English-language free-to-play market to grow to $2B by 2015 - Study

DFC Intelligence report indicates better broadband, acceptance of digital content will lead to explosive growth in online, microtransaction-based gaming.

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Online role-playing games in the East have for some years now embraced the free-to-play, microtransaction-supported business model. Within the past couple of years, Western game developers have also begun to recognize the system's benefits, as top online RPGs such as Everquest II, Dungeons and Dragons Online, and Lord of the Rings Online have all made overtures toward the free-to-play model.

Everquest II is the latest major Western online RPG to experiment with free-to-play gaming.
Everquest II is the latest major Western online RPG to experiment with free-to-play gaming.

According to a new report by market research firm DFC Intelligence, the free-to-play model is poised for explosive growth over the next five years in the West. By DFC's accounting, the market for English language, client-based free-to-play games on the PC stood at roughly $250 million in 2009, and the firm believes that figure will grow to $2 billion by 2015.

DFC believes a primary cause for this projected exponential growth is a proliferation of broadband Internet connections in North America and Europe. Currently, downloading large clients from which to run the game can be a lengthy and unwieldy process that many Western consumers are unwilling to undertake, DFC said.

Notably, the market research firm's report indicates that the fastest download speeds can be found in South Korea, Romania, Japan, and Sweden. South Korea, which is home to online game companies such as Nexon, is particularly well suited to online gaming, as eight of the top 12 download-speed cities are located in the Asian nation.

"For many Korean companies, the market in North America has not taken off nearly as fast as they expected," commented DFC analyst Insun Yoon. "Much of this can be attributed to the immature infrastructure and a lack of established payment and service mechanisms. The good news is that this is starting to change and consumers are starting to realize that the game play of top high-end [free-to-play] games can be quite sophisticated."

One other factor leading to increased revenue from the English-language free-to-play segment is consumers' increasing acceptance of purchasing digital content, especially with the use of prepaid retail cards. DFC notes that by the end of 2010, English-language free-to-play games will have a combined total of 128 million registered users.

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Inconnux

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I use to play EQ2 when it came out and returned to its FtoP beta. Not bad, of course most of the good classes are for sale, and having a pop up ad during a fight is not cool.

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insanitycheck6

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Pretty sweet if they release more for the iPad

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atopp399

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The good games that are worth playing will still be sub based and I am fine by that. The maturity level drops dramatically when games go F2P. And WoW isn't as bad as it is made out to be. The forums are a little immature but once you are in game it isn't as bad and is similar to any other MMO I have played back to Everquest: Ruins of Kunark. That has been my experience anyway.

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Doom64

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[This is in regards to the primary topic and not any user related post] Don't tell people this stuff man. Blizzard will catch on and ruin wow even more then they already have just to make it F2P.

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stocko2k

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ive tried a few f2p mmo's some good some terrible, if the west is to jump on board with micro transactions i think they would be better off if they made it so that you didnt HAVE to pay to get that +700 sword of kill you all, make it so that hard work will still get you the item it will just take you some time and for people that dont want to play for 20hrs to get the weapon/armour/spell/mount can pay thier way to it. the game will make money off the people who dont like to wait, where as people like me get to play without only getting a fraction of the game, and i'm sure i would buy a few items along the way too

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MuffintopX

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I've tried a handful of these korean mmorpg free games they are addicted to. Questless hack and slash grind fests.

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Gruug

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If you spend money ON a game or IN a game....IT IS NOT FREE TO PLAY.

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gonzalezj1

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The reason free-to-play gaming isn't bigger in the West is because all our free-to-play games (with the exception of Guild Wars) are just old pay-to-play games. Everquest II, Dungeons and Dragons Online, and Lord of the Rings Online are all OLD games. If we had some NEW games come out that were free-to-play, those games would do better than these 5 year old, recycled games. It's hard to create buzz for a game that's been losing market share for a few years.

