Nowadays many players spent much time on playing games which is called “free-to-play” games. However, they are not free at all. In fact, they are some sort of “pay-to-win” games. Players who paid more money will get more good items and others who spent much more time will also get these items if they can accomplish tasks and then get rewards. But in this situation, many people still enjoy these games although they are not fair as “pay-to-play” games (for example, games on Nintendo 3DS). Why do people continue playing “free-to-play” games?
In These Games: Players Are Intentionally Divided into Groups
In order to find some clear reasons, I think it’s necessary to see how these games are like. In these “free-to-play” games, players are divided into different groups with various statuses: players who paid more money than the average players; players who spent much more time than others and the average players who paid a little or did not pay at all. Just like the real world, even in these “free-to-play” games, something like “social status” appeared. “Richer” players will get more benefits and some players who spent much more time in accomplishing tasks with rewards will also get more benefits than the average players. In a word, in order to get more benefits as soon as possible, players have one option: paying more. And sometimes there will be another one: spending more time. But in some games, this option is not available, and the only way to be much stronger than the average players is paying more money.
The Examples from My Personal Experiences
One typical “free-to-play” game in the U.S. is Hearthstone. Hearthstone is a collectible card game which is available on PCs, Mac and tablets and maybe this category of card game is inherently created for the collection of more money once they were debuted. In Hearthstone, you need to collect better cards than what others have to win. Rare cards are always along with some powerful features. When I played this game, I met some players with rare cards including special features. Actually, for many times when I was about to win, one or two very rare cards in my opponents’ deck soon changed the situation and then I lost. Another situation is about “masters”. Sometimes I realized I met very smart players. Indeed, they had few rare cards, but they won by using good strategies. I thought they spent much time in Hearthstone than average players.
Another instance of “free-to-play” game is an online PC game from China, Crossfire. In China, due to some reasons which I cannot understand, the government had forbidden the sale of game consoles for many years. So game companies turned to create a new market about online PC games. And Tencent is one of these successful companies. Tencent introduced Crossfire into the market. It’s a game like Counter-Strike (the original version). And it’s “free-to-play”. At the beginning (in 2010), Crossfire was not bad, I enjoyed this game. But with the releases of expensive items, it soon became unfair for average players. If players bought an items (in this game, the primary items are guns), he or she will definitely have a better chance to kill opponents in the game. Their weapons can target more precisely. So I quitted several years ago. Last year, I logged in and was curious about what was going on in this game. Just like what I expected—this situation was still the same as what I saw several years ago.
Moreover, there are many other examples in Apple’s App Store or Google Play. For example, Clash of Clans. It’s “free-to-play”, but the first time when I opened it, I realized that, this kind of game on smartphones is also “pay-to-win”. For the constructions in Clash of Clans, if you want to finish quickly and get more advantages, just pay. Or, wait for a while, and others may surpass you while you are waiting.
Why to Play: the Mismatch of Status
“Free-to-play” means “pay-to-win” for these games. Why do many people still want to play this kind of game? I think people play “free-to-play” games just because of the lack of fairness. In other word, the existence of the “social classes” in games. In these games, each one may own at least one account. And they can have another version of themselves by using these accounts. In the society, it seems hard to change the social status (social classes). But “free-to-play” games offered an opportunity to change virtual social status by paying (money or time). Some people may not have an opportunity to be a millionaire in the real world, but they may pay more money than average players do (even just a little bit more) and be “richer” in the game. There is some kind of mismatch between the status of players and social status. Many people are very glad to see this situation. Comparing with the real world, it is way too easy to be in ‘upper class” in a games, isn’t it? If you can be stronger by paying money or spending much more time, why not do this? At least, in a virtual world, they may be better off easily.