. It's like commercialising a religion, or forcing people to put coins in a slot to see the Mona Lisa."

"For them that's an aesthetic judgement closely tied to how you define games," he added. "If you think of games as art, pure art, which a lot of designers do because they don't really take part in the commercial side of the process, then I think free-to-play can feel very sacrilegious in that sense."

But the real driving force behind the opposition to free-to-play, according to Cousins, is simply the popularity of such games. "The profile is rising and that's making them an easy target," Cousins said.

Free-to-play games are big business indeed. King's immensely popular Candy Crush Saga has 93 million daily players, and even big companies like EA (Real Racing, Star Wars: The Old Republic), Microsoft (Happy Wars, Warface), Sony (Warframe, Planetside 2), Activision (Call of Duty Online), and Valve (DOTA 2, Team Fortress 2) all have major free-to-play product portfolios.

The free-to-play model is only going to grow, and it will overtake all other categories in terms of revenue sometime in 2017, Cousins believes.

"My guess is that, around 2017, the global sales for free-to-play games will surpass all of the other models, that's hardware and software on console and traditional PC," Cousins said. "So that's coming."

What do you think about the free-to-play business model? Let us know in the comment below!

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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266 comments
3dmatrixgamer
3dmatrixgamer

F2P + micro transactions is essential to block piracy especially on PCs. Have we ever heard someone yells Oh mobile games are pirated no because most of them are free to play + MT. Only console game should be as they are. most of PC gamers say that console games are pirated too and they always point out Xbox360 i agree but they forget that PS3 is the world first console which block piracy i havebeen in south asia and many other asian countries where X360 is the best seller whereas PS was the best seller before the 7th generation. X360 is best seller just because it was hacked in earlier days of its launch where as PS3 is still not hacked yet. PS3 games in those territories have the same cost which they are here in EU,US, JAPAN and world wide.

3dmatrixgamer
3dmatrixgamer

GS forgot to mention most critically acclaimed League of Legends which is one of iconic free to play model.

dragoonslayer19
dragoonslayer19

Probably since its Free to Play but it cost money to win. Sooner or later a F2P game turns into who puts the most money into it is the one who wins. The one I remember most is SWTOR, it's F2P BUT you get a EXP nerf among other nerfs, eventually I couldn't keep up with the levels or other players. I had to find someone to join me to beat objectives since my character level was to low. Great game but I soon found out if I wanted to win I needed to start all over and buy a subscription to get full exp gain, I was just to far behind the planets set levels to win.

tightwad34
tightwad34

People don't like it because first they think the quality will be sacrificed, two we have been paying a set amount for our games since the beginning of our gaming lives, and third the free to play title is pretty much misleading which turns a lot of people off. I guess we should be used to being patronized, though.

Bigfatlardygit
Bigfatlardygit

F2P is the worst thing ever. Even worse than having someone else vomit into your mouth.

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

F2P is a terrible model for gamers.  Developers can pretty much do what they want with the game.  Ex Plants vS Zombies 2.  EA decided out of the blue to make changes to where you would have to almost pay money in order to continue playing the game.  They only retracted this once enough people complained.  That is a HUGE problem with it.  

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

Previous articles mentioned studies on the revenue stream of F2P games, and found the vast majority of the money spent on F2P comes from only a small percentage of all the F2P players.  I wonder how many of these high-spending individuals are obsessive compulsive, autistic, or have some other type of mental illness, and can't help themselves from dumping in hundreds of dollars to obsessively get everything in a game?  Or how many are children just racking up debt on their parent's credit card, not even really understanding what they're doing?


When most of the F2P money comes from a small amount of people, you have to wonder who those people are, and how that affects their lives.


