Massively: Are They F2P Snobs?


This post originally appeared over at Simon’s blog – do yourself a favour and check it out.

As a serious journalist, such questions are anathema. However since I’m not a journalist or even entirely sane, let me respond to this post’s title by saying “Yes. Yes they are.”

So what do I mean by ‘snob’? Basically it’s someone who wants to hang out with society’s cream, while diminishing those they feel are inferior. In this case Massively appears to think that any game that is not subscription based is inferior because none of its feature columns are established F2P hybrids. There are two exceptions, but they don’t really count. One is a sporadic column on LotRO, penned by a staff writer. The other is Star Citizen (yes it has a form of subscription) which still has enough anticipation buzz to warrant the cost of coverage.

So why has the talented and always amiable Larry Everett had to put the Hyperspace Beacon in a brown cardboard box and move it to a new home? Well in my poorly researched opinion it is either a case of too few people clicking to it or (more likely) that they don’t want to give SWTOR the elevated level of coverage.

I can only, and will only, speculate on the reasons behind that, but as the title of this asserts I believe it to be snobbery. Somehow Massively feel it drags their site’s prestige and credibility down by covering a game that many feel (incorrectly) is a failed enterprise. Better to cover games that haven’t failed (because they haven’t been released) or games of modest success but possess great kudos in the community (EVE Online).

In the meantime the Hyperspace Beacon is alive and well at – or follow everyones favorite wookie on twitter @shaddoe​

The good news is Larry still pens a column for Massively about the upcoming (sub based) Elder Scrolls Online.

The Naked Gamer: What Does Free-To-Play Mean?

what does free-to-play mean

The Naked Gamer is a regular opinion column that strips back the superficialities and looks at the flesh underneath. If you’ve got a topic you’d like discussed, drop columnist Kristy Green a line!

It’s such a tiny term but seems to be so filled with meaning and causing so much confusion. Ask ten gamers what they think Free-to-Play (F2P) means and you will get ten very different definitions.

It feels like the term F2P is becoming nothing more than a buzz word used by people for their own personal agenda while ignoring everyone else. It has been very frustrating to watch people bring forth valid opinions of the changes to the subscription model made for Star Wars: The Old Republic but only to have them completely brushed over or ignored because people seem to be unable to get past their own preconceptions whenever they see the phrase F2P.

One common idea is that F2P means that you can create an account and play the game without paying anything. It doesn’t matter what you can or can’t do, just simply being able to login seems the biggest point in this description, oh and no time expiration. This means that games like World of Warcraft, Tera, SWTOR, Aion and Battle of the Immortals are all considered F2P.

Another common way of defining F2P is to say that you can play the whole game without any restriction to your gameplay. If the game has restrictions that are unlocked or accessed only by spending money then it’s no longer free. Instead it is some sort of unlimited time trial. So in this definition the only games that are F2P from the above examples are Aion and Battle of the Immortals.

So I thought about this and I wondered what harm is there if we see F2P differently? I would like to say none but all you have to do is read up on any of the feedback from SWTOR’s recent changes to see that this isn’t working. Those that consider the game as F2P see those that don’t as entitled and in return they get labelled as pretentious. It’s very hard to talk about the good and the bad when such loaded words are being thrown around. Also, many of us have predefined notion of what F2P means and so when we see the term, we are expecting to see one thing and may be seeing something else. None of this comes together to equal good communication.

Then I thought, ‘but isn’t it up to the developers and publishers to define what their game is or isn’t?’ That might seem like a perfect solution but not one that would be practical. WoW and Tera never once used the term F2P and yet the media and gamers constantly do. SWTOR says that it is but it doesn’t necessarily fit into all definitions of F2P. I’ve even heard of Guild Wars 2 being referred to as F2P simply because it doesn’t need a subscription to play. If we as gamers can’t even agree, then how are we expecting game developers, publishers, and media and of course marketing to?

The only way to see all the brilliant opinions on SWTOR is to stop focusing on what is F2P. Maybe we should instead just move past any buzz words and actually hear out what someone has to say. If we stop predefining people’s opinions then we will see that a lot of time, we are actually all in agreement.

The Naked Gamer: SWTOR F2P Thoughts

SWTOR F2P Thoughts

The Naked Gamer is a regular opinion column that strips back the superficialities and looks at the flesh underneath. If you’ve got a topic you’d like discussed, drop columnist Kristy Green a line!

My relationship with Star Wars: The Old Republic has been more like a rollercoaster than well, a relationship. When I first heard about this new MMO my immediate thought was how awesome it was going to be to play out my childhood fantasy of being a Jedi. Obviously this isn’t the first Star Wars game but it was the first one that I was interested in playing. When I heard BioWare were behind it, well I had a bit of a geek squealing session.

