August 3, 2009

Does an MMO have to cost money to deliver fun?

The MMO industry is split between games where you pay and those that are free. Some are pay to play, with subscriptions and the cost of the game while others are free to play but you still have to buy a license key. Some are freemium where the game is free to buy and play but you enhance it with micro-transactions using cold, hard cash.

Over the last year, the internet has been positively flooded by hundreds of free-to-play MMOs from Evony to Runes of Magic. While small fry compared to the likes of EVE, WoW and City of Heroes, they have their own playerbases, their own (albeit smaller) legions of fans who are as just as devoted to their MMO as any other fan is to their chosen title. But does a game that is free automatically make it worse than something you pay good money for?

It's true there's no such thing as a free lunch, after all many of the MMOs I've played have graphics and lore which cannot hold a candle flame to the big titles but does that make them less worthy of your devotion? Take China for example, there there are millions of people hooked on their particular genre of computer game, still somewhat niche here in the west, and not all of them, it seems, play WoW. There are dozens of oriental-themed games, of which Perfect World is probably the best known.

I personally think the key to the popularity of these games is not that you have to pay for them, or even the number of players. Rather it's a little more personal. It's all about having fun. After all, to give you an example, I hate war games like Call of Duty 4 but most of my friends can't get enough of them, COD 4 in particular. They love this title in particular for one simple reason: because for them it's a fun game to play. So it doesn't matter if your MMO of choice is free or paid for, in this case 'good' is definitely solely by the enjoyment factor.

Granted this can be enhanced if a group of friends play together but usually it is much more personal. This is also the important part, it's what you enjoy, not what other people say about the game or even by what score it got in reviews, if it was reviewed at all. If you like a game which has a monthly fee, you will pay the subscription and not begrudge it one iota. Equally, if you want a free game to pass some time which might not have the same graphical prowess or complex encounters, and yet you enjoy it. That's just as viable.

Yes free MMOs might be a dime a dozen but that doesn't mean they should all be disregarded as innately terrible. Indeed if you're looking for free fun, it might be worth giving some a go. After all, what are you going to lose?
Tags: city-of-heroes, editorial, eve-online, free-to-play, freemium, freemium-mmo, opinion-piece, perfect-world, perfect-world-international, subs-based-mmo, subscription, subscriptions, world-of-warcraft

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