I think all F2P should have an ultimate cap on how much a consumer can spend in total on 1 game.

scottpsfan14
scottpsfan14

Because you don't feel like it's yours. 90% of the game is behind a pay wall so it's just pointless.

the_real_luigi
the_real_luigi

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! Are you not listening to your fans? The reasons that people do not like free to play is because most free to play games don't have as much effort put into them so they lack in gameplay and graphics and the #1 reason is because it ends up costing you more money in the long run to pay for then the game would have cost to buy because of all of the extra DLC that you have to pay for in order to really enjoy the game to it's fullest extent! 

hitomo
hitomo

at some Point, noone will believe the greedy monemakers anymore ... or F2P will simply be banned like hard drugs,


then, when everything is destroyed and financily ruined, real game developers will reappear and continue to produce interaktive worlds as an abstarct refelction on reality and Events Happening in our actual enviornment,

and not Entertainment ...

stev69
stev69

People delude themselves into thinking that ftp = pay to win. In my experience and it is extensive, I have enjoyed and been competitive in most ftp games ive played without spending a single penny.   


The only way im likely to pay to play an mmo these days is if its going to be a ground breaking experience, its not enough to keep releasing even good IP in the same generic package. Which is the main reason I won't play ESO now, I love the IP but its the same crap ive done many times before, not worth my time or money. 

hitomo
hitomo

'It's like commercialising a religion, or forcing people to put coins in a slot to see the Mona Lisa."'


no, the free to Play businnes is EXACTLY the same as forcing People to put coins in a Slot to see BOOBS!


where did he get that wiht the mona lisa, did he never played a free to Play game? its like going to the casino and brothel ... a calculated rip off, People with normaly structured lives would never allow ... !

megakick
megakick

The bad side of MMO is that they are made to collect high revenue with very little overhead. GRIND.

Voqar
Voqar

So I hate F2P because of what it does to MMORPGs - it makes them not worth playing.  Because the only way RPGs/MMORPGs are worth playing is if you are earning your rewards BY PLAYING.  PLAY to win, not PAY to win.


I also hate F2P because it has fostered this whole generation of complete idiots losers who somehow think multi-million dollar games shoud miraculously be free.


PC gaming (and even console gaming, even though I despise consoles too for their influence and taint when it comes to PC games) is some of the least expensive entertainment you can buy.


People spend money like idiots constantly and the amount you spend on a good game - assuming you make wise choices and not only buy GOOD games but games you actually like to play - is really not all that much by comparison.


I really wish MMORPGs had never attempted to go mainstream.  When it was a niche genre, back when it first started, and it was entirely sub-based (and those classics still are and never stopped with subs), and the genre had a dedicated and rabit following, it was so much better.  As soon as corporate slimeballs got involved and wanted bigger and flashier numbers and pushed devs to go for "wider appeal" and "casual appeal" they fubar-ed the design so much that the games DID become no longer worth subs - and this helped usher in this age of F2P garbage (at least for MMORPGs).  Because of course, if you some soloists idiot who shouldn't be playing MMORPGs to begin with and who is too feeble to handle group-based and challenging gameplay, then of course that type of game isn't worth a sub for you - but why should the rest of us have to suffer because some people are dumb as posts?

Voqar
Voqar

F2P works ok for genres that can do it without pay 2 win.  For ex, I think it works well for LOL, where stuff that's important to gameplay can only be earned by playing and ONLY fluffy stuff is in the shop.  It doesn't really matter if heros are for sale since there are scores of them and they're all reasonably balanced.


F2P is utter trash for MMORPGs though, because everything about RPGs/MMORPGs is about earning STUFF (and that means anything and everything) and as soon as you sell ANY stuff in the cash shop, you undermine the integrity of the game.


For a game like an MMORPG, I prefer a sub, because I want ALL players on an equal playing field, with equal potential for success, where how and how much you play determines your degree of success, not how much you're willing to throw down in cash to buy game data.


Some people get confused about GW2's B2P as well.  Yep.  You buy the box to play and there's no sub.  But....  there's still a cash shop that's all kinds of pay 2 win, in particular, the biggie, which is paying cash for game gold, is probably the #1 reason they haven't had to charge for content yet - there are just a LOT of scrubs willing to buy gold due to their inadequacy as players and underdeveloped genitals.  Too lazy or too much of a scrub to get your own loot - no worries, just buy a bunch of gold and you can buy the ultra uber weapons out of the AH (because of course that kind of thing can be bought for gold in GW2 - ANet is one of the best MMORPG companies ever at tightly and completely controlling their game's economy and it's all designed to nudge people towards the cash shop).


