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Valve Switching Team Fortress 2 To Free-To-Play Increased Revenue Twelvefold

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the ahh-the-rare-dodecaboost dept.

Businesses 196

An anonymous reader writes "We've frequently discussed the growing trend among video game publishers to adopt a business model in which downloading and playing the game is free, but part of the gameplay is supported by microtransactions. There have been a number of success stories, such as Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online. During a talk at the Game Developers Conference this week, Valve's Joe Ludwig officially added Team Fortress 2 to that list, revealing that the game has seen a 12-fold increase in revenue since the switch. He said, 'The trouble is, when you're a AAA box game, the only people who can earn you new revenue are the people who haven't bought your game. This drives you to build new content to attract new people. There's a fundamental tension between building the game to satisfy existing players and attract new players.' He also explained how they tried to do right by their existing playerbase: 'We dealt with the pay-to-win concern in a few ways. The first was to make items involve tradeoffs, so there's no clear winner between two items. But by far the biggest thing we did to change this perception was to make all the items that change the game free. You can get them from item drops, or from the crafting system. It might be a little easier to buy them in the store, but you can get them without paying.'"

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196 comments

freemium only works on stupid people (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294825)

freemium only works on stupid people... fortunately most people are stupid.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (5, Insightful)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294865)

I only paid like $30 for the Orange Box when it came out. Valve has given me above and beyond my money's worth over the past 4+ years so I have no problem buying a key every so often to pay them back.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (4, Insightful)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294889)

i know this is trying to be a troll but he is correct. the fremium model prey's on the inability of many people to not only add the micro transactions together. but also disrupts how people gauge the 'value' of the product by infusing emotional attachments into the mix.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (-1, Offtopic)

HCase (533294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295087)

Also, only idiots pay anything more than a penny for a humble bundle. /s

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (4, Insightful)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295195)

no the humble indie bundles are 'pay what you want' the fremium model is called fremium because it's nicer then the actual description. 'pay to win'. the fremium model is designed to give those who don't pay a lesser experience then those who willingly ignore simple addition and pay for a weapon here(10 dollars), a perk there (12 dollars), double experience(10 dollars), unlocking classes(15 dollars), etc.

any way, anyone who DOES pay only ONE cent on a 'pay what you want' IS ripping them off. since they are giving you full, unhindered my any sort of these rip off schemes, games. on the good faith you give them a good amount of money. I pay more then the average for linux which in it's self almost always almost double what window's users pay.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (3, Insightful)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295441)

If a game is pay to win, it'll eventually lose it's customer base. You may have noticed that TF2 is explicitly trying not to be pay-to-win. I'm not a user, so I don't know, but at least they are trying. And eventually a functioning model where game designers are encouraged to improve the game while gamers can't just "pay to win" will develop.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (2, Interesting)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295603)

If a game is pay to win, it'll eventually lose it's customer base. You may have noticed that TF2 is explicitly trying not to be pay-to-win. I'm not a user, so I don't know, but at least they are trying. And eventually a functioning model where game designers are encouraged to improve the game while gamers can't just "pay to win" will develop.

TF2 is absolutely pay to win.
The goal of the game is to collect all the hats and useless crap.

I hop on TF2 every once in a while only to find that no one is actually playing TF2. Control points? Intelligence briefcase? The cart? Nope. No one gives a shit about those things. They only care about farming shit and running around like retards.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (2)

LesFerg (452838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296357)

Maybe you are choosing the wrong server. Some server descriptions include words like "achievements server" or "trading server". I don't use them expecting hard out action, I choose other servers. There is most certainly a lot of full on action going on, and play to win usually means support your team to make it win.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (4, Insightful)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296509)

Yeah.

Hats don't help you win.

What you describe isn't a competitive game but a social one -- collecting meaningless bits of fluff that look neat but serve no purpose.

Pay to win implies that forking over money gives you an advantage over players who haven't. Hats confer no such advantage. You just mad.. for some reason I can't even begin to understand.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39296533)

TF2 has unlockable weapons. Some of those weapons are distinctly better than the base weapons, and they in any case give the user who has them more flexibility than the user who doesn't. How is that not the very definition of "pay to win"?

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296623)

Yes, but you also find a good number of weapons just by playing. Yes, I purchased the game before the play to win thing, but I have never purchased any weapons and I routinely score in the top on my team. I'm not even that good of a FPS player.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295477)

any way, anyone who DOES pay only ONE cent on a 'pay what you want' IS ripping them off.

Good. That's the point.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295981)

> > any way, anyone who DOES pay only ONE cent on a
> > 'pay what you want' IS ripping them off.
> Good. That's the point.

Yeah! Fuck charity with their toys for kids and fighting SOPA and shit! I got hats to buy with that money!

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295619)

the fremium model is designed to give those who don't pay a lesser experience then those who willingly ignore simple addition and pay for a weapon here(10 dollars), a perk there (12 dollars), double experience(10 dollars), unlocking classes(15 dollars), etc.

Not if done right. TF2 does it right (I haven't played much since they went F2P, granted): all the classes are unlocked by default. None of the unlockable weapons are overtly more powerful than the defaults. Some are certainly easier to use, or more effective with certain play-styles (or overpowered on certain maps, etc), but all of them have some sort of draw-back for whatever advantage they give, so unlocking a new one is more of a side-ways shift rather than an upwards one. Also, you can unlock everything in TF2 (with 1 or 2 pretty rare exceptions, usually special cosmetic items) just by playing it, so long as you have, at one point in the past, paid any money at all for the game (buying an item or buying the game pre-F2P).

