Buy-to-Play or Free-to-Play: what’s the difference, really?

black desert female blader 1

“Please make it buy-to-play!”, someone, somewhere cries right now. Now hold on a minute, as we have something to say: you’re doing it wrong.

Bear with us for a while. Buy-to-play as it is nowadays isn’t going to get you a better game – you’re just being tricked into paying for a free-to-play game under disguise. It wouldn’t make Lost Ark a better game, or turn the currently missing in action Peria Chronicles into a safe, balanced anime delight. Let’s take Kakao Games’ flagship title Black Desert Online as an example, a game that is actually free in South Korea, Russia and Japan but that turned into buy-to-play for its westernization. This is still pretty much a F2P game with the cash shop, fickly balance, riddled with bots and mass pay-to-win protests. Did you feel better for having to fork out $29.99 or even more for a game that other players are enjoying for free, having the same annoying issues as them but for an initial purchase price?

Who benefits in this new day and age of buy-to-play with cash shops? The publisher, that’s who, especially when aware that it has an anticipated game in its hands, such as Black Desert, or maybe Revelation Online, this one with a business model yet to be revealed. The cash injection from the initial sales is welcomed and later on, when the sales and the player base declines, the mechanics that were in place from the start (read cash shop) will be pushed forward and the game will then switch to free-to-play – something that it should have launched as.

Guardians of Ember (Embergarde in Taiwan) is another F2P game that is launching in North America and Europe as a buy-to-play game. Apparently not upset by the dreadful experience with Trinium Wars (a game that launched in March 2016 as B2P, switched to F2P in May and shut down in August), the publisher is once again trying to lure players to buy into a game where a cash shop is prominent. Path of Exile this isn’t.

One more example just to get our message through: Trion World’s Atlas Reactor. A nice little tactical game announced as free-to-play, later in development it turned to buy-to-play for some obscure reason. Three months gone by and for a reason that this time seems pretty clear to us – not enough player interest/pre-orders -, Atlas Reactor reverts to free-to-play… Oh wait, it’s more like Atlas Reactor now includes a free mode, which is in fact free-to-play but with a few limitations, something that is the standard in most, if not all games using this business model.

All this controversy could easily be avoided if Black Desert and other games would just stick to the one variant of the free-to-play model which sounds pretty fair to us, while being fair to the developers – a free game with a cash shop, small free content updates and larger paid expansions. It’s something currently used by Guild Wars 2, Rift and Star Wars: The Old Republic, where you get the best of two worlds – you get to play the full core game for free and if you truly enjoy it, show your support by purchasing the expansions. If you didn’t enjoy it and watched it turn into a pay-to-win mess, well, at least you didn’t have to buy the game in the first place.

To players and developers: if you’re going to wave the buy-to-play flag for every game, make sure it’s properly done, not free-to-play in disguise.

What are your thoughts on this buy-to-play versus free-to-play dilemma?

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  • eileen2911

    you’ve got trolled by a B2P model with a expensive cash shop then pay to win.

    The publisher in the west just listen to it’s community to make it B2P. then last year, it has positive feadback from western communities, they want B2P because less trolls, less children, less bots, nope you can’t prevent it!. many people wanted it to become B2P. Someone says look what happen to Archeage P2W right?, The cash shop of black desert is F2P style with P2W. the B2P model let’s you buy the license to enter the game but it will NOT remove the P2W.

    like the statement said above “Buy-to-play as it is nowadays isn’t going to get you a better game – you’re just being tricked into paying for a free-to-play game under disguise”

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    • eileen2911

      You’re just wasting your $ 29.99 to enter then P2W cash shop sigh

      #Freetoplay

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  • eileen2911

    look another MMORPG bless online wants to be published by kakao games and make it B2P to prevent p2w as i read some comments on their fb page. then when the publisher revealed in March. the P2W comments invaded publishers page.

    “Buy-to-play as it is nowadays isn’t going to get you a better game – you’re just being tricked into paying for a free-to-play game under disguise”

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    • http://www.freemmostation.com/ FreeMMOStation

      Bless is going to be published by Aeria Games in NA and EU and they’ve always been F2P, so Bless should be too, unless they change that and go for the currently worst business model, B2P + cash shop.

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      • eileen2911

        Well, We hope that Aeria games listen to its community. there’s a lot of p2w concern

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  • Yuen

    Nowadays when one MMO business has a success story, every other business tries to copy them and instead screw it up and make business methods and models go bad. It’s an opinion of mine and what I’ve seen in F2P MMO games I’ve played in the past and it’s so repetitive.

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  • Martin Ivanov

    im laughing at all the ppl that were blind sheep about black desert and bought it

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  • bloom warren

    why bother Daum has shown they have only one interest in the west milk them dry.
    further more they do the deception routine on anything they do they say no p2w now with the cash shop items to auction house it is p2w only they call it time management. fact is that the b2p or f2p issue is the first then comes p2w . personally i could not care less about the publisher and developer because they are an example of a greedy cooperation just like trion worlds in the states.

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    • Exile Asura

      it not daum man it the publisher of the game pearl abyss

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      • bloom warren

        correction pearl abyss is the developer daum or kakau games since they re-branded them self is the publisher and as far as i know the forum is run by the so called publishe r but correct me if i am mistaken on that fact is people leave because of there greedy tactics that has surfaced with there so called time management scheme witch is nothing else to sell cash shop items for silver . point is first they do the b2p witch was intended to lure the western gamers into the illusion it will not be as the f2p variant but recent month have shown they constantly found ways to milk people cash shop items value pack and so on. i see them as the big brother of trion worlds cause what they pulled off here will be hopefully not copied by other company’s. but the past have shown its easier to lie to customers then to be honest.

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