Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A word on Freemium

It's been a while since I last posted, so let's talk about Freemium today, the freemium marketing/distribution method as it pertains to the video game market that is. A prime example of a Freemium game would be the popular "League Of Legends", the base product is completely free, with either a premium membership available for purchase, or simply items, exp boosters, you name it they can probably find a way to sell it in game. 

Honestly, upon first hearing this my first instinct was to cringe, I don't especially like the idea of being nickled and dimed while I am gaming, but the truth of the matter is that in most cases, the companies that use these marketing methods are just as interested in having you as a return customer as any other gaming company. My experience with League of Legends was extremely positive in terms of the free experience, yes you can spend a few dolalrs and unlock the newer heroes, but the people who choose not to are still able to play those characters through either the weekly assortment of random heroes that all players are able to choose from (ensuring that everyone gets to play the entire roster eventually), or by earning points by completing matches and unlocking the hero that way.

This sucker will run you 25$USD
World of Warcraft recently removed the time period on their free trial offer, essentially making World Of Warcraft a Freemium game now considering that you can pay for in game content using real money through the blizzard store (though nothing that affects the actual game-play, as Blizzard has stated that they do not want players who spend extra money to have a leg up on players who simply pay their monthly subscription)
Another purchasable mount for World Of Warcraft

And of course I'm sure many of us are aware that Valve recently switched Team Fortress 2 to the freemium model, apparently a brilliant marketing move as I haven't seen the servers as full as they are right now in months.

All said, I'm a fan of properly implemented Freemium, whether simply offering more items or powers to players at a fee, or offering a portion of your game for free and gating the rest with a fee, the whole model puts the power in the players hands to decide how big a bite they want to take of the game without having to invest completely right away. Decide you hate the game 10 minutes in? Great, good thing you didn't spend 40-60 dollars at the store for it and are either stuck with it or in the awkward position of driving back and needing to return it. 

There are some dangers inherent in the system that I will talk about in another post, but I think that what's important to take away from this is that the Freemium model itself is not inherently bad, but it has however been abused by several rather large companies in the past and I feel as though that has sort of given it a bad rap.  Anyway folks, that's it for tonight!


  1. If it's reasonable and you only have to pay for things you actually know you want, I like it, myself.

    I'm liking this trend set by TF2 and WoW, I hope it goes further, it could lead to interesting things.

  2. I think it's perfectly acceptable to sell items in game. League of Legends did this the best. You could purchase heroes, runes etc. using points you earn by playing the game. Or, you could buy their tokens and purchase them immediately.

    But many games don't offer this. Champions Online is the best example. Most of the dungeons, all but a handful of heroes, and many of the features must be purchased. There is no alternative. And they aren't cheap either.

    Chris had to pay $15.00 to buy the Engineer. We decided to go run a dungeon because the quests are dreadfully boring copy/paste jobs. And the dungeon we arrived at had to be purchased for $9.00.

    Many 'freemium' MMO's offer advantageous items, like XP boosts, ressurect potions or new classes which can only be purchased via cash shop. Some games even limit the amount of time you can play the game per day (Spiral Knights, for example).

    If it's not a cosmetic item, then you should at least be able to unlock it. Again, League of Legends is a prime example.

    PS: I still wouldn't consider WoW a freemium game. It's just a demo, really. Once you purchase the game, you must pay a monthly subscription. The item shop is just a handful of cosmetic items (I guess throwing that in there goes against all that I've just talked about).

    You get the idea

  3. LOL. Amazing post about the money wasted on WoW. I will never pay anything for that virtual life. Thank you for the encouragement! ;)


  4. I don't have a problem with it when it doesn't affect gameplay.

  5. I love how Blizzard still makes a lot of cash by their shop :D

  6. I think Blizzard would still pull a nice profit even if WoW went free.

  7. Great post, looking forward to the follow up!

  8. looking forward your next post about the dangers hehe

  9. Giving people the possibility of exchanging playtime with their own money is a great way to market your game. People are going to do it, doesn't matter what you offer them.