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295147)

prey's on the inability of many people to not only add the micro transactions together. but also disrupts how people gauge the 'value' of the product by infusing emotional attachments into the mix.

Screwing with our brain wiring is sort of how video games (or board games, for that matter) get us to buy them in the first place. There's nothing rational about buying a video game for $50 and then wasting tons of time playing it - it's a purely emotional experience. If running around smashing ogres is what gets your endorphins going, great. If buying Farmville charms does it, who is to say that emotional response is any worse?

Now's when people will start in with this-or-that study that shows that video games sharpen this-or-that skill, as if that's why they bought the game!

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (1)

chispito (1870390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295805)

There's nothing rational about buying a video game for $50 and then wasting tons of time playing it - it's a purely emotional experience. If running around smashing ogres is what gets your endorphins going, great.

Wait wait, don't tell me--I think I can figure out on which side of the "Can Video Games Be Art?" debate you fall.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (1)

broken_chaos (1188549) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296315)

The issue is how much money they can get for that endorphin release, and how often they can continue to get it.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (4, Interesting)

oddjob1244 (1179491) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295177)

Valve's freemium model is different. The paid content doesn't give you a huge advantage over the free content. Most of the addons are cosmetic and the weapons are balanced or worse than the stock weapons. You're still a competitive player with the free version of TF2, and if you play for a reasonable amount of time the paid content drops randomly anyway. Even if you wanted to sink a bunch of cash into TF2 to be better than everyone else, you can't. I mean, even the paid items can't be crafted.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (2, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295447)

The paid content doesn't give you a huge advantage over the free content.

So it gives you a minor advantage over the free content?

Is that actually "good" or just "better than worst case"?

My problem with freemium even when done "right" or whatever you want to call it is still is unacceptable to me at a fundamental level:

I -do- not want to be confronted with real life purchasing decisions every few minutes while playing games. Period. I don't want to be dropped into a "store" everytime I die. I don't want to be prompted to buy something everytime I start up, and every time I quit, and every time a new level loads.

I don't want to asked to evaluate whether or not some two dozen different micro-items is worth $X to me.

I don't want any of it. I don't want to subject my kids to it either.

That saod, I don't mind expansion packs. 20 new tracks and 5 new cars for $10 bucks or whatever is perfectly fine. But don't advertise it in the game so that I have to explicitly decline buying it every time I play... and don't break it up into micro-transactions... $1 per track, 1$ per car... I don't want to excert the mental process of deciding is this car worth a buck, is this car worth a buck, is this car worth a buck to me... I just don't.

And don't have me competing with people in the expansion pack cars if they are anything more than just skins.

Remember even "Situationally better" is still better if you get any control over the situation, which of course, unless you are an idiot... you always do.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295653)

There is no paid content in tf2 that can't be obtained through other means, either by trading, crafting, or simply having the item "drop" like an mmo (it just appears between lives while playing, you usually get 10 a week or so if you play a lot). The most expensive content is vanity items, hats or other facial accessories, but those can be obtained via the above methods as well. Several of the earlier ones are available through achievements as well. Most of the strongest items for all classes are the original weapons (or ones available via achievements) - new stuff tend to be sidegrades or gimmicks (but still relatively easy to obtain if you are actually interested in them).

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (5, Informative)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296545)

I play TF2 quite a bit. Nothing that can actually give you an advantage is buy-only. This includes someone else buying something, and you trading for it. You can get every game-changing item without paying a cent. I bought the game, so I have never had a free-only account, but it's my understanding that you need to have a premium account to trade, which means you have to spend at least 50 cents on a item. Once you've done that, however, you can basically get any game-changing item you want. Things randomly drop while you are playing, but there are 9 classes. Trade any two weapons, and you can get any one weapon you want, generally. It is VERY easy to become competitively equipped with one class, and only takes a month or so of playing to become competitively equipped for all classes you would likely play regularly. TF2 is without a doubt the model of Free-to-Play gaming, from a business perspective. I have bought a few keys, but the impact has been nothing but cosmetic.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (4, Insightful)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295885)

The paid content doesn't give you a huge advantage over the free content.

So it gives you a minor advantage over the free content?

We're talking about TF2 still, right?

The thing about "paid content" in TF2 is that you can get any of the non-cosmetic items over time, as you get 6-8 random weapons per week. There are also 27 weapons (3 per class) that can be unlocked through achievements. Weapons can also be crafted, but I'll be honest: It's better to wait for a random drop, because 6-8 items a week makes it take a long time to craft even one weapon, let alone multiple.

The major problem with f2p accounts is that there are restrictions [tf2.com] on them until you buy your first item from the store. In USD, the cheapest item is $0.49, but Valve has a minimum of $5 for adding funds to your Steam wallet... however, you can use the remaining $4.51 towards anything on Steam, including games.

My problem with freemium even when done "right" or whatever you want to call it is still is unacceptable to me at a fundamental level:

I -do- not want to be confronted with real life purchasing decisions every few minutes while playing games. Period. I don't want to be dropped into a "store" everytime I die. I don't want to be prompted to buy something everytime I start up, and every time I quit, and every time a new level loads.

