Don’t get me wrong – I like free games as much as the next guy. We all have “better’ things to spend money on other than games. However, for the games that initially cost money, making them free has the potential to completely ruin them. Let’s discuss why.
Creating a game costs money, time and energy; no one’s going to argue against that. However, what most people don’t realize is that maintaining a game also costs money, time and energy. More importantly, it requires skills. Highly demanded skills of people who themselves spent a lot of time, energy and resources learning. Therefore, if you want your favorite game to keep performing well, without any issues that would make it impossible to play, then you can’t really expect that to reliably continue unless you support the developers.
Sure, there are dozens of extremely popular and successful games with massive communities that are free to play and still are making huge amounts of money, but this is rare, and usually requires a robust system that would allow the alternative income like sale of skins, limited packages, etc.
The point is, all of this is definitely possible without a payment model, but if you start off a game with a pay-to-play model and then take the payment out of the equation, you can’t not-expect it to cause disturbance and decrease in quality.
Generally decreased quality of the Gamers
Generally speaking, if a game that was initially paid and then made free, there’ll be at least some decrease in the quality of the community. The reason for that is that if one is paying to play a game, they’re much more likely to care about the community and how people feel in the said community.
We have seen this play out time and time again, CSGO being the primary example. Over the last few years, the game started having a lot of issues with trolls, griefers, and hackers. Coincidentally, this started happening right around 2018, and that’s when the number of people Valve banned for the above-mentioned reasons increased by around 300%. With an influx of new people who weren’t as invested in the game – emotionally and financially-speaking – as compared to the existing ones who have been playing it for a long time and paid for it, the quality of the matches has decreased significantly.
This is a general truth for many things in life, and not exclusive to video gaming. If you’re paying for something, you’re much more likely to take it seriously. A very frequently recurring tendency on Canadian casino websites and gambling tournaments showed, that people that pay to play poker live in Canada casinos are much more likely to be respectful towards other players who are also emotionally and financially invested in the games, as compared to the “one-time” people who are there because of a free promotion or something similar. These kinds of players are generally not “invested” in these games and tournaments, and we don’t mean only financially, but emotionally as well. The point is, if you love doing something very much and appreciate the time, energy and risk associated with it, you’re much more likely to be more considerate of other people who are participating in the said activity, and this is even more so the case with gambling, where so much is on the line. Studies have shown that people who sign up at online casinos solely based on the fact that there’s a promotion or some kind of a free-play arrangement going on are much less likely to stick around for longer. How would gaming be different?
Even for the education sector this also holds true because statistics show that if one pays for an educational course, they’re much more likely to derive more knowledge and value out of it as opposed to the free ones.
You’ll pay some other way
Nothing in life is ever really “free”. You’re paying for it one way or the other. Your time, commitment and attention is the minimum that you can’t avoid paying when using any kind of a product or service, even if they’re free.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about more tangible and real costs that you can actually observe. If the creators can’t continue monetizing the game with a price tag on it, then they’ll have to resort to other sources, which can sometimes be absolutely detrimental to the game’s quality and playability.
Dwindling quality of the game
As stated, maintaining a game requires a lot of money and skills of talented and capable software experts, and many companies may see this as an avenue where they would compensate for the decreased revenue. Yes, there are companies out there who may do that, and there’s actually a lot of them who already have, which resulted in significantly decreased quality of their product.
Ads and other nuisances
Nowadays ads are seen as one of the primary sources of monetization for all sorts of different software. Video game developers are also seeing their potential, and many of them are actively making efforts towards implementing them to increase their revenue sources.
It may not seem like a big deal looking from your current perspective, but the introduction of ads may be a definite, noticeable inconvenience, especially if they require mandatory viewership before you can access the content.
Introduction of pay-to-win features
In response to the possibly decreased revenue, the game provider may resort to implementing features that may very negatively affect the gameplay. For example, they may introduce the items which may give players a competitive edge against other players. This is referred to as “pay-to-win” by the gaming communities, and it has been the demise of many a great game. At the maximum, paid items should be giving one a cosmetic benefit, and should not have any bearing whatsoever on any of the game’s mechanics, let alone be giving you any advantages stats-wise.