I also personally think most players that want F2P are losers.  Period.  I don't want to be in a game surrounded by losers.  Either scrubs that want multi-million entertainment for free or scrubs happy to pay for game data and buy their way thru games.  Either way - it's scrubs.


Because nothing is truly free.  These companies exist to profit.  And SOMEBODY is paying, and for every loser who pays nothing there's other losers buying boatloads of game data and pretending they're good at games that aren't even difficult to begin with.


The players who care and who are in between are the ones who get screwed - you can almost never fully play any F2P game without paying something or being heavily nudged towards paying.  And if you actually want to earn you stuff it sucks when some schmuck is getting 10x as much stuff thru cash and not doing anything in the game.


F2P exists because it is profitable.  Period.  Not because it is in any way good for quality of game or good for players.  People who think F2P is good are just fools - or the afore mentioned scrubs who either want stuff for free or who would rather buy their way thru games than actually play them.


Obviously F2P can be more profitable than even subs or it wouldn't get done.  Corporate bean counters don't give a rat's backside about players or quality of gaming - only profits.


F2P should really be fully qualified as "free for some to play" because unless you're a total fool, you have to realize that companies don't pump 10's of millions of dollars into games to GIVE them to us.  Quite the opposite.  Big budget games are backed by corporations that don't care about games at all - they just exist to make money.


Players who advocate F2P are pretty much just morons because all they're doing is buying in on corporate profit schemes and helps push the lie about games being free.  Unless you're one of those losers who never pays for your entertainment and you only play F2P games as much as can be played without ever paying - the few, the proud, the ultimate losers - the players of eternal demo/crippled mode.



steelmouth
steelmouth

Personally I hate this so called "free to play" games because I have been alive long enough to know nothing is free, If it cost money to make then trust me it can't be free someone somewhere is paying for it somehow. 


It says it right there in the article "sales for free-to-play games will surpass all of the other models" What sales? its free right?

Iamkalell
Iamkalell

I just want to pay upfront and have access to all the content a game has.  At the very least they could make games f2p and then give people the option to buy everything all at once. 

sabotage0
sabotage0

The reason I hate F2P games is that there is no option to just purchase the game outright if you actually enjoy it. The publisher sets these games up as perpetuities. I really liked Real Racing 3 but hated waiting 2 hours to put new tires on my car. I would like an option to buy the game for 15 or 20 bucks. Instead all the publisher offers is coins that will run out after a week for 10 bucks a pop.

Tiwill44
Tiwill44

Battlefield Heroes... that game was amazing until it became Pay 2 Win.

ZeEzO
ZeEzO

I thought I was gonna be this old guy in a retirement home still gaming it up at the ripe old age of 70( I don't plan on living that long) but I don't know growing popularity of f2p and a digital only future, gotta pass it on to a new generation I guess, but im still gonna game it up for a long while to come.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

It's the sleazy business model that goes with them that makes me not want to play free to play.



Poodger
Poodger

The most popular free to play games out there are actually not exploitive. See: Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, Dota 2. Not only are they above and beyond the most popular free to play games, but they are also more popular (and fun) than most pay to play games. And they also happen to not be pay to win.

neovalkyr
neovalkyr

its funny how these games are so popular. Its like"i dont want to pay 2$ dollars for a game i can play for the rest of my life. Id much rather play a game thats free up front and then waste 40$ for few in game items, oh and have most of the game play dependent on time " 

PinchySkree
PinchySkree

Anno and Dungeon Keeper were destroyed to pump out pay to win garbage.

ssj2los
ssj2los

Because its not really free-to-play, it's a gimmick to suck more money out of something.... make a full budgeted AAA, make it free.. then setup a donation service with the game.. That is truly free-to-play... No microtransactions..No "Skins"... Nothing to buy... if the person truly enjoyed the game and wants to support it they will.. that is the only way Ill ever except or even use my IRL money on a free-to-play model.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

I had fun with DC Universe. And that was the only MMO/free-to-play. I ever played. Then I played Star Trek Online--I loved the RPG side of it, but I loathed the FTP/ MMO side of it. It felt like a DCU mod. So many hot keys, power icons; too fiddly around the keyboard as well.