I've never had a TF2 free account, but from my understanding is that it bugs you once when you start the game with one of the game's characters having a text bubble mentioning it on the main menu. This is the only time the store is mentioned. other than having a button on the main menu for it. This text doesn't appear if you've ever bought anything from the store or bought TF2 itself from a store (or bought the Orange Box from a store or through Steam [steampowered.com] ).

That saod, I don't mind expansion packs. 20 new tracks and 5 new cars for $10 bucks or whatever is perfectly fine. But don't advertise it in the game so that I have to explicitly decline buying it every time I play... and don't break it up into micro-transactions... $1 per track, 1$ per car... I don't want to excert the mental process of deciding is this car worth a buck, is this car worth a buck, is this car worth a buck to me... I just don't.

When TF2 has new weaponry come out, they sell them as sets along with related cosmetic items, if you really want to pay for them. The catch is that they're ridiculously overpriced... and usually they're added to the drop system at the same time they come out. So, unless you really want the cosmetic items, there's little point in buying them.

And don't have me competing with people in the expansion pack cars if they are anything more than just skins.

Remember even "Situationally better" is still better if you get any control over the situation, which of course, unless you are an idiot... you always do.

I believe I've already addressed this point.

But more to the point, the way items are balanced in TF2, a lot of the times they're different rather than strictly better. One of the more controversial items from the Christmas 2011 update was the Spy-cicle.

The Spy-cicle is a melee weapon for the Spy... all Spy melee weapons do instant-kill backstabs. Note: Spies can disguise as enemy players, which becomes important in the description below.

The Spy-cicle prevents the usual death screams from players, but instead makes a freezing sound and leaves an ice statue behind instead of a corpse. It can also be used to prevent fire damage (and makes the extinguishing sound when this happens) for 2 seconds at the expense of the Spy losing the Spy-cicle for 15 seconds.

The thing is that its upsides and downsides are tied together. Sure, I can prevent fire at the expense of being able to instant-kill backstab. Oh, and that also means if a Pyro Spy-checks me (friendly targets don't catch on fire) when I'm going to kill a high priority target, I'm suddenly switched to my electronics sapper (which doesn't work on players) and have to either run for it or pull out my revolver.

I can stab people somewhat silently, but ice statues appear and it's a very clear sign to the enemy team that a Spy is nearby.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (4, Insightful)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295299)

So different people value different items in game differently, ergo the system is broken? Certainly there's a psychological factor involved with many small purchases vs 1 large purchase, but suggesting that people need to value a game purchase the same as many micro-transactions is ludicrous. Sounds like old-man syndrome.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295305)

the fremium model prey's on the inability of many people to not only add the micro transactions together. but also disrupts how people gauge the 'value' of the product by infusing emotional attachments into the mix.

That business model is older than dirt.

All fine and dandy, except that it's incorrect (2)

F69631 (2421974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295503)

fremium model prey's on the inability of many people to not only add the micro transactions together

#idonthavefactstobackthisup, but when fremium games generate more profit, it's not because the same people end up paying more. It's because more people end up paying a bit. So, instead of me having to make large-ish (let's say 50 euros) investment on a game and hope that it's good, I can get a game for free or for a nominal fee (a couple of euros), play a while and if I like the game, occasionally buy something nice.

There are many advantages here: I get to personalize my games (if I visit a friend with same games that I have and try some of them out, I'll have a whole another experience!), I don't ever waste money on stuff I end up not liking, the publisher gets constant feedback on what kind of content the gamers are into and can provide new stuff based on that and most importantly... the very low cost of initial investment is wonderful. I have a large-ish group of friends and friend-of-friends that like to play together and not nearly everyone in the group is in a relatively well-paying job like the one I have. Yet, because of the this model, we can get into a new game every other week or so.

So... yeah. I really love the microtransaction model though I'm pretty confident that I can perform simple addition.

Re:All fine and dandy, except that it's incorrect (2)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295671)

So... yeah. I really love the microtransaction model though I'm pretty confident that I can perform simple addition.

Same here. My first real exposure to it was with Lord of the Rings: Online went F2P, and after playing P2P MMO's for many years, it was nice not to have to deal with the monthly fees and all that shit. Plus, unlike many F2P games, you can grind out the currency (Turbine Points), rather than having to purchase them. It's not as fast or convenient as plugging in a credit card and buying them, but it's really not that bad.

I guess the whole pay to win thing never bothered me, particularly with MMO's. I'm not competitive by nature, and in any MMO, it's damn hard to compete with the no-lifers that inevitably play 24/7 whether it's F2P or P2P, so that never mattered to me anyway. I don't play the game to impress people, I play to have fun, and if some guy has fun buying his way to the top, c'est la vie.

Granted, LotR:O didn't have PvP in the traditional sense, so I suppose constantly getting ganked by someone that paid to win would irritate me...but my non-competitive nature doesn't really lend itself to holding a grudge or getting very angry about stuff like that.

Re:All fine and dandy, except that it's incorrect (1)

Anguirel (58085) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296329)

#idonthavefactstobackthisup, but when fremium games generate more profit, it's not because the same people end up paying more.

Short reply: this is incorrect [gamasutra.com] . From what I recall of the stats, most F2P games make all of their money on ~2% of the user base. Think of that Apple guy that buys everything that has an Apple logo on it. They're the type those games target for profits. TF2 in particular can capitalize on "whales" since they can buy lots of items and then give them to friends (or trade them for rare items from other people), rather then being entirely restricted to personal purchases.

