Seinfeldian Moment:

Photo taken at the 1997 Emmy Awards

Image via Wikipedia

What’s the deal with…

All these free to play games popping up like mushrooms under a soggy bridge? (Do mushrooms actually pop up under soggy bridges?)

It’s somewhat creepy. I can just hear, “The first one’s free,” in my mind’s… ear.

I feel like Lord of the Rings Online inspired it, although it’s not like LotRO was the first free to play game. But, at least in my memory, LotRO was the first subscription game to pull up stakes and welcome all of us – yes, me! – free loaders onto their servers. And it worked.

So now I’m bombarded by free to play game banners everywhere I go. Well, when I’m not assaulted by Rift and World of Warcraft ads, that is. But do these free games even, uh, make money? I’m at a loss.

That said, I’ve been playing League of Legends for over a year now, and I’ve spent at least as much money as I would have on any non subscription game on LoL. But LoL is different. All the DotA guys gave it a whirl, and a lot of them stayed. But the MOBA style of game is pretty simple at its core (I couldn’t program it, of course – wouldn’t even begin to know where to start). Seems as though games like LoL and Heroes of Newerth make more sense as free to play than an MMO. Oh, right, welcome to the darkside, HoN.

All of these free games feel great for gaming as they provide a glaring alternative and legitimate competition to traditional game design and sales models. Competition is good. But, of course, if all these free games are terrible, then doesn’t that just reinforce the notions that we need to actually pay big bucks for our gaming fix?

Economics ams hard.

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