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Shanks_D_Chop

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Yes, that's a point I'm picking up from reading other's comments. What happened to good old fashioned expansions? Proper ones? The likes of Tribunal and Bloodmoon for Morrowind, Lord of Destruction for Diablo 2, every Age of Empires had an expansion at some point. And it would cost half the price and give the game a new breath of life. Games publishers seem, to me, to be populated with moron CEOs who don't give a damn about customer satisfaction and providing high quality entertainment.

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Mariner32

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And that's why Guild Wars remains one of the best MMOs in my mind.

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Shanks_D_Chop

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A MMORPG which didn't have a subscription fee... sounds good, I'd play that. BUT! I've played games that rely on microtransactions and they SUCK. You feel like you're only getting half the game until you start spending extra. I dunno, I understand that MMORPGs have, apparently, tons of content and they need to make money somehow. But once I've paid for the game at the store, I don't think it's right for them to turn around and ask for another £20 or £30 to get the good stuff.

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deathemperor3rd

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The "Eastern" has been successful with this for 5 years now and the Western has just started

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mrzero1982pt2

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if it is free to play, how is it making money? heh. ok, but in all seriousness, if activision wants me to get back on world of warcraft, make it free. then a lot of people would jump on and see what all the hubbub is about. i liked my 1 month trial, if it was free, i would go back

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FoeCrusher

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DDO online the only F2P I have tried is really great. I have played if far longer than WOW (also great), AOC (a dud when it came out but I hear it is better now), Warhammer (Everybody disappeared after 2 months) and Fallen Earth (different and worth a try). The only thing I spend my money on are content packs everything else is either unlockable or wont have any play balance issues at all. It is really well implemented and has even caused their subscription base to increase. I think a lot of the concerns of people will not pan out as people will gravitate to F2P games which handle mircotransactions better. Having said that I don’t underestimate corporate creativity when it comes to fleecing the public nor underestimate the publics willingness to be fleeced.

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blueness

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eriktkire speaks the truth. F2P online games with their sad little micro-transaction stores are pathetic. Charging $xx for armor/clothing/potions... just tragic. I don't doubt there is a market for them, but the players are not those of the typical MMO games who will very quickly start to take their monthly subscriptions elsewhere.

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mellow09

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TerrorRizzing

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league of legends, quake live, dungeons & dragons online, wolfenstein ET, alien swarm, are some of the best free to play games right now. I sense many more are coming.

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Serentor

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man, f2p is so uncommon now adays. i dont know who started it, but i hope they snap back out of their money greeding business. but probably wont. i just recently played guild wars 1 again, but i was shocked to actually realize that this great game is f2p, no fees. how sad is that? *btw i knew its f2p, just dunno how to explain* what happened to gaming *cry* =(

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supdotcom

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id like f2p games which the only items you can get at cash shops are cosmetic items.

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protonian87

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naa... i prefer the subscription option.. i have all content it in and just playing to get it. and at the same time, playing my character and master it. Not just buying it all way throu and suck at your gameplay, cause you doesn't know how to play your very own character. that a shame.. lol

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fLaMbOaStiN

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I guess what im trying to say is don't buy into the cash shop horror storys.. some f2p mmo's are great (especially if you're into world pvp as it seems only f2ps offer that now-a-days) and can save you a lot in sub fee's.. HOTK is awsome and one of the best pvp games i played.

