The last few years has seen a change in how we purchase our games and feed our addiction. It used to be the normal thing to go out to a shop and buy a retail copy of a game, which you would then take home and install. Then with the growth of readily-available internet, MMO gaming became increasingly popular and the subscription model seemed to dominate the way we played.
Now it is 2011 and there is a new method of payment emerging into the mass market. I speak of free to play gaming and the micro transaction model. This is where a game allows users to download the game client and experience the bulk of the game’s content, completely free of charge.
Users can then opt to pay a small amount to unlock access to various elements of the game such as additional quests or new characters and zones. This type of system has been around for a long time, however it is only in recent memory that the industry has started to pay attention and take notice of this business model’s success. Take Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends, a free to play MOBA game based on the old Warcraft 3 mod, Defence of the Ancients. This game has recently come to the end of its first competitive season. With that came the announcement that the game had 15 million users.
League of Legends allows you to play the game entirely for free. Theoretically a player never has to spend a penny. They can unlock all of the characters and buy runes which improve your character’s stats all with the in game currency you collect, just by playing games. Obviously this method takes time so Riot allow you to buy additional currency so you can unlock characters quicker, or even buy cosmetic skin changes to make your hero look cooler in the game.
This method of voluntary purchasing seems to give players a choice between what is more valuable to them, their time or their cash. If someone has plenty of time to burn then they don’t have to spend a penny. If you are impatient like me, though, and you want the cool new character today, without saving up the points from your played games, then you can simply spend a bit of money to unlock that character and maybe even get a cool skin for them too.
Riot has really set a standard with League of Legends. Not only does their business model work extremely well but their success can be attributed to a number of other important factors. They really look out for their community, doing weekly updates and posting videos and news daily to keep players informed. They also give free skins away and have sales on their in game shop to give people a chance to get the odd thing at discount rate.
On top of all of this support and community spirit, Riot has its heart set on making LOL one of the biggest E-sports in the world. The prize pool for the first season of the game was around $1,000,000 in total. Riot has already announced the prize pool for season two at a staggering $5,000,000. Such an insane increase is due to the game being picked up for some of the biggest events like the Intel Extreme Masters.
With all the attention on Riot’s new game mode Dominion, it is easy to understand why many other companies are flocking to adopt this “freemium” business model, because just like WoW before it, everybody wants a slice of LOL’s pie.