Reality Check - Why Spend Money on a Free Game?

Cam continues with last week's exploration of the psychology of free-to-play, focusing on why people spend money in League of Legends.

Discussion

349 comments
FastAce
FastAce

My brother played hundreds, if not thousand hours of LoL and Dota2, but didn't spend a penny. Reason: He doesnt have a credit card, and I wont give him mine.

Pyrosa
Pyrosa

Great series -- keep up the good work.  ;)

ShepardCommandr
ShepardCommandr

Haven't spent anything on ftp games.

I don't play this trash.

leandrro
leandrro

very nice show p.s. never said that about anything on this website

Doombot6000
Doombot6000

Great show and great episode. Can't argue with well done research without any done on the contrary. But lets talk about microsoft points, right!

lingo56
lingo56

Haven't spent a cent on Dota 2 or LoL. I have used some money on TF2 to get keys though. Mostly because then I get a boost in my economy and I can buy rarer hats and try to make more ref from that. Which sorta ties into why I haven't used any money in Dota, because the trading community is terrible. The tf2 trading community is awesome there's servers, sites, hell even players just dedicated to trading. This helps the trading aspect and to me enforces more reason to buy a key because it's a huge boost to my backpack I can then trade smartly to make an even bigger boost and feel that my purchase was much more worth the money. In Dota though it's much harder to do this as the community is tied more to the actual gameplay. I don't think in my 450 hours of Dota have I seen someone one play the game for trading and cosmetics. I've only purchased about $20 worth of keys in tf2 so I haven't over done it and I feel as all my cosmetics feel complete in the game. The reason I haven't bough skins in LoL however is easier to answer, I feel Dota 2 is a better game, I play it more, more of my friends play it, and I've only spent like 10 hours on LoL.

gvidzix
gvidzix

On LoL spent zero ...

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

I do reciprocate. I once bought an item on TF2. Granted, it was the cheapest item of the store, during a sale, so it was like 10 cents, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Pibet
Pibet

I started playing LOL after my PS3 got YLOD, I enjoy playing the game a lot and really don't mind paying to get a champ or a skin what I would pay to get coffee. I not rich by any means, just don't think is such a big deal if you get good entertainment out of your money.

jackmojo1
jackmojo1

Very well done, Cam.  This could have been an extraordinarily compelling 10-part series.  In fact, I think you have the bones of a fantastic full-length feature documentary on your hands here.  Flesh it out by including many of Facebook's free-to-play games, find some real big-spenders and all.   I get that one person does not a blockbuster prediction make, but I'd shell out $10 to see a flick about this.  I did for Fistful of Quarters, and this is vastly more fascinating than a couple of whiny gamers trying to get a high score in Donkey Kong.

InkOnTube
InkOnTube

Gotta feeling as this is meant to be present f2p model as something really bad. Almost as if LoL's success is real pain for those who don't like f2p model. And nobody talks about percentage of people who pay something in the game vs those who never pay. This video is made that if somebody start playing some f2p game or LoL - it will ultimately twist your brain and make you spend money on it without control. Why never talk about people who never pay in f2p and their % in the player base of that game? What is the percentage of players that payed only once some small amount? 

srtfrostbite
srtfrostbite

Why in the world did I take this long to check this show? Simply amazing research and great presentation.

maitkarro
maitkarro

I just realized, about the currency thing, that the Europe Union is basically doing the same thing, the result is the same.

yurito000
yurito000

Interesting. I play LoL, but I haven't spent a single penny on it. It's just fun! To the people who do spend on this game, thanks for keeping LoL alive haha.

lary22
lary22

Nice video! Good job!

Machess
Machess

Great show! Conspicuous consumption is indeed the driving force for loads of F2P models. I also notice a emerging market in payed beta testing as well. 

Lord_Asmodeus
Lord_Asmodeus

Love your videos... really do. Please don't stop... but I think this conversation is probably 10 years above your average audience. 

obikwan03
obikwan03

Love this show, keep it up Cam

shantd
shantd

Great stuff as always Cam. Love the extend to which you research this stuff. PS - Recipcrocity makes the world go round, but I question whether it's the driving force behind free-to-play purchases. Whether it's right or wrong, gamers simply never feel like they owe developers anything. Even if they're playing for free, the urge to repay the developers simply doesn't enter into their thinking...at least not for the vast majority. I believe it's more simple. You get a million people playing ANY game, there will always be a small dedicated percentage that make regular purchases. You mentioned "vanity purchases". Well, vanity will always come before empathy.

