Since the dawn of the MMO, developers have been searching for new ways to entice users to play their games while paying a fair price for it. In the beginning there was the pay-per-hour model, which exactly as it sounds, charged gamers a certain amount of money per hour they played. While that may be scoffed at by today’s standards, it worked back then.

It wasn’t until the early 90’s when Internet accessibility blew up and forced the games industry to adapt, readjusting how we paid for our games. Hourly play rates shifted into a more suitable subscription based model. That model seemed to a golden middle ground until 2002 when MapleStory came out, sparking the revolution of the freemium-pricing model.

Nowadays you can’t go anywhere without hearing Free-to-play. Where it was once isolated to PC gaming, freemium and its micro-transaction made its way onto our phones and now looks to enter the console market. And you know what, we should be thankful for it.


Freemium as a model has been very successful in helping both gamers and developers alike. The pricing model has made gaming more accessible for a larger audience, thus bringing in more money for the developers to create more games; that to me is a big win-win.

I won’t pretend like some games don’t try to take advantage of their audience by nickel and diming them out of their hard-earned cash; not to mention certain games created with the intention of scamming consumer money through the model. And I’ll admit some games were a complete turn-off for me solely because of their free-to-play model (looking at you, Plants vs. Zombies 2).

As game design evolves to fit the model, I believe this will only breed benefits. As gamers, we need to weed out the deceitful games that use the model to hoax us out of our money, forcing them to readjust or disappear entirely. By using your wallet, we as gamers can help developers continue to improve the model by showing what you will and won’t pay for.


Despite its criticism, freemium has helped make steps towards fixing some issues the gaming industry faces in 2014. How, you ask? Allow me:

While the music industry may have felt the worst of it, PC gaming has received its fair share of piracy; something free-to-play is helping to combat. Statistically speaking, the most recent survey on game piracy (2011) shows that around 12.6 million users are actively illegally downloading video games and related computer software.

Despite the rampant piracy, no free-to-play titles appear on the list of most downloaded games. The free-to-play model has created a way for developers to set their own pricing standards and limit the possibilities of piracy.

Another positive attribute of freemium gaming is the increase in gaming popularity. Before the rise of mobile gaming, gamers were mostly thought of as young males. Still today in popular media gamers are viewed as that stereotype, when in reality gaming the gamer demographic is much more inclusive.

A recent survey on gaming trends and demographics from 2014 states women rose to 47% in the active gamer demographic. While older gamers (50 and over) account for 29% of the gaming population. The increased variety and accessibility in gaming, caused by free-to-play gaming, can be attributed to for the major increase in parental involvement. In 2014, 89% of parents are getting involved with what their children play and how they pay for it.


We can look at games like League of Legends, HearthStone or even our own game, Office Attacks!, as how game design can work in tandem with a freemium model. These games learned from where other freemium games went wrong and adjusted to create a more consumer-friendly pricing model.

Only through fair and just criticism can we help improve the freemium model and help developers improve how it fits into their game. For the most part, developers are cleaning up the freemium model. Free-to-play games are actually becoming free games that offer real value for your money, rather than requiring it.

There will always be a market for big AAA games, but it seems more and more clear that free-to-play games will dominate in the future. And hey, that may not be such a bad thing after all. If we look at the positives and examine how the pricing model has evolved over the years, free-to-play gaming could be the future we wanted all along but never knew it.

Rather than putting down $70 for a game we have yet to try for ourselves, we should have the option to try the game, see if we enjoy it and then put the amount of money into it we feel is necessary. That’s the consumer-friendly future I’ve dreamt of and the one my wallet so desperately needs.