I had a friend that went way into these sorts of transactions (even on non-F2P games, like WoW server/faction/race tranfers) -- when I pointed out that she was paying a lot of money for what I saw as pretty little return value, she just said that she didn't care. She had disposable income, and this was what she did. It certainly wasn't any worse than paying $50 a night going out to clubs, and she was having fun.

Re:freemium only works on stupid people (4, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295649)

You're forgetting the fact that without a player base, a game dies. Particularly multiplayer, which is all that TF2 is. By introducing it as F2P, Valve probably quadrupled the player base overnight. Not only that, but they introduced them in to a game with hundreds of bugfixes, content updates and major graphical overhauls. All of which had already been paid for. Even while most of those freepers will never buy anything in the store, they provide the much needed player base for those who are spending money in game to play with. They're mainly playing on third party servers, so by opening up the game to anyone, they've increased the game's perceived value at no additional cost to valve or the end user, while allowing the game's popularity to flourish.

Farmville (2)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294909)

I was going to disagree with you, but then I realized Farmfille is the most popular "freemium" game ever and I was forced to change my mind.

Hats off to Valve (5, Funny)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294827)

Congratulations guys ;-)

Re:Hats off to Valve (2)

baenpb (1343241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294957)

I see what you did there ;)

We have a winner (5, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294883)

Call it freemium, call it widget frosting, call it whatever you want... giving the core item away and selling the addons has always worked in the gaming industry and this is just another victory for the concept.

Re:We have a winner (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294931)

giving the core item away and selling the addons has always worked

FTFY

See razors & blades as prior art.

Re:We have a winner (2)

r1348 (2567295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295099)

Or HP printers and inks...

Re:We have a winner (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295491)

Not in the slightest. I can play TF2 without paying a cent. I cannot user a razor without a blade. The first is paying for additional content. The second is rent seeking.

business school 101 (5, Informative)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294995)

A common truism you learn in business school is that it's usually easier (and less costly) to sell more to your existing customer than to try to get new customers...

If every new dollar you earn is less costly, you have more operating margin which you can then use to feed back into your business and make it grow faster. Thus cross-selling and up-selling techniques are really just no brainers that nearly everyone uses. Works in almost any business (including the gaming industry).

Re:We have a winner (1)

thaylin (555395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295867)

Freemium does not "Always" work. It only works on games designed specifically for them, and games that are massive flops, and even in those cases it is not guaranteed. Blizzard would not make more money off WOW using this model then it does off free to play. Almost all (and I say that even though I have not seen a good freemeium game, but cant rule them all out) games of this type of in general trash that cators to people who just want to pay to win, not to have an experience or to see a story.

Re:We have a winner (1)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296277)

Go try Lord of the Rings Online. The transition from pay to free went much better than I thought it would, and the end result is still a good game.

what about (0, Troll)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294917)

what about those of us who paid for a complete game? are we subject to 'freemium' now too? what a ripoff..

Re:what about (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294945)

Those who bought the games all won a very awesome, useless bagde!!

Re:what about (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295059)

Also the ability to play the game up to 4 years prior to the f2p people. And the ability to actually trade items and get vanity stuff (if thats your thing)

Re:what about (3, Funny)

FunPika (1551249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296465)

That makes me wonder what the reaction of the last person who ever bought TF2 on Steam was when it went F2P....probably something like "WHAT THE FUCK? A $20 HAT?".

Re:what about (4, Insightful)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295031)

You got to play the game a lot earlier.

Re:what about (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295093)

Yeah! All we got was four years of the best multilayer game on the planet! And what was that bullshit with it being bundled with Portal and Half Life 2: Episode 2? Who has even heard of those games!? Now people can get it for free? I'd have just waited if I'd known! RIP OFF RIP OFF RIP OFF! And what's with people discounting older games? They should have to refund the difference to me! It's not fair!!

Re:what about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295139)

what about those of us who paid for a complete game? are we subject to 'freemium' now too? what a ripoff..

I paid ~$1600 for my 42" 1080p TV.

I can now get a 50+" 1080p TV for a fraction of what I paid.

HURR RIPOFF LULZ

You paid for the complete game, you got the complete game, several aeons ago. Prices fluctuate, and over time, go down. Stop being a whiny bitch and deal with it.

Re:what about (1)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295159)

I would not be surprised to see this happen to Counter-Strike soon, lots of people play that game all the time and only paid once years ago. So you want that shiny AWP? Behold the paywall! In fact that game could be pretty stuffed with premium content.

Re:what about (1)

poly_pusher (1004145) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296285)

I can't help but wonder if they would do that with Counter-Strike GO. It's interesting valve commented on the sales increase while GO is in Beta.

Re:what about (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296591)

Won't happen, because Valve isn't stupid.

You can't have a successful, long-term F2P / microtransaction game that sells power. Locking the AWP behind a paywall would be selling power.

That's poison to the game in the long-term.

So is making it near-impossible to get the AWP without paying.

People know, sooner or later, when they're getting ripped off, or when people are trying to rip them off.
My mom used to play games on Facebook. Honestly, they weren't bad -- not my cup of tea, but I tried one or two and heck, I've wasted time on sillier things! Came a time when she wanted to buy some stuff, not because she needed it, but because she thought it'd be neat. She brought the idea up to me, I told her go nuts! She didn't feel as if she had to pay to continue playing, and it was a few bucks; no harm, everyone wins. They get money, she gets a new thing, all-around positive experience.