I was frustrated when I heard it wasn’t being released in Australia at launch but through some clever workarounds I was able to get the game. So when launch did come around, I was able to play and to live my dreams as a Jedi Consular and even got to play as a Twi’lek. How much more cooler can you get?

Sadly, then my friends stopped playing and the awesomeness of being a lightsaber wielding blue woman wasn’t enough to keep me playing. The game had some great things and like many, I loved the story (even if I got lost a few times because I kept pressing the spacebar during cut scenes) but there just wasn’t enough to keep me paying a subscription for. I let my account lapse with the promise that if it went free to play, I would return if only to find out how the story ended.

When I heard the announcement that SWTOR was going to go free to play and how the story part of the game will be available to everyone, I was more excited than when the game was first released. Well, I was at first. Then they released more information about how the free to play will work and I went from yes to maybe to no, although floating around ‘maybe casually’ right now.

I admit that I am not a fan of free-to-play models with a subscription. I feel that it should be one or the other. There is always a chance of tension building between those that pay and those that don’t. Also, you have the added difficulty of finding the balance between rewarding the subscribers without punishing the free-to-players.

When I look at SWTOR’s new free-to-play plans, one thing sticks out to me – it seems to be all about getting you back to paying a full subscription. They seem to offer no reward for subscribing but instead lay all the punishment (or restriction) on the rest of the player base.

I admit I can’t see this working; the whole point of going free-to-play is getting people back playing your game and getting them to spend money because they want to, not because they have to.  People shouldn’t feel like their game play is affected because they aren’t paying a subscription.

I feel that F2P will only succeed if the unlocks are really cheap, so you can essentially unlock the whole game for the same amount as a typical box price and if they allow people to go from subscription to non-subscription back to subscription without feeling like they are being penalised.

For now though, my gaming plate is already pretty filled with four other MMOs and numerous other games I play with my friends. I would have made time for SWTOR but right now, I am not sure I will. This weekend will really tell if I start playing again.

So good luck to BioWare and May The Force Be With You.

SWTOR Free To Play Preview #2: Cartel Market

BioWare have released a short vid with a little more info on the Cartel Market F2P’ers will be able to access:

As you’d expect, BioWare are going in hard on F2P given what’s at stake – what’s your take on what you’ve seen so far?

SWTOR: How many Cartel Coins to the Drachma?

Money. We all need it, we all use it. Without money we couldn’t get what we need, or more frequently what we merely desire. As we’ve all learnt over the past few years, the value of any currency bobs about like a dead Gungan in a fast flowing river, so what type of currency you get makes all the difference. What can you buy with it? Is it a silver dollar or a Zimbabwean dollar?

Which brings me to the bright and shiny new currency, Cartel Coins, that are part of BioWare’s new brand of bling to retain existing players and win back some of the jaded masses. By their own admission, they are struggling to keep people’s interest, either because players have become bored with the existing content, the game doesn’t play the way they want or offer the playstyle they like. Even worse, new games like Guild Wars 2 or upcoming expansions for existing games (WoW, Rift) are proving far more enticing.
The idea of rewarding those of us who are sticking with SWTOR with a rapidly increasing pile of virtual dosh is a good one and they’ve given us a rough idea of the sorts of things we can buy,  but they’ve given us no idea of our money pile’s relative value.

First of all, lets get a rough idea of how many coins you may have in your pocket when F2P and the new store finally hit. By my admittedly wonky math skills:

SWTOR goes free to play ‘this fall’, that being a period between Sept 22 and Dec 20. Pandaria comes out Sept 25. While I doubt BioWare are thinking that F2P can compete, they may still release it about the same time in order to reduce or mitigate churn. However it may be they wait until after this (perhaps for strategic reasons – or perhaps because they won’t be ready), but at a guess it would be late October when they can get a little more traction in the average gamer’s hummingbird attention span. After all, any uptick in numbers (F2P plus subbed players) they can get in the approach to and during the holiday season would be good news to report in the February Q3 2013 earnings call, since F2P subscriber numbers could be counted as forecastable income through micro-transaction earnings.