IRONROGER300
IRONROGER300

can someone tell me the piano music they use in every video, IT´S SO GOOD

Act_Chill
Act_Chill

I have been playing since release and I havent bought anything and have earned enough points to unlock all but the season 3 champs. I must be a bastard who doesnt feel like returning the favor. I just take the free item and run...

jjm957
jjm957

Some great insights and very well explained. Makes me question why I've spend so much time watching videos with one company slamming the other over their "inferior" product, game, or concept. Need more videos like this.

xboxbilly05
xboxbilly05

I have spent around £300 on lol over a year and 6 months. So I have spend £17 a month on this game. 

I have played 3223 games, average game-time of 24.44mins. This comes to 77 days, or 2.5 hours of playing LoL every day for the past 1.5 years.

I don't totally understand why I was hooked, but before lol I played Fifa to probably the same extent. Mabye something to do with insecurity, trying to show yourself that you are better than others. A winning mentality. Winning is always satisfying. It's a way for an easy win, when at this moment in my life I am pretty bumbed. Unemployed and nothing to do.

With regards the the video I experienced these feelings. Although the main reason I bought skins were because I got a really good feeling when buying them just like good clothes, and I when deciding on whether to buy it or not I would try to use the "well I guess they deserve my money" because I was "worn down".

When I think of all the games I could have played instead of LoL it make me feel sick. I could have bought a decent gfx card and quite a collection of games.

Now I got myself back into university and it starts in a week. I was playing LoL for fun the other day trying to get into the "platinum league" and get a cool border that I could show off to all the other players. I was only 2 games away and after 3223 games, I never thought I'd reach this rating. However I found myself getting p###d off as usual. With my life back together I found it easy to decide that the stress isn't worth the bother, that LoL no longer controlled me. (The quote from Tyler in Fight Club "your possessions end up owning you", I put so much effort and money I wanted to keep playing even at the loss of my own health, stress) I uninstalled the game. I've done it before and reinstalled it the next week. But now that I have uni to look forward too, or even if it was a new job, it replaces my need for a "easy win" feeling from games.

This week after uninstalling LoL I borrowed my sisters console and played TLOU and Bioshock Infinite. I didn't even consider for the past 1.5 years playing any other game than LoL because of the "easy win" feeling. I was low, depressed and felt weak and turned to LoL to get me through this bad time in my life. Now that I sorted my real life out I can enjoy it agian, and play real games again. When I played these two AAA games before I got bored and wanted to play LoL because I didn't get the same rush. But now I could really take my time and enjoy these games. Two of the best games I have played in my life. And now with GTA5 coming out I am going to really appreciate it.


The feels.


sir_inverno
sir_inverno

You can buy power in lol btw. It is a pay to win game.

Berkut4796
Berkut4796

Talking about this stuff with free to play games is rather interesting. I would imagine that the psychological tendencies mentioned in this seires, should they be valid, would also apply to micro-transactions in pay to play games as well. When you start getting into larger purchasing blocks, like DLC or the oh so rare expansion pack, I would think that these sorts of things begin to apply less. With less continuous purchasing opportunities, and less opportunity for reciprocity (the game isn't free and gifts are less likely), the influence these have is likely reduced. It would be interesting to see more on whether there is a gradient of influence of these potential factors as you go from whole game purchases to the free-to-play model, as well as if other variables may be involved.

stoods
stoods

@FastAce My brother unfortunately did the opposite and spent almost £100, however this was linked to his depression.

lingo56
lingo56

@Pibet But you don't get entertainment :3 Unless you enjoy people saying something about you skin, which I assume doesn't happen too often.

Superhands88
Superhands88

@InkOnTube 


People regularly do talk about the % of paying players. Currently it is generally accepted to be around 5% of a player base are paying players. This is not necessarily a negative thing though, as non-paying players enhance the game world for everyone, and thus indirectly contribute to the revenue of a game.


I would expect that in the near future this 5% will slowly rise as players begin to value thhe IAPs offered, and the negative stigma attached to F2P games fades.


This is, however, of course dependent on the developers/publishers and they're approach to monetizing their F2P games.

GrahamZ
GrahamZ

@InkOnTube  

I didn't detect any kind of moral judgement, and I tend to prefer subscription games.

The phrase 'twist your brain' indicates to me that the moral judgement is all on you.  There's a difference between smart marketing and dishonest marketing.  There's no indication at all that the guy doing the video is talking about any kind of dishonest behavior, just smart marketing.  There is a huge difference.  Smart marketing, for example, is showing two items for sale next to one another, the first quite expensive and way overpriced.  People then perceive that the second item is more of a bargain than they would normally.  That's opposed to marketing techniques like 'Bait and Switch' which also exploit psychology, but are completely dishonest.  The first is smart marketing, the second is a con game.

