Categorizing Payment Models
Posted by Blessing of Kings [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 October 2012, 1:41 am
The Old Republic released its vision of Free2Play, and naturally all the forums are in an uproar over it. The big issue is that there is no common definition of F2P, so everyone believes that "true" F2P is something different.

I thought it would be interesting to categorize F2P models. However, I realized that the inverse, categorizing payment models, is actually more illuminating.

First, let's stipulate that all MMOs must be paid for in some fashion. At the end of the day, someone has to hand money over to the devs so that they can eat. One would assume this is obvious, but judging by a lot of the forum rhetoric, it isn't.

Here are the payment models that I can think of:
  1. Box - a large initial payment when the game is first obtained. Not really optional.
  2. Access - a fee must be paid for access to the game for a given time. Not really optional. 
  3. Content - a fee is paid for access to specific pieces of content. Not really optional.
  4. Cosmetic - can purchase items which have no effect on gameplay. Optional.
  5. Convenience - can purchase items which allow players to skip hurdles. Optional.
  6. Power - can purchase items which directly increase a player's power, and cannot be obtained elsewhere. If the item or equivalent can be gained in-game, it's more accurately a convenience item. Kind of optional, playing with or against other players might make it effectively required.
  7. Advertising - the game sells advertising space to other companies
  8. Sponsor - the game is sponsored by an organization for a specific purpose. Example is America's Army.
You can use these categories to describe the payment models used by different games:
  • WoW - Box, Access, Cosmetic (minor)
  • LotRO - Access or Content (have to pick one), Cosmetic, Convenience
  • TSW - Box, Access, Cosmetic
  • GW2 - Box, Cosmetic, Convenience
  • League of Legends - Essentially content with specific champions, Cosmetic, Convenience
And so on.  TOR is proposing Access or [Content (temporary), Convenience, and Power] (have to pick one of the two groupings), and Cosmetic. I think a lot of people are unhappy with the temporary part of Content, and some of the Power items (epic gear licence, ability bars) if you don't subscribe.

Most players who are proponents of F2P seem to feel that the maximum allowable categories are Cosmetic and Convenience. That anything more is excessive. I would say that most games don't think that is enough to support them, and they require at least one more category.

Edit: Spinks reminds me that the method of sale is important as well. Two types here: direct and lottery. Direct is the default way. You pick item X and you buy it. The other way is lottery, where you buy a random item that contains something from the categories above. The method influences the behavior of the player, and adds randomness and rarity to the equation.

There's possibly a third method where you purchase a category above with the intent of selling it to another player. Eve PLEX and so on. One person buys Access, and sells that Access to a second player. Let's call this method "agent".

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