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fLaMbOaStiN

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For a long time i stood clear of f2p MMO's hearing horror storys of being forced out of $100's and $100's of dollars for virtual items just to meet the next lvl cap or do the next quest.. And as addicted as i get to my video games if i like a game good enough i'll find myself pouring money into it if need be.. But tbh this last week i tried my first f2p MMO and i'am already hooked.. I've realized how much money i've spent into p2p MMO's and how little i actually stuck with em.. I spent $110 for WoW+Expansions+Game card and played less then 3 weeks! I jus bought Fallen Earth a month ago and i got bored after my 14day trial (awsome game jus no pvp.) So i was desperate, about to go back to AION (yeah that desperate) when one of my ex-guildies i txt got me into Heroes of Three Kingdoms.. Since HOTK is a F2P initially i wasn't even planning on giving it a shot.. But i was bored and broke and figured why not.. The game has been a delight since the get go, and i have actually purchased items on the cash shop myself heh.. But HOTK's cash shop is nothing like the horror storys i've seen.. It is COMPLETLEY optional, only thing worth buying would be the fashion, and that's exactly what i bought.. I bought a beginners pack for $20 which included all the stuff i need till end-game.. But even w/o the pack i could get by all it does is change my looks.. The most game changeing item i saw was a 2 hour double xp orb that was like 25cents lol..

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drig44

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One of the reasons I like Subscription based MMOs more is it keeps out a lot (not all) of the idiots Most of the people playing are serious about it and not just people looking for some fun game to play just because it is free. I'd rather pay 15 dollars a month for a game and get all the content rather then have to pay for a whole bunch of little things that will end up costing me more then 15 dollars a month. At the very least, there should always be a 15 dollar a month option for everything.

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Pete5506

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Only free to play to look into is Guild Wars

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KamuiFei

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Most Free-to play games become a boring grind. The only MMO that did it right was Guild Wars imo. They made REAL expansions that made it worthwhile to get. And I agree with Tauu, subscription based MMOs generally are better in terms of gameplay, stability and especially content.

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Tauu

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These games will always be inferior to subscription based MMOs like the upcoming FFXIV.

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FarmFreshDX

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The problem with microtransaction driven games is that the people who value their money get screwed. The people who have money to blow (and end up spending more than a subscription game would cost) get so many advantages over users who choose to not pay that they gain a huge ego and make all the other people feel cheated. Does that feel like a fun game? Even with purely cosmetic stuff, if I see somebody with something I want for my character, I should be able to earn it for myself and not plop down $10 for it. Isn't half the thrill of showing off rare items the fact that you did something to earn it?

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Barighm

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Oh, goody. This goes to show that the "pay to play" model is starting to lose steam. You buy a game, you should be able to play the game. If you want to spend more money you can buy conveniences (say, skip the gear drive and buy high end gear so you can start raiding right away; not better than everyone else, just good enough to skip a step), aesthetics (OMG you're riding a glowing horse!), or services (when did you become a girl??).

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Poodger

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This actually seems accurate to me. I just recently started play League of Legends, which is free to play, but gains money from buying things in the store.

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stakex007

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I have said for years that Free-To-Play with microtransaction is the future of MMOs. Its simple logic that a person whos playing you're game, even for free, has a 100% higher chance of spending money on you're game through micro trans, then someone whos not playing you're game at all.The only real challange is making the micro transaction useful enough to entice people to use it, but not so useful as to seriouslly punish those who don't to the point where there is no point in playing. That was my problem with Shot Online... if you didn't spend a fortune of real money on the game it was jokingly impossible to compeat with those who did in what was suppose to be a skill based game.

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green_dominator

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I think all gaming should bee free to play, MMO or not. What I mean is if companies are going to charge $60.00 for games especially if they have multiplayer in them then thay shouldn't be able to hit people up for more. I don't mind buying a game new or used, it makes no difference and I don't mind buying an expansion for a game but I refuse to pay anything over and above what I pay my ISP just to play a stupid game online.

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dtujd2

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I kind of think 2015 will be the tipping point. I think at that point, broadband penetration, bandwidths, and download times will be sufficient to the point that DLC will become the preferred method for buying games as opposed to boxed on-disc titles.

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JLCrogue

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Targzissian

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The fact that an Asian nation has a superior online infrastructure is a sad commentary on our priorities, or perhaps simply our competence at execution of those priorities, here in the USA.

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evilmaster2424

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yay free to play is my kind of game

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okassar

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where's Runescape? LOL anyway, if you guys want f2p, I really suggest League of Legends, amazing online strategy game that never gets old