They seem to me like every other FTP game; they're not unique.

Johny_47
Johny_47

Answer to that question is really because most the time it's pay to win and the people that actually play for free have a serious disadvantage from the start.

maxpowr3
maxpowr3

It's the day-1 DLC [or even worse, on-disc DLC] and "pay-to-win" of freemium games that people hate. I don't mind "pay-to-win" on social games like Candy Crush or Clash of Clans but I don't want that stuff anywhere near AAA-releases.

Soundaholic92
Soundaholic92

So many F2P games are actually P2W or disguised demos that it gives the label a bad name in general. Of course there are games that are truly F2P like Dota 2 (where 100% of the gameplay is available free of charge right off the bat), but F2P games usually feel, for a lack of a better word, dishonest in a way. I especially hate it when you have a to grind 30 hours for a minor upgrade that would otherwise cost like $5

nabeel_sultan
nabeel_sultan

try world of tanks its f2p and they r pulling it out somehow it got issue but its working 


Vojtass
Vojtass

Two words: Dungeon Keeper. EA, google it.

UFOLoche
UFOLoche

#1: Because there are people who abuse the F2P system.


#2: Because gamers are people who, oftentimes, can't connect the dots, or spend more than 5 seconds trying to think things through, they just instantly assume anything that's F2P is bad, clearly ignoring the games that make the F2P system work.


But hey, no skin off my bones, I'll continue having fun for free while they stomp their feet and scream like spoiled brats.

Coldpain
Coldpain

@Voqar  "I also hate F2P because it has fostered this whole generation of complete idiots losers who somehow think multi-million dollar games shoud miraculously be free."


Me and you both.

Daemoroth
Daemoroth

Dunno why it got deleted, some message/explanation would be nice...

steelmouth
steelmouth

@ZeEzO  Stock pile all the games now, PS2 through PS3 have a huge library that I think will take you to 70

ad1x2
ad1x2

It is highly unlikely anyone would do that for the simple fact that no matter how good the game is most people won't pay a dime if they don't have to. They have to make a profit one way or another.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

So many of 'em would benefit from just being a single player RPG. I know I'd prefer it that way.

neowarrior121
neowarrior121

@Soundaholic92  you know why don't you actually name one game that required REQUIRED you to actually pay to win. not counting games you need to go to a subscription to unlock the full game. 

neowarrior121
neowarrior121

@UFOLoche  i agree completely been playing free to play games for 13 years now never needed to pay a penny, people bitch about grinding or unfairness of paid players and iv beten paid players all the time

de-astroturfer
de-astroturfer

@UFOLoche  So people who don't like their favourite pastime being turned into a grind fest and being charged hundreds of pounds to make the pay to win games remotely playable, are spoilt brats ? No ! more like you lot are thieving C***s with no respect for the industry you've wormed your way into, or the people who pay your bills !

Kinguard73
Kinguard73

@UFOLoche If 'stomp their feet and scream like spoiled brats.' means they pay a one time fee and actually get a game with enjoyable content on it then yes. Indeed.

de-astroturfer
de-astroturfer

@neowarrior121 @Soundaholic92  I don't think you really understand what the phase "pay to win" actually means I think your taking it literally i.e. you can't win if you don't pay. all it means is the ability is there to pay to win and the game is grindingly hard for those who don't pay, and in that spirit here are a few names for you

Candy Crush

PVZ2

Real Racing 3

Farmville

Bejeweled Blitz

Clash of Clans

I could go on and on and on and on but it would be pointless because there are too many to mention they're everywhere !

UFOLoche
UFOLoche

@de-astroturfer @UFOLoche  .....What?  Ok, whoa, whoa whoa, refer to point #1, buddy.  Then refer to point #2 because you're exactly the person I'm talking about, I'll explain it a bit more because you're already seeing red.