Then Zynga started having financial problems, and their games changed to make you feel as if you needed to give them money to play the whole game.
She quit most of the games she was playing (except for one, I think), and no longer considers giving them money.

It's cool when it's entirely your choice, and kills the game when it becomes a necessity to play the game.

Re:what about (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295293)

Yeah, you got ripped off. Just like you've always been ripped off when you pay full price at launch, compared to the people who buy it in the bargain bin for $10 4 years later.

Re:what about (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295313)

if by "subject yo "freemium"" you mean "have a lot of new players to play with and more servers with active playerbases then yes.

Re:what about (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295943)

You get all the content that was in the game before it went F2P, plus all the content afterwards, for free. Good enough?

Oh sure you need a tiny bit of grind to get some of the new items, but that actually adds a sense of accomplishment to getting the items. Likely, a lot of people would stop playing if they got all the new items automatically. It's no more evil than WoW (actually, far less evil than WoW, since there isn't a monthly fee). And it isn't like the new items give a much of an advantage, either: they chiefly just help with certain playstyles.

Pay to win (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294925)

I think keeping 'Pay to win' concerns at the forefront is the key. Nothing turns me off of a game faster than that. At least, when the game is one where I'm competing against other people online. When it's a single-player game, the idea that you have to pay in order to win really irritates me, but if it merely takes a fair amount more skill to win if you don't pay, then it's sort of OK.

Re:Pay to win (5, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295249)

When I heard TF2 is going f2p I was fearing a p2w system, akin to many other f2p games where you are essentially the "product" for those that dump money on the makers because your tools, your weapons, your equipment just cannot hold a candle to theirs and you're, essentially, akin to some rather smart bot on easy difficulty level.

Valve solved the problem fairly well. As far as I can tell, you can have all the items for free that someone who spends money can have (well, aside of some vanity items without any effect in game). What happened is that you can either dump money on them to get the weapon you want NOW or you wait for the random system to drop one on you.

Also, the weapons in TF2 are not like in most other games where you don't touch your "newbie" gun anymore once you got something better. The fun part is that you don't get more powerful with more choice, you just get more versatility and more choice for certain situations. Pretty much every item that gives you some bonus in one area has some rather nasty drawback. A gun that slows the enemy does less damage, a rocket with more direct damage does less splash damage, a sniper gun that does more damage uses tracer rounds and gives away your position... you get the idea.

Re:Pay to win (2)

Suddenly_Dead (656421) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296609)

What happened is that you can either dump money on them to get the weapon you want NOW or you wait for the random system to drop one on you.

At least half of the freemium games out there do this, and it's only marginally better if at all.

You can grind for a weapon, and eventually, after spending time slogging away with weak weapons, you'll reach the point where you've got equipment that you want for the class you like (hopefully). Or you can spend the money now, and immediately have the equipment you want.

Some of the weapons in TF2 certainly seem better than their free companions, and even just granting extra versatility in a game is still granting a distinct advantage to one player over another.

That is exactly the definition of a "pay 2 win" game. It might not be quite as horrifyingly imbalanced as some other games, but it's still tilted towards the paying players. I am mildly annoyed that I paid money for this when it was standalone and all I got was a stupid hat.

The key to all this... (5, Insightful)

deciduousness (755695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294935)

I think the key to all of this for me, and why I like it over other similar models, is this statement:

"You can get them from item drops, or from the crafting system. It might be a little easier to buy them in the store, but you can get them without paying."

If you are lazy, you can pay. If you don't want to pay, you can work a little for it. Sounds good to me!

Re:The key to all this... (1)

CodeHxr (2471822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294979)

Agreed. This works for businesses because, IME, people are lazy. I, personally, am not lazy (at least when it comes to gaming) and appreciate the sense of accomplishment associated with actually earning something.

Then again, I also tend to re-invent the wheel a lot just for the experience of having done so, so I expect I'm in a very small minority.

Hmm... does that mean I can get scholarships? Yay! :)

Re:The key to all this... (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295535)

I'd say you're the lazy one. I spend most of my time working and improving myself. That I have ample money to plop down for all the add-ons when I download TF2 is because I am not lazy. YMMV, some people just have money, others don't have to work as hard as I do.

Re:The key to all this... (2)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295079)

I like the way puzzle pirates did it.

Everything came from drops, and you needed gold to use certain things (kind of like a luxury tax). You could buy gold with in-game money/items, or real life money. The game economy itself remained the same as in the monthly subscription version though. No amount of money created game items from scratch (with the exception of gold). The general currency was pieces of eight.

Re:The key to all this... (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295185)

It takes a long time to get all the items with a 6-8 item cap per week.

Oh, did Valve forget to mention that free players can receive items from trades, but not give items to others?

Re:The key to all this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295415)

It takes a long time to get all the items with a 6-8 item cap per week.

So don't get all the items. Some of the best players I've seen in-game swear by the stock weapons.

Oh, did Valve forget to mention that free players can receive items from trades, but not give items to others?

Not... quite sure what relevance that has to this discussion...

Re:The key to all this... (4, Informative)

brainzach (2032950) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295351)

Paying doesn't mean you are lazy.

Time is money. Maybe someone with a busy life doesn't want to spend 10 hours getting a $5 dollar item for free when they make $60 an hour in the real world.

