Friday, June 14, 2013

Free to play: The spectacular deal for fighting games if done right

How can the free to play market be beneficial to fighting games? How can it end up being a disaster? Jump inside to get Aren Douglass' two cents on the F2P craze.

The amount of sodium in these two games alone have caused the price to be free.

Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate (DoA5U) and Tekken Revolution have become the first major fighting game titles to be announced as free to play (F2P); but is this a good direction for future games or another Street Fighter x Tekken (SFxT) fiasco ready to happen?

Let's plan out the best possible outcome.

DoA5U will allow players to use the title's most popular characters for play: Ryu Hayabusa, Hayate, Kasumi, and Ayane. The F2P version will also give players training mode, all the stages, and the ability to go online and play against owners of the full version. Story mode will cost $14.99 and adding characters from the full roster will cost $3.99 each.

This a spectacular deal.

The F2P version will serve as a 'full' version demo where veterans and newcomers alike will be able to play as the title's trademark characters and get a feel for how the game works. If they like one of the four available characters it's an even better deal because they don't need the whole roster. At $4 each, even a couple of purchases won't break the bank and when the player wants to expand the roster they can do it on a whim. Being able to play against friends and other people who have the full version is also an incredible deal. So not only is the player getting a finished game demo, they are getting the game for next to nothing out of their pocket.

Tekken Revolution is in the same situation, but is taking a slightly different direction. Namco Bandai is giving the players access to the full roster along with online capability. The game comes with eight unlockable characters, with more that can be purchased, and a character enhancement system. This system will allow you to level up characters and increase their health, normal damage, and special move damage.

It's interesting that they have added a coin system similar to how one would play at the arcade. The player is given an allotment of virtual coins and they are spent when the player participates in an online match (ranked or player). After players have used up their coins they have to wait a certain amount of time for the coins to refill. Similar to DoA5U, players are allowed to purchase premium coins for extra matches. If a premium coin is used, the player can keep the coin and can continue playing with a victory. Losing spends the coin and another is needed, keeping in line with Namco Bandai's model of a virtual arcade.

Similar to DoA5U, the player gets a taste of the roster and online play with more to come. It again is as good an offer one can get in comparison to buying the full price game and being discontent after a week.  

With that said, there are some unfortunate regrets the community may have with how these game may go.

After SFxT was shown to have DLC characters locked on the disk, will the community overlook Namco Bandai or Tecmo Koei if they do the same? What's to stop them if they are already withholding the characters in a F2P version? How is it fair to the person who pays $60 for the full version and then decides they want the new DLC that the F2P owners will pay less for?

One can say don't buy the full version, which is fine, but realize that if no one buys the full version these companies will just make their games F2P or low priced. Then they will either make the player buy required updates to play the game, or offer DLC that may give others an advantage.

The other thing to note is Tekken Revolution's coin system. Here is a quote from Tekken producer, Katsuhiro Harada (via Venture Beat):

"Usually with fighting games, people like to concentrate and play in bursts of 20-30 minutes, maybe an hour at the most. So we kind of tailored [the game] so that you have enough coins to play for that time several times throughout the day.”

While it may be true according to Harada, that players are only playing in bursts of 20-30 minute sessions, that is still a way of limiting playing time to create a requirement of purchasing coins. If the game is a demo, leave it as a demo with all the restrictions the company chooses to impose. However, if perhaps this is the future of how games are developed, kiss the midnight fighting game parties good bye.

Part of the reason for having the game is to play it whenever one wants to play. Limiting online play and making it about how much someone can spend is shady business and going against why people buy games. Assuming the retail version doesn't have this feature, there should be some compliance as the game is F2P. If the retail version does have it ... hope that there's someone trading coins so there's enough on the system to play when the time is right.

Probably the most important thing to see here is free. The micro transactions are daunting; but one cannot ignore the fact that instead of paying $60 or more, the game is free.

Enjoy it while it lasts. Pray that these games are not limited to what a F2P version should be and what retail versions should not.