How Free To Play Games Took Over


Some games, such as Fortnite, as well as Apex Legends, offer the ability to pay for cosmetics, which look cool, but don’t actually add anything to the game. On the other, we have games like Clash Royale, which allows you to spend real world money to unlock boxes or in game currency. Something you’d do without paying, but requires way more grinding. It’s not always that seamless, however.

We’ve all heard horror stories of people addicting to apps like Candy Crush or Pokemon GO, if you’re Matt, Josh, or Jimmy. However, if you’re not careful, players can sink hundreds, if not thousands, into a game, but you can play and win a lot with online casino real money review website. On Pokemon GO alone, players worldwide spend around two million dollars per day. That’s a lot of Pokeballs.

An entire generation of gamers grew up playing simple and free flash games, and before that, games such as Doom were readily available as shareware, but free-to-play is a little different. Games like RuneScape were one of the first titles to really divide between free and paying players. In 2002, they introduced a five dollar monthly membership, which included quite a bit of extra content that wasn’t available in the free version, including a larger map as well as exclusive items. Other games in the 2000’s such, as Counter-Strike Online, solidified the business model by introducing the idea of virtual currency to purchase things in game.

Now this is a fundamental part of many free-to-play games today. You can earn currency in-game by grinding, but generally it is far easier, if not basically required, to spend real world money to get that sweet new gun or skin. The free-mium model that we’re all familiar with really took off with League of Legends in the late 2000’s, reaching over 100 million monthly active players. Now, if you’re watching this video, you’re probably familiar with just how massive League is. The tournaments alone drive tens of thousands of in-person fans, with prizes in the millions of dollars.

Now, it’s all based on a free game that you’re encouraged to spend real money on for your favorite champions and skins. A lot of people have a bad perception of free-to-play, but there’s no denying that it is a massive segment of the gaming market. I mean, I know I used to spend hours and hours playing StarCraft II, a game that in large part kicked off esports as we know them today. The biggest difference between StarCraft and League though, was the business model. Starcraft cost 60 dollars, where League was free.

It should be no surprise that back in 2017, a full seven years after release, Blizzard finally gave up and spun the multi-player component out of StarCraft into a free-to-play version with to good old favorite micro-transactions. Yay. A more recent example is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, better known as PUBG. Now this popularized the red hot battle royale genre, but all it took was a little game called Fortnite, which had languished in development hell for years, to introduce their own fast-paced version for free and it absolutely exploded. Though when you say free-to-play today, most people really do think of mobile.

Now, sure, games such as Fortnite and PUBG have surprisingly competent portable versions, but some of the biggest money makers are still mobile exclusives. Companies such as Supercell–the makers of Clash of Clans, and my dirty little secret, Clash Royale–make huge money. In 2016, they were averaging over 5 million dollars a day, and the company itself is valued at ten billion dollars.

Now that is comparable to the parent company of Rockstar. The makers of those mega blockbusters like Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto. Mobile is often times where the scummier aspects of free-to-play come to light. When you consider that most free-mium games only have a very small percentage of their player base that ever even spend a dollar in the first place, it doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly. If you spend money on a free-to-play game, you’re likely to spend upward of $80 a year. And in some cases, people spend hundreds!

Then you hear stories of people who spend thousands, which is just kind of sad. Though it is easy to blame people for wasting money, if you look at how a lot of these games work, they very much play up the almost casino-like aspects which can absolutely become addicting. Now it is so easy to look at this kind of stuff and point to the wave of sometimes pretty garbage free-to-play games as ruining gaming as we all know it, but, in this day where Apex Legends can surprise launch and still get millions of players literally overnight thanks to those platforms like Twitch and YouTube, you can’t deny that this is a huge part of the future of gaming. Now if you’d like a slightly more fun story, definitely go check out our episode on how Nintendo accidentally created the PlayStation and thank you so much for watching this episode of This Is. Make sure to subscribe and ring that notification bell because if you don’t, Matt will lose his Pokemon GO budget.