Free-2-Play VS Pay-2-Play: The MMORPG Debate
MMORPGs have taken the world by storm in the last 15-20 years. With gamers introduced to a variety of sub-genres, the world remains divided between two main payment models of these games;
The pay to play model which usually requires players to pay a subscription fee to play the game and the free-to-play model where players aren’t required to pay anything but are usually faced with a plethora of micro-transactions (how else is the game company going to make money?).
Some games require an upfront purchase of the game without any need for game-time subscription whatsoever, and other games are truly completely free-to-play. I spent a great deal of my gaming time in World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment’s lovechild of an MMORPG, and although I haven’t had the time to play other MMORPGs in-depth, I’ll explore the model of pay-to-play. The pay-to-play model should never be confused with pay-to-win, as the money WoW players set aside per month is used to gain access to the world itself, essentially to play the game. Free-to-play MMORPGs tend to incorporate a pay-to-win system to allow players who are willing to spend additional money to get better at the game or to gain advantage in the said game.
I’ve always seen games and e-sports as an alternate reality if I were to be to be dramatic. World of Warcraft and MMORPGs, to me serve as an alternate world we can log in, assume the role of powerful characters that are free to do whatever they want in the world, without having our reallife circumstances or assets giving anyone an advantage. Players start as a level 1 character, and in a typical pay-to-play model, it doesn’t matter if you’re a student struggling with student loans or a billionaire managing an business empire. We all play the same game, on level ground. Sure, an argument can be made that in the case of World of Warcraft, you can buy gold through official means such as Blizzard tokens, but don’t be quick to jump to conclusions. Gold in World of Warcraft is only useful in equipment repairs, profession gains, potions, flasks and consumables.
Yes yes I know there is an auction house, but items sold there pale greatly in comparison to the items that are dropped in high-level dungeons and raids. That is what sums up my point. You can
throw a million dollars into the game, that doesn’t regard you or gain you recognition as a highlevel, high-skilled player. The pay-to-play model in MMORPGs also gates the types of players that play a certain game.
I usually use nightlife and clubs as an analogy. Clubs have different demographics of people due to how much they charge for cover charges, drinks and sofas. Like it or not, the blunt truth holds that money and maturity has a very, very loose relationship since young kids aren’t financially equipped to shell out a monthly fee to play the game. Hence, games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV which require a monthly subscription fee do feature a slightly older and supposedly mature demographic. Sure you get the occasional rich young one, but in my years of playing WoW at least, these are rare and few.
For a person like me who sees the environment and the player base of a game as great importance, I find that pay-to-play models of games have kept me engaged, providing a fair ground for players to put their skills to the test in when competing with the best of the best. I’m pretty sure I’ll quit WoW entirely if the game goes free-to-play. The player base and overall environment will change drastically. WoW wouldn’t feel the same anymore.
Do you share the same views as me? Let us know what you think!
Ilhammi enjoys the stealth and racing genre (particularly drifting) in his video games. While he enjoys being stealthy in his games, this contrasts his real-life demeanor of being an outgoing, extroverted individual who enjoys deep conversations about technology, the gaming industry and more.