The fear for gamers of any “free-to-play” games, especially new titles from classic franchises that have returned thanks to the successful model, is that some of the games, or key features within them, are not actually “free.” When it comes to competitive game, there’s no an entirely new level of balancing that developers need to address so that players with more money or a stronger willingness-to-pay don’t have an inherent advantage over players who don’t invest in these games.
This idea is known as “Pay-to-Win” and it’s the bane of the growing free-to-play market. For the super successful and popular World of Tanks, the “pay-to-win” phenomenon has been an issue since the outset, but after many years Wargaming has finally done away with it.
World of Tanks launched across Europe and North America in early 2011 and since it launched it’s embraced a very problematic monetization feature: the ability to buy an advantage over other players with things like specialty ammo. After two years of growth – even with that issue – Wargaming is happily doing away with it.
Wargaming.net spoke with Gamasutra about the new initiative, what they dup “free-to-win” and announced that World of Tanks and all upcoming titles, including World of Warplanes and World of Warships are not going to have any pay-to-win features. It’s something the developer began testing last year and like many other popular free-to-play online games, they’re going to shift their revenue focus on cosmetic personalization options, unique vehicles, etc.
Why? To make the game more accessible, make it more fair, and to get into the growing eSports area. On the time it took to drop pay-to-win:
“We’ve been working on for the idea of “free-to-win” for quite some time now. The conception stage began in 2011, after we took the time to tackle some internal challenges spurred on by the company’s rapid growth.
The player community is very sensitive to changes, especially when they concern a monetization system. That’s why we fully focus test any changes we plan to make and introduce only those new features that receive positive feedback.”
On dropping pay-to-win:
“Free-to-play games have the challenge of being sometimes viewed as low quality, and we want World of Tanks to serve as proof that a quality and balanced free-to-play game is possible. However, breaking down deeply-rooted stereotypes is no easy task.
This isn’t just about the game economics of World of Tanks, either. We aim to completely overhaul the free-to-play concept that exists as a whole in the gaming community by getting rid of the idea of “pay-to-win,” ultimately helping lead what we consider the roll-out of “version 2.0″ of free-to-play gaming.”
It’s almost shocking that it took two full years to get rid of the most glaring and obvious issue of the financial model, but the quality and fun factor of World of Tanks – even if some players had a significant advantage – outweighed the issues. It’s a respectful and important move that Wargaming.net is making and does help set the standard in the growing market. As we enter the next-gen of gaming, most MMOs and many new online IPs will be free-to-play – even on the PS4 and Xbox One – and working out the kinks while making the model successful is all part of the industry’s evolution.
Free-to-win is a good motto.
Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes if EA should bother with Bad Company 3!