When I was growing up, there was a method of distribution called Shareware. Demos or Crippled versions of games would be released, usually around 1/3rd or 1/4th of a game. You would then send the creator or developer money, and they would mail you back the full game. You were always free to share the demo floppy or use it however you wanted.
Now a days, we still have Demos but because of the sizes of games, this is often not financially possible. Games became larger and more expensive and gamers became more wary of games that weren’t known to be good. Piracy was rampant, of course, and so developers needed new ways to monetize games. Expansion packs existed, but those often required as much time and money to develop as a full game (because they were so filled with content).
This has given rise to two non-traditional methods of extracting money from your customers, both of which had started out rather controversial but have gained acceptance over time. The first is DLC, which I’m ambivalent about because most DLC varies so widely. For every “Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare” there are six or seven “Horse Armor DLC”. The other method is Free to Play games which is a way to deliver the game to players for free, but make them (in theory) pay for what they want. Of course some greedier game companies have taken this to mean “paying to win”.
Personally, I love when a game is free but gives you the chance to earn everything you can pay for. If you can play, start to finish, and earn everything that someone else can get using their credit card then that is an ace free to play game in my book. To that end, what I’d like to do, is offer a new rating for free to play games:
Some examples I’d like to give:
So there you have it, my suggestions on how we could evaluate free to play games. I also intend to provide a section here on the site dedicated to my experiences with a variety of free to play games, and detailed insight into how their monetization systems work. That way anyone could find out, before they put time in, if they’ll need to spend money and what, exactly, spending money will do for them.