Back to my earlier point, assuming that you have been a paid subscriber  from Jan 20 2012 (after your free 30 days elapsed) through to say Oct 20 2012 you will have 150 coins per month up to Jul 31 (6×150=900) and 200 per month (3×200=900) after that, until F2P occurs (e.g. Oct 20). If you got the CE there’s an extra 1000. So what will 1800 (or 2800) cartel coins buy you? That’s the big unknown and the septic splinter in my dewback’s foot. Will it buy you a set of orange armour? Half a dozen stims? A vanity pet and a title? A mega awesome 200% mount or a 90% one that looks like a lawnmower and kicks you off whenever a level 10 trash mob gives you a dirty look? -cough- Grand Acquisition Race

Anyone who remembers the fine promises of the Collector’s Edition vendor will recall that not only did they never put anything new or interesting in there (EVER!), they actually took stuff out. Can BioWare be trusted? Not based on previous performance. I’d like to believe them, I’d like to trust them, but I can’t muster the strength anymore. In any case the entire premise is consistent with much of BioWare’s communication lately: broad promises with little detail. Perhaps by the one year anniversary we’ll all look back at the first turbulent year and smile knowing that all is now well and the worst is behind us. I’d like to think so.

To sum up, the real question is this: can something be an incentive when its value or worth is a complete mystery? Is this just a poorly defined carrot offered to those on the fence while the Devs and number crunchers scramble behind the scenes to work out how the hell this is all going to work? Or is this part of a considered strategy?

It’s an impossible question to answer, which is why I’m not going to try, but speculation is fun, it drives Reddit contributors insane and at the very least this is a matter that I think we all need to consider. If you are still playing the game and loving it, the cash donation of Cartel Coins is icing on a delicious cake. If the cake is starting to taste a little stale though, no amount of icing is going to help.

Flash Point 38: The Something From Nothing Special Edition

A show not surprisingly dedicated to the announcement of SWTOR going Free to Play. That said, we have lots more to chat about as well, including a review of The Secret World at the end and another great Lore Update from Ed.

Points of discussion:
– Change to co-host lineup – farewell to the wonderful Mark
– F2P announcement
– EA investor call
– Lore Update: HK-47
– The Secret World Review
– Shout outs for our forums, Facebook page and Twitter account

Please review or rate the podcast on iTunes if you can – it makes a huge difference!

Listen via iTunes or right here:

Ultima Forever: Quest For The Avatar Announced

There are always heaps of new game announcements to coincide with the San Diego Comic Con. One that caught my eye was the announcement by EA/BioWare of a PC / iPad release of Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar.

There’s no firm release date as yet (“later this year”) but it certainly is an intriguing F2P option.

The full press release from EA:


Rediscover One of Gaming’s Most Beloved Franchises with Friends, Anytime, Anywhere on iPad and PC Later this Year


SYDNEY, Australia – July 13, 2012 – BioWare™, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA), today announced Ultima™ Forever: Quest for the Avatar. Expanding the legendary Ultima™ franchise, Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar combines accessible action RPG gameplay with trademark BioWare storytelling, immersing both longtime fans and new gamers into the deep and engaging world of Britannia. Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar will be available on both the iPad and PC later this year, with fully integrated, cross-platform play so gamers can experience all of the rich and deep RPG elements with friends, wherever and whenever they choose to play.

To sign up for a chance to participate in a future closed beta and to see the game’s first gameplay trailer, please visit the official web site at Fans attending Comic-Con International 2012 in San Diego this weekend can stop by the EA booth (#5405) to learn more about Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, while also getting a chance to play some of EA’s latest free-to-play games, including Battlefield Heroes™, Command & Conquer™ Tiberium Alliances, Need for Speed™ World and Warhammer® Online: Wrath of Heroes™.

“There’s a fundamental shift underway in how gamers play and pay for games, and Electronic Arts is a leader in providing new business models and new ways to consume content,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, General Manager of EA’s BioWare Label and Co-Founder of BioWare. “With Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, we’re excited to give gamers the opportunity to play a high quality game with their friends anytime, anywhere, on both iPad and PC.”

“As huge fans of the Ultima franchise, the team at BioWare Mythic is not only excited to be able to bring this reimagining of the original rich world to the fans of the classic RPGs, but also to introduce a new generation of gamers who have never had a chance to discover why this is one of our industry’s most beloved worlds,” said Eugene Evans, Studio GM at BioWare Mythic.

Spanning over three decades, the fantasy world of Ultima has entertained millions of players from around the world with dozens of award-winning titles. The passionate and loyal fans of Ultima have braved perilous dungeons, faced off against fearsome enemies and creatures, conquered expansive lands and seas, and saved worlds. It’s time to revisit this enchanting universe and step into the shoes of your very own Avatar to find out where your choices will take you.

For more information on Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, please follow the game on Twitter at or “Like” the game on Facebook at

What’s your thoughts – are you likely to give this a whirl?