F2P is simply a shortened and slightly stylized version of Free to Play.  The name is actually a little misleading.  The games are playable for free, but are usually not complete or have been made less playable until they are paid for.  This payment is usually made in a series of micro transactions.  F2P operates on the assumption that these tiny amounts of money, over time, could add up to far more than any normal game would ever cost.  This innovative type of monetization does not only affect the players.  From the developer to the gamer; all levels of video game industry have experienced the effects of F2P.

Before F2P

Before F2P, there was only a onetime purchase price.  The marketing department advertised the game and anyone who wanted to play paid that upfront fee.  But now, games have become much more expensive to make.  The companies behind them have sought out new ways to monetize games.  Along the way, someone decided to release a game for free and then charge for extra content.  The idea was simply that most players would be drawn in by the offer of free content, but that some gamers would want to be more powerful, or experience more, than the rest and pay for upgrades.  In this way, a small percentage of gamers would invest large sums of money to effectively pay the bill for the other gamers that they are striving to be better than. This caused a great deal of strain on the developer.

Are F2P Games Fun?

The developers were handed the task of making the games addictive but tedious.  Once the gamer was addicted, they would casually play the game on a daily basis.  F2P games were made slightly tedious so that gamers would eventually want a way to make the game more enjoyable.  They would find time saving items or powerups for sale, for real world currency. Game developers were divided on this subject.  Some saw a new way to make copious amounts of money.  Some of the more purist developers thought that they were making their games less fun just to make an extra dollar.  This poses a problem for some game developers because they are gamers as well and seek only to provide an enjoyable gaming experience.  The conflict continues as developers struggle to balance this new way of making money while making a fun to play game.  Unfortunately, developers are not just at odds with each other, some gamers have also been quite vocal against F2P creators.

Play to Pay

Gamers have been having a fairly mixed experience.  Most who have played F2P games have never complained about the slightly annoying nudges to pay for something.  They simply ignore the advertisements and trudge on until the game loses its appeal.  The relatively small demographic of gamers who actually do pay for power-ups or to access new content can sometimes get a little out of hand.  Those rare gamers who cannot control their spending habits are called “whales.”  Some even seem to exhibit many of the same self-destructive traits as compulsive gamblers.  There are even a few who have spent their rent money on trivial purchases in a game.  There is a vocal minority of gamers who resent the advantages that paying players have.  These advantages are very real, but most games attempt to balance out the game to ensure fairness.  There is also a smaller group who rail against the developers for having employed the F2P type of monetization.  They believe that games will continue to be released in smaller and smaller fragments.  Effectively making the games unplayable until there is some form of payment.

F2P is here to Stay

Each and every facet of the game industry has been changed slightly thanks to the effects of F2P.  Most of the industry has yet to decide whether or not this new system of generating revenue is a good thing.  Free to Play has, however, has proven to be a very marketable.  Even large video game companies have begun to turn their sights towards F2P in an effort to improve profits.  This new monetization strategy is gaining momentum and shows no signs of going away anytime soon.