Revelation Online: Is free-to-play the way to go?




Revelation Online is one of the big names of the year, if you’re into MMO games – and you should be, considering you’re reading this. A flagship title from Chinese developer NetEase, it has captured quite a bit of attention since it was revealed in 2013.

Obviously inspired by NCsoft’s Blade & Soul, and also taking some clues from Aion, Revelation Online didn’t exactly light the world on fire when it entered open beta in 2015, forcing NetEase to revamp the game with new content such as maps and mounts, including a 50-man narwhal mount, as well as optimizing the graphics in order to enter a second open beta in early 2016. Yes, because that’s just how MMOs work nowadays, as strange as it seems.

Anyway, you should now be up to speed with Revelation, and that brings us to the main topic of this rant – publisher My.com is bringing this game to North America and Europe but is yet to reveal the business model. This isn’t a first, and is becoming increasingly more common to see Asian free-to-play games being released as buy-to-play in the west, with a few recent examples being Guardians of Ember (Embergarde) from the makers of Dragon’s Prophet, and of course the big one, Black Desert Online, a game that is free in Korea, Japan and Russia, while North American and European players have to pay upfront for a game that was built with a cash shop in mind. This is not fair at all and is even worse than what we usually call pay-to-win in games – it’s pay to play coupled with the high possibility of pay-to-win, even if it comes into play later on, in the shape of a small patch or larger content update. Something that is apparently happening with Black Desert right now.

My.com is the publisher of Skyforge, Armored Warfare and World of Speed (if this one actually releases one day), and all these games share one very interesting thing: they’re free-to-play. This model seems to be working fine for Skyforge, and Armored Warfare has a nice following so we’re guessing it is doing OK too. Opting for a different model for Revelation Online such as buy-to-play would be a first for the studio, and one more case of trying to cash in on a formerly free-to-play game as much as possible before the player base withers, and a subsequent move to free-to-play is inevitable. We can call it double dipping and the new trend with these games: initial purchase price plus cash shop sales equals quite a bit of fast revenue. And that’s without counting Founder’s Packs and all sorts of additional packs.

We’re not against buy-to-play, as long as you set the price accordingly to the overall quality of the game and its original release. But going as far as asking for money for a free-to-play game and then doing your best to push players into buying items from the cash shop is far from ideal.

If (and that’s a big if) Revelation actually launches with a fixed price, then it’s Black Desert all over again. There’s a major difference though: Revelation isn’t Black Desert. Revelation is a nice martial arts fantasy MMO from a developer that isn’t yet at the top of its game – NetEase’s upcoming Twilight Spirits MMORPG looks a lot like an upgraded Revelation – and some even say that Moonlight Blade, a new Chinese MMO from Tencent, is the better of the two.

Jumping into the B2P wagon with Revelation Online doesn’t sound like the best option to us. We’re biased, of course, but we usually say that if you’re confident enough in your game, then you’re not afraid of reaching a larger and ultimately unlimited audience with free-to-play – if players truly love your game, they will support you. Case in point is Path of Exile, a hack and slash made of pure love for the genre and with a free-to-play business model that is deserving of all praise. Or the upcoming Paragon by Epic Games – you may know this “small studio” from Gears of War –, a visually stunning MOBA that is getting better and better with each new hero and patch, and while Epic Games could have gone the Overwatch way, they’re letting the community speak for themselves. With their wallets.

Ultimately, Revelation Online is a free-to-play game; it was developed with that business model in mind and it should stay that way. Now it’s up to My.com.


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