Free to play MMO games are all the rage right now and sometimes people who are not too familiar with massively multiplayer online games will ask the question: “How can this be free?” or maybe “What’s the catch?”
The answer is that yes, these MMORPG games are indeed free to play (F2P). They use a “fremium” business model to make money. The term “freemium” is a combination of the words “free” and “premium.” This is a type of business that has both free and premium (paid) content.
The free stuff is given away for users. If they find they like it and want more, then they have the option to buy expansions, upgrades, extras, and the like.
Freemium is not just for MMO games, it also applies to many other online businesses and it is recognized as a good way to get new customers.
For example, take free website hosting. Many free website hosts used to put ads on the free websites to make money but nowadays this has gone out of style. With no ads, how do free hosting companies make money? They get revenue from people who like the basic free web hosting but want to get some upgrades. Basically, they have free and premium hosting packages.
Free to Play MMO Games
F2P MMOGs operate on a similar principle. Players can download the games and play them for free as long as they like. This is different from free trials where there is a time limit. Premium content differs depending on the game. Here are some of the most popular variants:
Item Shop – this is a store where items need to be bought with real life money. Players use their credit card or Paypal to buy points or coins which they can spend on the item shop. The things which they can buy can be vanity items (different hairstyles, better-looking clothes for their character, special animation effects, etc.) or useful items they can use in the game to their advantage.
Expansions – this is a pay as you go business model where players can buy access to more areas, quests, character races, skills and other such content.
Premium Membership – other free to play MMORPGs also offer an option to pay a monthly fee to access premium content.
Combinations of item shop, expansions and membership – some free to play MMO games have a combination of the two types.
Freemium MMORPG Games – Criticisms and Complaints
If you go to any MMO games forums, there will often be some people who complain that “these games are not really free” because there are some parts of the games which players need to pay to access.
The fact of the matter is that F2P has become very popular these day because it works. People are hesitant to pay money right away to access a game when they don’t even know if they want to play it. Free games give the option to play for free as long as the player wants. If the player ever decides to buy premium content, he or she can pick and choose what to pay for and when. It’s a very flexible type of payment scheme compared to pay to play games.
It’s especially good for casual players who can simply choose to play for free and never pay for anything. Most F2P MMORPG games have a good mixture of both completely free players and those who spend money on the game.
Hardcore but erratic players can also benefit from free to play MMORPGs that have a “pay as you go” type of model. For example, if a player has a lot of free time then he can spend money on the game then if he stops playing a lot then he can just play for free during those times. With paid games that have a flat monthly fee, he would have to keep on paying if he wants to play even if his playing time drastically decreases.
Free to play is the most popular type of game there is. Facebook games, to give just one example, are all free to play but items and upgrades can be bought with FB credits. This is good for both players and game developers. Players can play great games for free while game developers can make a lot of money (Farmville has made millions of dollars) from their game.
To illustrate, check out this list of the Top 5 Free MMORPGs 2011.
Free to Play MMO Games: Conclusion
Freemium is a popular business model that is often used for online businesses that offer both free and premium content. Free MMORPGs use this model to attract new players to the game and then earn money from upgrades. Players like F2P because they can play for free forever. It’s a win-win situation for everyone concerned as you can see if you visit this list of the Best Free MMORPG Games List.