Re:The key to all this... (4, Insightful)

DreadPiratePizz (803402) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295559)

The problem with this line of thought is that you've ALREADY decided to use your time for leisure and not for making money. There's no opportunity cost there; by playing the game you've already committed yourself to not making money. So you could either not make money and not have to pay, or you could not make money and have to pay. Which sounds better?

Re:The key to all this... (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295893)

Actually, it means that if you don't have lots of free time, or prefer not to spend an inordinate amount of time in the game, you can still have a complete, fulfilling experience, leaving some of the drudgery time wasters behind. I means you can do more of the fun stuff with the time you spend.

Re:The key to all this... (1)

WilCompute (1155437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295585)

You mean it works like real life? If I want to change the oil in my car, I have to do a little work. If I don't I have to pay? I guess that makes sense.

P.S. We really need sarcasm punctuation.

Re:The key to all this... (2)

vux984 (928602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295955)

If you are lazy, you can pay. If you don't want to pay, you can work a little for it. Sounds good to me!

Calling people who buy items "lazy" is all well and good.. but:

Its hard for someone smart not to be sitting there waiting for that rare to random spawn to calculate the number of hours they are spending trying to get X divided over the cost of X in some marketplace... at which point you realize that if you wandered around the city collecting cans you'd have had that item 3 months ago.

As soon as a game presents me with a choice like this it becomes very difficult for me to want to play the game at all.

When I work out that I can legitimately (ie not via cheating, or using some sort of hack/crack/bot/whatever... but using an officially supported and apporved method to) earn the in game "rewards" orders of magnitudes faster by NOT PLAYING the game -- i find that thoroughly disillusioning.

Now if getting item X is actually fun enough to motivate me to play even if I wasn't going to get item X that might be different. But few games are. The vast majority of games reward "grinding" -- the worst kind of least fun repetition to maximize ones odds of getting items you want. Whether you are stuck playing the same particular level/dungeon/map/scenario endlessly...

Or perhaps its just truly random, and then nothing you do affects whether you get it or not, and then finally receiving the "reward" is utterly pointless -- the guy next you got his the first guy he killed... the guy next to him will die of old age before fate favors him... talk about sucking the point out of it.

Re:The key to all this... (1)

rwv (1636355) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295993)

If you are lazy, you can pay. If you don't want to pay, you can work a little for it. Sounds good to me!

Sounds like: If you want a challenge, you can play the game. If you just want to get through the game, you can pay.

It does seem perfectly rational that there are people who get enjoyment from doing it the hard (time consuming) way and other people who get just as much enjoyment out of doing it the easy (expedited) way.

Re:The key to all this... (1)

LesFerg (452838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296515)

That has nothing to do with TF2 at all. There is no sudden change in the challenge of playing, or any real effect on the overall team dynamic or the need to keep moving and working on the team objective. Purchasing extras instead of waiting for them is most likely something you will do for your own personal amusement, after weighing up how much money you care to spend on a frivolity.

For instance, I don't really bother with extras for certain player roles that I don't use. I don't care if the spy has a new backstabbing weapon with nifty new sound effects; if a enemy spy gets behind me (and has clue) then I am in much the same predicament, regardless of whether said spy purchased what he is stabbing me with or if he just happens to never sleep.

Re:The key to all this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39296589)

No, you DO pay. You pay in TIME which creates value for Valve because instead of AI, they are harvesting your time to compete against other live players. Nothing is free.

The RIAA/MPAA shou take notice! (2)

s.petry (762400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294993)

We already knew that Linux can be a profit area for business, even though it's "Free". Now we see that same thing working in Gaming.

It requires some new methodology, and business modelling of course. But it works!

I'm always glad to see success stories. This a great example. Steam in my opinion has done a great job creating a platform. TF2 plugging in and taking advantage, very smart!

Re:The RIAA/MPAA shou take notice! (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295107)

They already have a microtransactions store. It's called iTunes.

Re:The RIAA/MPAA shou take notice! (1)

s.petry (762400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295283)

Don't try to fool people. iTunes is just a segment of the industry, not the industry as a whole. The industry management (RIAA and MPAA) do not want this model, and fight against it. Hence we had SOPA and PIPA being lobbied for, and lets not forget the constant stream of lawsuits, invalid DCMA take down orders, domain seizures, and other miscellaneous police actions.

Re:The RIAA/MPAA shou take notice! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295369)

Yeah, but thats not the point. The actual music should be free, its the extra stuff that people should be paying for. What you said is equivalent to "well theres no need for micro transactions because people can already buy games in a place called a store."

Auction games. (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39294997)

Don't auction games work this way? You 'win' by being willing to pay more than anybody else. Seems to be a proven model.

Where is EP3 / HL3 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295009)

Please people stop buying stupid hats and stuff for TF2. Every single time you dump money on that game it's less incentive for valve to spend money on other, one time cash cow, games like HL3 or HL2:EP3.
Why should they spend massive resources making a game people only buy once when they can get idiots spending real money on digital hats from now until valve runs out of pixels.

Valve has forsaken their loyal fans for a continual revenue stream from cretins with more money than sense. I've lost all respect for Valve...for shame.

Re:Where is EP3 / HL3 (2)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295233)

Please people stop buying stupid hats and stuff for TF2. Every single time you dump money on that game it's less incentive for valve to spend money on other, one time cash cow, games like HL3 or HL2:EP3.
Why should they spend massive resources making a game people only buy once when they can get idiots spending real money on digital hats from now until valve runs out of pixels.

