Tales from The Trenches Archive

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Why You Should Pay For Free Games

I was selected to take part in a closed beta test of a game created for a popular social network, one that—if I had to describe it—was a “multiplayer single-player game”: each player manages his/her own environment, but players can interact in limited ways like sending gifts or purchasing each others’ items.

The game was rough, but I loved it. I played every day without fail, for varying increments of time, and almost at the expense of everything else. I couldn’t fathom how the company could profit from such an asset-intensive game, where most of the work clearly went into the number of different things that the player could interact with… until the game went to open beta, and premium items and cheats were introduced as a way for the game to pay for itself.

Almost immediately, it seemed, there was an uproar about the premium items. Not problems with how they worked, but the fact that they were premium at all. “Why should I have to pay real money for health?” ignoring that it was a cheat for those who wanted to keep playing instead of losing a battle. “I’m not giving out my hard-earned cash for pixels!” ignoring that it’s free-to-play, whereas the entry fee for an off-the-shelf game is upwards of $60 USD. Between the game’s persistent bugs and the steadily diminishing interest, it’s really not surprising that the game was finally taken offline after all of a few months of testing.

I just want to take this opportunity to say, please, with sugar on top. DON’T complain that the premium items in games cost money. They’re premium items for a reason, because nobody can afford to work their asses off and get nothing to show for it, especially in this economy. Multiplayer games in particular take a significant amount of time and money to implement correctly, and if none of the thousands of subscribers will pay even $1 toward a game they’ve otherwise enjoyed for months, how can the game possibly keep going?

If you like something that’s being offered to you completely free of charge, support it. That’s how social games, especially, get to keep going. I appreciate the service they’re providing, and I’ll gladly throw in a dollar now and again if you can’t afford it, but I can only pay so much on my own.