When you’re talking about free-2-play done right, there are certain titles that always tend to pop up. One of those certainly is Path of Exile. Actually, the game’s devs are so confident about the fact that they even poked fun about “pay to win” three years ago.
Lately however, another game has taken more of the spotlight. Warframe has silently become a powerhouse of the free-2-play market. Its latest expansion “Plains of Eidolon” doubled the concurrent average and players on Steam, and they were able to retain a large chunk of them as well. The developing studio Digital Extremes obviously is doing something right, and better than the competition. So if you want to learn a thing or two about the free-2-play model, can’t be wrong to ask them. That’s what James Brightman of gamesindustry.biz recently did. He sat down with Vice President Meridith Braun to talk Warframe and its monetization model.
It’s an interesting read if you’re into this kind of stuff. It’s lengthy but absolutely worth it. I’ve also highlighted and discussed the most important points below. Have fun with it!
“We’re looking to redefine what free-to-play means to gamers.”
Interacting with its community seems to be a strong suit of Warframe. Some devs recently backed off and blamed a lack of candidness to a toxic gamer culture, Digital Extremes instead embraces the challenge. What could make them so successful is that they back up their words with actions. According to Braun, fixes are sometimes “delivered within hours”. And that’s important because one of the major keys of running a business is reliability. If you promise a fix, deliver it in time, or let you players be part of the process.
I frequently read on Neverwinter forums that no update is given because there is none. That’s nonsense because no update is actually an update. Yes, the community often excels in hyperbole, but if you know someone is waiting for an answer, be straight with the process even if there’s a delay. Miasmat for example has taken the correct approach in the current foundry situation.
“We offer a fair non-intrusive pay model that respects our players wallets and time.”
The second thing to note is a fair montization model. This ties into what other have said about designing ethical lockboxes. Neverwinter with its exclusive and progression relevant items is awful at doing that. If something is not perceived as fair, it will fail. And talking about non-intrusive, how about those admin message spam? This is one of the worst ways to implement lootboxes. If your product was solid, this kind of annoying advertisement wouldn’t be necessary.
“Giving players a choice and a voice really matters.”
This is another interesting tidbit. First of all it refers to the perception of rewards I’ve mentioned above. Greedy developers and publishers have done such an awful job on free-2-play and lootbox monetization that we’re at a point where you have to do exceptionally well to sell a game that features this kind of stuff.
Braun also claims that you need to build monetization around your game. With lockboxes being such an important part of the progression, it certainly feels like Neverwinter went the opposite path. The game directs players to its cash store and some systems might be primarily designed with monetization in mind. This unfortunately means you’re not giving players choices, because somebody has to spend money for the system to work. Neverwinter by far is not the worst offender, but it could definitely do better in some areas.
If you want to be successful in the free-2-play market nowadays, it seems like it can’t hurt to look what Digital Extremes is doing these days. Have you played Warframe and can add own information about its monetization? Is it better than Neverwinter, or just different? Share your thoughts in the comments below and visit the corresponding thread on our message board!
Neverwinter UN:Blogged is always looking for writers to contribute to the blog. If you are an active player and search for a way to spread your opinions, analysis, diaries or reviews to more than 40,000 regular visitors, then don’t hesitate and get in touch with us on our contact page or message board! We are currently especially looking for console and PVP content, but that’s not exclusive. There is no frequency requirement, you post how often you want.