Most (all?) new items these days are community submitted [steamcommunity.com] , and the majority of those are cosmetic items. In other words, it's easy money for Valve because they don't even do most of the work.

Re:Where is EP3 / HL3 (1)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295607)

Most (all?) new items these days are community submitted, and the majority of those are cosmetic items. In other words, it's easy money for Valve because they don't even do most of the work.

they're mainly cosmetic because being a shooter-type game there really can't be *that* many different weapons ... and you can't 'pay to win' in tf2 unlike some (most? nearly all? other "f2p" games) as most weapon bonuses for non-default items are offset by (at least one) significant penalty... so that leaves cosmetic and other items or variants that do not affect game play.

furthermore, revenue from sale of 'community made' items is split between valve and the item's creator.... it doesn't all go in valve's pocket as you imply.

Re:Where is EP3 / HL3 (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296233)

it's easy money for Valve because they don't even do most of the work.

But even more important than that, any item that is approved and included automatically grants the original creator a percentage of store sales (I want to say 25%, but am not sure). While it certainly makes Valve's job easier, it also is financially rewarding to those who submit items (as well as the fame they might have garnered anyway) and keeps a more invested community.

Re:Where is EP3 / HL3 (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295563)

What makes you think they won't be using this model in a new HL game? And since they have more money, they can hire more developers and make more games. Maybe you are missing the part where no one will pay for content in crappy games.

Re:Where is EP3 / HL3 (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295615)

I'm sure they're crying about losing your respect all the way to the bank.

The only thing that has made me lose respect for them is the drama over the DOTA trademark.

Re:Where is EP3 / HL3 (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295989)

The only thing that has made me lose respect for them is the drama over the DOTA trademark.

Out of curiosity, why? They have the original creator of DotA and the current maintainer of DotA on payroll, and are creating the sequel to it, whereas Blizzard did... nothing, at all, with DotA before Valve picked it up.

Re:Where is EP3 / HL3 (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296389)

HL3 will come out regardless of how many hats people buy. But first, they need some new big thing to bundle it with.

The Half-life series has made Valve, because each step of the way, they've bundled the game with something else that they hoped to make money on. In the original HL, they did it unintentionally with the extremely moddable engine. In HL2, it was bundled with Steam, which has become their bread-and-butter. How many people would have gotten started on Steam if HL2 didn't require it?

Ep1 may be an exception, though it did introduce an AI companion that didn't make players want to pull their hair out, but Ep2 helped push the sales of TF2 (which has made bank) and Portal. Portal, as a puzzle platformer, would have likely flown under the radar had it been released alone. By bundling it, it became a surprise hit, and led to a sequel that sold millions of copies at ~$50 a piece.

If they're smart, they're coming up with the next big thing, and will bundle it with HL3 to drive adoption. My guess, expect HL3 to come out at the same time as the rumored Steam Box.

It absolutely works... (1)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295033)

"Look Dad - this one's free!" appeals to every Dad who just spent hundreds of dollars on stuff they left on the lawn or on the floor of the bathroom.

Zynga's lawyers are preparing the suit..... (1)

BulletMagnet (600525) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295083)

Since Valve *is* stealing their business model....

!sausage (1)

Smekarn (1623831) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295103)

I've got to hand it to TF2. I've been playing it for a very long time and I've never had any problems not buying anything. They really are doing a great job with the trade-off system. If we were to start talking unfair advantages, it would be in the scale where your mouse (or hell, even your chair!) would need to be taken into account.

With all that moolah, it wouldn't kill them to roll out some new official maps and gamemodes though... and maybe Meet the Pyro?

...AN' WHAR DID ME CROTCHY-SMILEY GO!?

But it must be seen in context. (3, Insightful)

Qwertie (797303) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295143)

Switching to "freemium" now may have increased revenue now. That doesn't necessarily mean it would have been a good idea to release as freemium in the first place. Valve had 4 years to convince people to pay up-front for TF2, and they succeeded quite well! But after four years, you've just about exhausted the supply of people that are willing to pay up-front. Switching to freemium not only brings in new customers, it also convinces some of the original buyers to pay again for in-game items. Now that's smart.

IMO they struck the right balance, too: TF2 is still fun without paying anything (or in my case, any more than I paid for the Orange Box.) If you had to "pay to win", people might be pretty pissed off.

Does this mean... (1)

Higgins_Boson (2569429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295311)

Does this mean piracy really ISN'T that damaging? They could simply make up their "lost profits" (note the quotation marks) by offering virtual perks for real-world cash?

Honest question and sorry if it is redundant, but I don't have the 45 minutes necessary to read everything here as some of these posts read like a kid writing a novel in crayon.

oddle enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295329)

the solution was hats.

and this:
http://www.cad-comic.com/cad/20120305 [cad-comic.com]

Accounting Hijinks? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295337)

So, is that 12x the revenue at release? Or 12x the revenue compared to when they went free2play which was after the game had been out for years and basically wasn't even for sale anymore? Also... Revenue? What a useless number. How much have PROFITS increased? You now have hundreds of thousands of people playing your game for free... not buying anything at all. Are the few that are paying, actually making up for all that?

The clear endgame for this situation is to get people to pay as much money as possible for something that takes the least amount of work. So basically, new weapons that use the same skin as old weapons but make winning much easier. To shut up people who don't want to pay, you make the weapon unlock-able, but make unlocking it significantly more difficult than paying $19.95.