I'd say that the point of this isn't that the makers of F2P games have any kind of moral deficit, but that people who spend too much may on those games may want to examine their spending habits.  Remember that it's a choice.

shantd
shantd

@IRONROGER300- Are you talking about the piece at the end of the video? If so, it's called "Way Up High", off the audio network. Only reason I know is because, like you, I asked the same question in a comment and Cam replied. Was always curious how he found it. It is a gorgeous piece, but there is no piano. Strings & either bells or (more likely) a celesta or something in that family of instruments. Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSx9nDwbD_w

godonholiday
godonholiday

@Act_Chill but you havent run? You still play right? So the game population still looks high, others see the community, hear about those who spend nothing and play.. the reality is that your 'success' story helps drive more to the game.. and from that group, some will pay to catch up :)

noah364
noah364

I loved this episode, but I think I enjoyed your little memoir even more. Short but inspiring.

iskeethunters
iskeethunters

@sir_inverno No. You can't buy "power". You can simply unlock champions and runes faster by spending money, but you can also unlock the same things by playing. Unlocking things faster doesn't mean you are overpowered. You do not buy items in the actual matches or anything like that. 

Act_Chill
Act_Chill

@sir_inverno You can buy champs which can be over powered at times. You can also buy runes and such, but if you play long enough all of this is free. So you are only right when talking about players with low amounts of games played...

iskeethunters
iskeethunters

@sir_inverno It's quite a good, fun and addictive game. If people want to spend a little money on it, then why not? I mean you're playing a game that could be worth anywhere between 30 and 60 dollars for free. 

simon1812
simon1812

@lingo56 no, u pay to have a look u like, whatever others have to say about it is irrelevant.

ChocoboFangirl
ChocoboFangirl

@lingo56 That's the thing though - you're assuming wrongly, depending on who you're talking to. My brother's been playing League for a number of years with the same group of people, all high-paying skin buyers. (We'll classify high-paying skin buyers as people who bought more in skins than a whole new game costs). They DO mention skins often, comment on other people's skins, have their skins commented on by strangers and even size up their opponents based on their skins or lack of them. Skins are a huge part of the metagame for people who aren't already playing Ranked often because it's the main indicator of commitment and experience with a particular champion. Skins inspire confidence in teammates who would otherwise scream noob at you for dissenting from their opinions. Skins legitimately worry the opponents, who tally up how many of their players are experienced versus yours based on them. Especially if you're playing A-RAM and still have some to work with even though your resets are in the stratosphere because you have every damn champ. I've never seen a level 30 game where nobody ponied up for a skin on either team.

InkOnTube
InkOnTube

@GrahamZ @InkOnTube Then why nothing good is said about it?

This way while some player want to be noticed and others a like spend money, they help others who can't afford to play with them by founding the developers to work more on the game. 

While players do play LoL a lot, they don't have to play it every day and still their account will be maintained. In other words, all you have to do is to play one game per year and Riot will keep your account with all unlocked heroes and masteries. Why that is not mentioned? They can save their server capacity by simply deleting all player history if player don't play often - but no. All they ask is one played game per year.

Why it is not mentioned that game can be tried by anyone in full without spending a dime and if players don't like it - can leave the game without any obligation. Or they can continue playing the game again without any obligation. In contrast to subscription games where player usually has to purchase the game and then to spend money on subscription.

F2P model that is presented in LoL and many other MOBA games is quite in favor of players. Yet such model demand "game of big numbers" to be profitable which LoL and DOTA2 have. 

Cam in video didn't said anything bad directly and of course he won't. The message is sublime as if the entire game is evil and tease players for money with tricks but represent itself as pretty princess just because there are items to spent real money on.

Finally, GameSpot itself is free.

lingo56
lingo56

@ChocoboFangirl @lingo56 Well you missed the word "Assume". I play dota 2 instead of LoL and almost no one talks about cosmetics in Dota 2. In every skill level people just ignore skins and focus only on the gameplay.

strongdoctor
strongdoctor

@InkOnTube @GrahamZ You perceive him as evil for presenting the truth and what very likely causes F2P success.

" The message is sublime as if the entire game is evil and tease players for money with tricks but represent itself as pretty princess just because there are items to spent real money on."

 No it didn't. You're just being ridiculous.

jackmojo1
jackmojo1

@InkOnTube @GrahamZ Nothing good said about something does not immediately mean something bad.  Maybe Cam should do an episode on the mob psychology of GS "commenters."  

Anyway, your interpretation may very well be valid, but it's an illogical jump to conclude that nothing good said about something means that it's bad.

The most negative thing I believe that Cam said was "jealous [about other people's skin purchases in League of Legends]."  Jealous is most definitely a negatively connotative word choice.  Perhaps, "envious" might have been a more benign choice.

Arklite61
Arklite61

@InkOnTube @GrahamZ I think he didn't talk about the stuff you mentioned because it wasn't related to the video topic.  All he was discussing was why free to play actually works as a business model works because it is a little counter-intuitive.