I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that people abuse the F2P system, I said so in my first post, BUT, there are MANY games out there that are F2P but do not abuse the system, or maybe they do or used to, but it's negligible.  A lot of F2P MMOs these days are hardly "pay to win" or "pay to make remotely playable".  Sure, it's pay to have certain premiums(In PSO2, it's pay to have more storage, the ability to trade(Not as useful as you'd think), to have a shop(Which you can technically get for free), to have a room(which you can get for free), etc etc.  But I played through the game, hit max level, without a single one of these boons(I used my AC on buying another Mag, simply for the convenience, it's hardly pay to win because you can just make another character), I'm also one of the best people in my guild(which is completely 100% free, mind you).


Hell, Warframe is a better example, I have NEVER spent a dime on pay to win items in Warframe(Except slot expanders so I can use more weapons/frames).  I have gotten every frame, and tried a mass majority of weapons.  The only thing I EVER used my platinum in that game for besides slot expanders was cosmetics.


Also, can you tell me what you're on?  Because I'd love some..mainly cause you seem crazy.

UFOLoche
UFOLoche

@Kinguard73 @UFOLoche  Yes, because swearing that all F2P games are garbage is totally something a mature adult does.


Also, let's see.  Warframe, Dungeon Fighter Online(Shut down, but still counts), Shin Megami Tensei Imagine(Same as DFO), Phantasy Star Online 2, SDGO, Mabinogi...just off the top of my head.


I spent..probly 80$ on Warframe since I'm a founder, over 200 hours.  20 bucks on DFO, 100 hours.  Nothing on Imagine, another 100 hours.  15 bucks on PSO2, clocking around 220 hours and still going, about..I'd say, 30$ in SDGO, and I play it on and off to this day, and Mabinogi I've played on and off since I was...15?  16?  And I have, I admit, spent a large amount of money on that game over the years, because I wanted to support it.


But y'see, here's my point, I spent under 60$ for a lot of those MMOs, and I spent MANY hours on it, with friends, having fun.  Not all F2P games are bad, and I find it funny every time a gamer thinks that.


Edit:I'd like to note that I think I undershot on DFO's time, I think I played it for a lot more than that.

UFOLoche
UFOLoche

@de-astroturfer  I do wish we could separate the term F2P from those horrible Facebook/Phone games that are just out to scam people...scamware would be a nice term..

de-astroturfer
de-astroturfer

@neowarrior121 @de-astroturfer  Insulting my gaming ability isn't going to win you this argument so stop bitching about people bitching I get it you have a vested interest in pay to win and you like to throw juvenile insults at anybody who objects to your less than honest business practices !

de-astroturfer
de-astroturfer

@neowarrior121 @de-astroturfer  Your still not getting it are you ! as just one example PVZ had a perfect difficulty curve PVZ on the other hand is much harder with longer zombie waves grinding the player down constantly, there is a clear difference to anybody who was a fan of the original game. 

neowarrior121
neowarrior121

@de-astroturfer  bitching about a challenge is basically complaining about then not making the game too easy for you thus MUST be bad. 

de-astroturfer
de-astroturfer

@UFOLoche  What because I don't go through everything little thing you've said I have brain damage, Well perhaps if you spoke English instead of compressing your thoughts into a series of acronyms

And please learn the definition of the word Free more specifically when used in the context of the term "free to play" if there are "ANY" fees incurred, optional or not then it isn't free "free to play" is just a cuddly marketing term used by corrupt companies to lul consumers and parents into a false sense on security, its pay to win, plain and simple ! and again don't take that term literally it means the option to pay to win is there, or the game is grindingly hard for those who don't pay, if it wasn't nobody would ever pay because there would be no need.