I understand that these companies are out there to make a profit, but if you drive customers away by building a name for yourself based on poor investment in new content, and nickle and diming your customers (See EA and SOE as good examples) Eventually, no matter how great of a game you produce, people are going to ignore it because they know what's coming next. 2 months after release "here's the other half of the game and it'll cost you $300 to get it all, but we won't tell you that, we'll just obfuscate the price of everything to the point that you have no idea what you're paying anymore, maybe we'll make you buy 1 kind of in-game credit and then trade it for different kinds of in-game credits, all with different values and exchange rates" (See StarTrek online, it does this in spades)

The gaming industry has killed itself off multiple times due to profit over-reach. I think we're headed down the same road again.

Re:Accounting Hijinks? (1)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295445)

Are you kidding? TF2 has been one of the most popular multiplayer games since the Orange box came out. I'm glad they're still devoting resources to it. I also realize that they've got to keep making money in order to do that. Ergo I'm okay with people spending their money (and Valve making money) on fancy hats in TF2.

Re:Accounting Hijinks? (1)

brainzach (2032950) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295489)

Revenue is an accurate indicator of success in the video game business.

Most of the costs of a video game is during development which is a fixed costs. Once a company makes enough money to cover its fixed costs, most of the additional revenue goes into profits. It doesn't costs that much more to distribute additional copies of a game especially if you are doing it online.

Re:Accounting Hijinks? (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296331)

So, is that 12x the revenue at release? Or 12x the revenue compared to when they went free2play which was after the game had been out for years and basically wasn't even for sale anymore?

Actually, it was still in stores, both standalone and as part of The Orange Box. At least they were in Best Buy a year ago (I don't buy that many boxed games any more...).

Embarrassment of riches (1)

jweller13 (1148823) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295367)

I have about 8 F2P MMO games on my computer now. Instead of having to choose which subscription to pay for now I can play them all!!

Revenue is not profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39295411)

I'm not saying this isn't a win for valve all around, but you gotta consider their cost to run servers probably skyrocketed as more and more twelve year olds hopped on and started playing. I wonder what their actual bottom line is.

Upgrade weapons are not necessarily better (4, Informative)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295487)

One of the major themes in alternate weapon in TF2 that they aren't necessarily better than the weapons they replace.

There are two weapons in the entire game that have clear upgrades. Those are the Medic's Bonesaw and the Soldier's Shovel.

I'll use the Soldier's Rocket Launchers as an example of weapons that are sidegrades. The rocket launchers are:

Rocket Launcher - 4 Rockets per clip. 20 rockets total. Rockets shoot slowly. Rockets have a good amount of splash area.

Direct Hit - 4 Rockets per clip. 20 rockets total. Rockets shoot quickly. Rockets do 20% higher damage. Rockets mini-crit airborne enemies. Rockets have 70% smaller splash area.

Black Box - 3 Rockets per clip. 20 rockets total, rockets shoot slowly. Rrockets have a good amount of splash area. Player gains 15 health per person hit.

The Liberty Launcher - 3 Rockets per clip. 20 rockets total. Rockets shoot quickly. Rockets have a good amount of splash area.

The Original - Identical to Rocket Launcher, but fires from the center instead of from the right.

Cow Mangler 5000 - 5 Rockets per clip. Unlimited ammo. Slower reload time. Rockets shoot slowly. Rockets have a good amount of splash area. Can not do critical hits. When your clip is full, right-click to shoot a charge shot (takes 3 seconds to fire, during which you move at 1/4 speed) which does mini-crits and sets enemies in its splash range on fire... but uses the entire clip of 5 rockets. All shots do 80% less damage versus buildings, but a charged shot disables buildings for 4 seconds.

Free To Play - Freemium (1)

msheekhah (903443) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295553)

I would not call this implementation "Free To Win", as they offer no paid items that can't be obtained by putting in the time and effort. Thus it's a decent Free to Play implementation. If the freemium options aren't available erstwise, then I would definitely call it Free To win.

Re:Free To Play - Freemium (1)

Anguirel (58085) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296437)

I think you're going for "Pay to Win". TF2 is definitely not that. It's not even "Pay or Time to Win", which is the model you describe. It's "Pay or Time for Options", which is my preferred F2P system, along with "Pay for Cosmetic Alterations". A new player is purely limited by the skill curve. The basic tools available are good enough that even veteran players continue to use them, even when they unlock additional weapons.

Not surprising (1)

Noah69 (1083017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39295831)

I only started playing TF2 once it became f2p, to see what it was all about. The fact that you only had to spend like 5 bucks in the store to upgrade your account to premium status was tempting and no hard decision once I discovered after a few sessions that the game was really fun. I got to try out the game for free and saw it more as a way to support the developers of a game that I enjoy rather than spending money on useless virtual items that I couldn't care less about. Good job Valve.

Everquest (classic) is about to go Free to Play. (3, Informative)

Kaenneth (82978) | more than 2 years ago | (#39296269)

Since the subject came up, I'm going to mention that EverQuest is going to launch their Free-to-Play program in about a week. (the original, EQ2 has been F2P for a while now) info is at http://www.everquest.com/free/ [everquest.com] (also a new fresh server starting.)

I don't work for Sony, I just like (and play) EQ. In fact I work for a competitor.

I'm not a fan of the F2P model, I plan to keep my regular sub; but an MMO needs fresh blood to stay healthy, and I'm hoping this will boost the userbase.

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