Free to Play games are games that do not require an initial investment or purchase by players to play. Ranging from Facebook games, such as Farmville, to puzzle games like Candy Crush, to MMO (massively multiplayer online) games which include PlanetSide 2 or Lord of the Rings Online, Free to Play games are downloaded by players who can immediately begin playing.
While players are not required to purchase the game upfront, they are often encouraged to make smaller purchases throughout the game to augment their experience. These purchases are referred to as “micro transactions” as they are typically a small amount. Providing players with increased health, additional gems, or more time, the micro transactions enhance the player’s experience and, therefore, enjoyment of the game.
The Free to Play model first emerged in the early 2000’s with games like Maple Story and RuneScape and now encompasses some of the most played games in the world, including titles like Candy Crush, League of Legends, and DOTA2. As the popularity of mobile gaming grows, more and more games are being built on this payment foundation.
Candy Crush took Facebook and mobile gaming by storm in late 2012. A popular match 3 puzzle game, millions of people globally were seen furiously swiping in an effort to make it to the next level. For those unable to complete the challenge, the option of buying lives, is available – and is one of the most popular in app purchases. In fact, as of July 2013, there were an estimated 6.7 million people playing Candy Crush who were making over $600,000 worth of daily purchases.
League of Legends originally launched in 2009. The game currently has an average of 32 million players monthly and as their tournaments grow, with prize amounts ranging in the millions, the number of players only seems to be gaining popularity.
Not to be outdone, Activision Blizzard, famous for its MMO juggernaut World of Warcraft, is introducing a Free to Play title. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has a launch date later in 2014, and it’s safe to assume this will not be the only big name to launch Free to Play title over the next year.
As more and more companies adopt this strategy, it appears as though the Free To Play business model is not only here to stay, but has a bright future ahead. What new and exciting experiences will this strategy yield? Only time will tell, but we can’t wait to watch it unfold.