You can't ever prove that a company isn't subtly tweaking the gameplay to encourage micro transactions where as there is clear evidence that companies like EA are doing just that, you only need compare a game like PVZ with PVZ 2 to see the difference. So its pretty obvious when added together on balance "PAY TO WIN' model can't ever be trusted, its not up the consumer to prove you can't be trusted, its up to you to prove you can and thats something you can never do because you can always hide behind the idea thats how the difficulty curve was meant to be all along !

Anybody who pays hundreds of pounds on virtual currency in order to "not" play a game has serious issues and companies who collect that money are exploiting them, apart from ruining my favourite pastime with broken difficulty curves I have a serious problem with that, its called having a moral conscious.

UFOLoche
UFOLoche

@de-astroturfer @UFOLoche  Not specifically addiction for Street Fighter, but I was calling to attention the fact that Capcom released multiple versions of the same game, which I know would bother a lot of people with various conditions.  Same with Nintendo and Pokemon, just on a worse scale("want all 150 Pokemon?  Better get a game link cable or a second gameboy!").


And Pokemon technically DID have hidden costs, if you're going by that.  Game link cables aren't free y'know.  Course, that's going by your (dumb) explanations..


And..wait..lemme get this straight.  So, because I partake in FREE games, I can tell the difference between a good and a bad F2P game, and am willing to support a game that has offered me a good experience for free...I'm no better than people who STEAL?


I'm convinced, you have a form of brain damage, you've "conveniently" as you so put it, ignored MANY of the points I made, and attacked the only ones you had even a slight bit of an argument against.  I have no vested interest in micro transactions, I just, like any intelligent person, am willing to recognize when a company does it right.  But, of course, you're free to ignore all the examples I've given and continue to prove my point by refusing to connect dots.


Also, finally F2P=/=P2W, please learn the difference, if you can actually find the two brain cells in your head to rub together.

de-astroturfer
de-astroturfer

@UFOLoche @de-astroturfer  Nintendo and Capcom exploiting people with addiction issues for years with Pokemon and street fighter What !?!? Those products were sold at a set price, you know the good old fashioned way, no hidden costs no ongoing fees and the gameplay wasn't compromised to encourage further payment because there was no further in game payment ! I think you've conveniently picked up on the word addictive and completely ignored the word exploit, so your parallel is completely invalid !


And my original sentence is quite clear people who partake in this trend for Micro transactions are no better than thieves and credit card fraudsters, with no respect for the gaming industry or their customers, the people who ultimately pay their bills, and by "you" I mean You ! because lets face facts only someone with a vested interest in micro transactions would be so vociferous in their defence on a gaming website where practically every gamer hates Pay to Win ! 

UFOLoche
UFOLoche

@de-astroturfer @UFOLoche  @de-astroturfer @UFOLoche  Hoo boy, I look back and I see this..


Please refer to the games I've mentioned before.  Many of those aren't grindfests(Really, only SMT:I was, but EXP boosters fell from trees on that one.)


Can't you just admit you might be wrong because you're looking at a very small pool or haven't even tried F2P games that might be good?


Also, in the case of addiction issues, then Nintendo has been exploiting people for years now(Pokemon), as has Capcom(Street Fighter), and numerous other companies.  That's a really poor argument.


Tell me, what F2P games have you actually played?  Have you tried any of the ones I've listed off in my previous post?  Have you actually explored or broadened your knowledge of these games?


ORRRRR, do you just quote what everyone says a few minutes after looking at Facebook and an iOS/Android device, completely ignoring that some companies don't abuse such a practice?


Also, I was referring to you being on something for this line right here:  "No ! more like you lot are thieving C***s with no respect for the industry you've wormed your way into, or the people who pay your bills !"


I still really would love to know, because it makes no sense to me, or any of my friends that I've shown this to.  The only thing we can agree on is that you're proving my point by thrashing about and being flying off the handle without fully understanding my point.


So thanks for that, I guess.

de-astroturfer
de-astroturfer

@UFOLoche  What Im on !?!? I despise pay to win simple as that its exploiting people with addiction issues and turning kids into credit card fraudsters, if you can understand why people hate that even if it doesn't effect them directly (which is does by turning every game into a grind fest to encourage users to part with their money)  then its you who is on drugs !