From Skinner Box to Slot Machine, the rise of F2P

I get annoyed when I read this kind of thing about how wonderful free to play is and how it’s the future of online multiplayer gaming. Yeah so I used to run a free to play commercial game, but more on that in another post maybe.

The Massively article talks about how Turbine successfully integrated a free to play model into both DDO and LOTRO. This is all well and good for tacking a cash shop onto an existing title, but things are going to get ugly when F2P becomes the norm.

Despite what Paiz says about “quality gameplay and engagement”, a game built from the ground up to be F2P has different design goals from a subscription game.

Expect to see developers using ever more sophisticated tools that track your playing and spending habits, with the game design tweaked accordingly. This iterative metric driven approach to design is part of what makes companies like Zynga so successful.

Keeping people playing and keeping them paying are not the same thing. Indeed, making them pay as much as you can before they leave for the next game might be a more profitable strategy.

We used to be concerned about reinforcement in MMOs but now these techniques are no longer used simply to keep us playing (and therefore subscribing) but to part us from our cash as fast as possible.

Your MMO Skinner box has now become a slot machine. Progress indeed.

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