Reputation: Free-To-Play gaming, will it ever get a clean break?

Reputation: Free-To-Play gaming, will it ever get a clean break?

Firefly HQ

Firefly HQ

In January this year, EA resurrected 90s strategy gaming icon 'Dungeon Keeper'. Great news (we all thought) as Dungeon Keeper 3 was already 14 years late. Dungeon Keeper Mobile was announced by EA and Mythic Entertainment in August 2013 and launched as a Free-to-Play (F2P) proposition on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

F2P is a form of gaming that essentially means the basic game is free, but you may come across optional in-game purchases. Some of the more extreme F2P games will however make in-game purchases an essential part of how the game progresses; sometimes funnelling players into buying items to speed things up.

Free to playThis side of F2P is generally seen as a grey area, with some people happy to pay, whilst others see it as misleading. It often draws ire from much of the games industry press. It’s also something that is inherent in the game design of Dungeon Keeper Mobile and is part of the reason why Dungeon Keeper was universally panned by leading games journalists, scoring 1/10 on Eurogamer and 0/10 in the Metro. It currently holds a none too flattering Metascore of 42 from professional reviewers, with the user score a meagre 0.3.

The release of Dungeon Keeper Mobile prompted a huge surge in people buying the old Dungeon Keeper, as cheap as £5 in some outlets.

All of this has led to both gamers and journalists questioning the very nature of F2P itself and has caused a line to be drawn in the sand. All of the above begs the question, does F2P gaming have an image problem?

The F2P movement is a huge business and produces a plethora of games, including mobile games like Flappy Birds as well as terrific PC games like Team Fortress. World of Warcraft and Star Wars are also both F2P (WoW has some restrictions), after having both previously been subscription based games.

When F2P is done ‘right’, it’s seen as a triumph.

Dungeon Keeper Mobile does F2P game developers a great disservice. Already fighting a losing battle, the reputation of F2P is more closely associated with the phrase ‘pay-to-win’ as opposed to it’s free moniker. Luckily, there are plenty of F2P games out there, World of Tanks being an example, that have committed to not giving paying players any advantage over non-paying players.

How long will we have to wait, until F2P is no longer dogged by the pay-to-win tag? Cough up an extra 69p and I’ll reveal the answer…

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