The Evolution of Free2Play (Part 1)

During Sony’s E3 presentation they dedicated some time to display the amount of Free2Play titles that are coming to PlayStation platforms. Had this been a couple of years ago I would have likely have been angered that one of the big three would have the audacity to allow such a title to grace a console, but the difference being is that Free2Play games are not the same money sponges that they once were.

Until recently when I thought of Free2Play I thought of a mobile game that would “nickle and dime you” (if you can think of a good British equivalent let me know) for the privilege of continuing. Or a multiplayer shooter on the PC that equated to pay to win. Unfortunately these type of Free2Play games still exist (such as EA’s attempt at bringing Dungeon Keeper back) but they are no longer the norm.

I have actually been playing Free2Play games on and off for years now, usually trying out a game that supposedly does something new with the format. The first game I ever tried out was Battlefield Heroes which was EA’s first big push into the Free2Play environment. For me the most intriguing aspect was that it was a Battlefield game that didn’t require a high spec PC to run, and as it was web based could theoretically work on most PCs with a decent Internet connection. The game was smart in that really money was used primarily for customising your character, and weapons were mainly unlocked through play. Yet there was something about it that couldn’t get me to stay around.

The next big Free2Play title for me was one that I had already paid for, this being Team Fortress 2. Much to the surprise of many in 2011 Valve announced that anyone on Steam could now download and play for free and that the game would be financially supported via microtransactions for customisable items, taking advantage of the insane popularity of hats. Did the game change, in terms of gameplay? Actually, it got better, as Valve is still supporting this seven year old game with new updates. A new update, Love & War, has just been revealed.  Hats are big business people.

By the end of last year I began to try out some of the big Free2Play mobile titles on my Nexus 7, these being The Simpsons Tapped Out and Plants vs Zombies 2. Tapped Out is a game about patience. Nothing can be completed in it quickly, unless of course you pay. However that is being unfair to it, as it never properly asks you to cough up real money. At one point I was playing it every single day, but I wasn’t spending that much time on it. I would spend 10 minutes or so on it in the evening and possibly a few minutes in the morning. Having to wait for things to take place, but knowing roughly when they would be finished allowed me to plan out what I would do in the game. It kept me amused for a few months as I saw my little Springfield grow, and the seasonal updates were a great addition.

Plants vs Zombies 2 is very much a sequel to the predecessor, and plays pretty much the same. The main difference being that there are some stages and items that you can pay to unlock. Although you can still unlock these through play, but they do take some time to do so. Whilst the game does remind you about the ability to pay, more so than Tapped Out does, it is entirely possible to play as much as you want and unlock everything without giving EA any money. Making it a great option if you want an enjoyable and surprisingly deep game for your mobile device. One which I would have happily have paid for, as I do not regret my purchase of the original.

You can find Part 2 here



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