Hello, dear reader!
Before we begin, I am legally obligated (not really) to inform (mislead) you that my post will be fiendishly (not re-- oh, nevermind) long and with background to inspire healthy debate and point of view, but I'll add a TL;DR to those who just want to jump into a debate with as little background knowladge as possible.
Let me start out by noting in BOLD letters to sincerely express that this is NOT a SWTOR bashing, player bashing or otherwise bashing thread of anything, but a means to present what I believe is constructive discussion material regarding the method of play!
Phew.. With that out of the way, here's what I've got on my mind:
Free. Think about that word for a moment. Incorporated into our minds, we'll already be thinking of beneficial additives. Free food, free drinks, free space - unless you're a compulsary room decorator on starvation diet, those three things will ring pleasantly to you. Free samples. Another example that sounds great and makes us feel comfortable with trying a product before comitting to a purchase.
Free samples have been used many, many years as a way to introduce your product into a market, allowing a consumer to consume your product without demanding a full currency dependant comittment. You're able to offer a small piece of something you have created to increase interest in your product. While that's a very easy thing to boil down when it comes to retail or directly consumed merchandise like edible material or a drink, the online version is far more complex.
If you're still with me, then think about this for a second. What is a succesful sample? Take SWTOR. The F2P model released for the game was an excellent idea to attempt to rescue a franchise which was not gaining the revenue that would have been desired. (Note: Worded explicitly to avoid bashing as we can all agree "more money" is always desired, regardless of success). So when a F2P model is introduced, let's talk about the intentions.
I am sure every single one of you will immidiately understand, or even have wanted to smack me upside the head by now saying "Get to the point!" to draw this conclusion, that the intention with F2P for SWTOR was to offer a sample. But let's consider for a moment what it really did.
Let's say you wish to advertise a product. Your first step should be to take a look at what qualities your product has, present them formally through gameplay and make sure the consumer of your product understands three things:
1: What you are attempting to show.
2: What qualities your product contains
3: Why the consumer should develop interrest in your product.
By clearly displaying to the consumer that you are showing them a space simulation based on an adventure that alot of people knows, SWTOR stands from a pretty smart stand point here since most people comitting to their game already knows what they're going into. So that's not the part which I want to adress since SWTOR is basically marketed and sculptured to match that. But what about the qualities?
Let's step a bit back again and assume you're the head of a sandwich making company. You're all set to start selling your sandwiches in supermarkets because you developed a way for creating delicious sandwiches for affordable prices. Introducing this to a market means you want to be competitive and since price is becomming unreasonably difficult to compete with, the quality of your sandwiches should be your main draw.
So you line up the campaign, you send your display managers to supermarkets with your product and tell them to promote it. But here's the trick where I believe SWTOR went wrong. When you promote the sandwich, you don't want to give the full sandwich away, that's a given because that's bad financially for you aswell as it might offend those who did not recieve a free sample but paid for your product. (Note: Exaggeration, but stick with me for examples sake). You will want to pack the best qualities from your sandwiches into small packages to display and serve the potential costumers to make them want to buy your real product and become happy, paying costumers. But here's the fine line.
There's several ways to go about a F2P model, but the way I see it, it comes down to these two choices. Let's step back with SWTOR again and see what they DID and what I would have SUGGESTED them to.
SWTOR already had several things going well for it, the game is amazing and a niché group of players had no problem playing and paying hapilly. When a F2P is introduced to a game it quickly needs a balance for things to function and I believe SWTOR messed up on that note. See, the point of the long post before was to express that you should reward a player rather than penalize them. Nobody gains interrest from being penalized.
During WoW's development, to make an example, the rested bonus did not exist. Instead there was a pentalty for playing for too long making the experience you gained ½ the value. Players did not respond very well to this so Blizzard quickly analyzed that nobody likes being penalized for enjoying a game. Instead, they changed it to reward players for not logging on all the time - atleast on the same toon - thus creating a rewarding experience instead. What this did was change the entire way of how it was viewed upon.
Back to the F2P of SWTOR. The current system works to withdraw benefits from you for not being a regular subscriber. You're penalized for not paying to play the game by having things taken away entirely, reduced access or limited benefit. "But Kasperio!" you might say "What about subscribers, then? Are you suggesting F2P players gets the same things subscribers do?!" - No, no! Not at ALL! But that takes us back to the reward system. I believe the actions taken should be to add benefits (Note: Not just novelty but innovative gamplay diffrences) to subscribers while making current content F2P. I know someone might think "But that means everything I have now, others paying nothing would get aswell?" Well, yes and no.
You see, what Blizzard discovered with raiding tiers and easing the progression system is that beneficial subject should be enjoyed for a moderate time before becomming fully accesible. It's worked great for them so far. Back to SWTOR, you would'nt lose ANYTHING as a subscriber, infact, you'd be benefitting new things only for you and fellow subscribers. F2P players would be able to jump in and enjoy the game that got YOU hooked, seeing all the benefits and negatives of it before deciding if they want the additional BENEFITS you have as a subscriber.
Currently, the game smacks you upside the head on constant basis and says "See this? This gameplay feature? PAY ME!" and almost mocks you for using a model THEY chose to introduce. While I am sure some players might get attracted to it, simply to play it as a single player experience, I do not believe it will result in the intended procedure of luring more new players.
In conclusion: If time and experience has shown us anything, it is that the carrot is a far better way to advertise and sell your product than the stick. I believe the current system of the F2P SWTOR experience - even with the updates - is flawed, hollow, moneygrubbing and intentionally guilts and smacks you for not paying, rather than alluring you to pay because you love and support the game.
And that's what grinds my gears about the F2P model of SWTOR, and other F2P models in general.
Thanks for reading! What's your take on all this?