View Full Version : An Alternative to Starcraft II Going Free-to-Play

mr. peasant
10-25-2012, 06:52 PM
This is going to sound like the machinations of an evil, corporate executive:

Some time ago, we heard that Blizzard was considering making SC2's multiplayer free-to-play. However, as articles like Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/09/24/no-blizzard-starcraft-2-should-not-be-free-to-play/) point out, this would be a financially difficult move to pull off. Indeed, we haven't really heard much about it since. Likewise, concerns about keeping multiplayer alive continue and Blizzard's current solution is to add player levels in a bid to keep existing players playing.

Personally, I don't think these solutions (especially the free-to-play idea) are going to work. With free-to-play, an important component is a method to monetise it - namely through microtransactions. Which is hard to do in a competitive RTS game that places high importance on balance and visual recognition of units (i.e. custom skins might impact negatively on gameplay). Indeed, when last heard, Blizzard didn't really have any specific ideas on how to monetise a free-to-play SC2 multiplayer.

Rather than free-to-play, I think the right model for SC2 multiplayer to adopt is pay-as-you-go. The way I figure, the system would be set up as follows:

Players would be able to buy the game in full at regular price; giving them access to the campaign and multiplayer much like it currently does. However, players not willing to pay the full price can instead pay-per-game akin to a video arcade game; which would give them access to multiplayer.

The most effective way to do this would be to price the first 20-30 games at say $0.50 per game, and this money goes towards buying the whole game if they so choose. After the 20th/30th game, the player would be given the option to either pay the remainder of the regular price and receive the game in full or continue paying per game. After this, the price could drop slightly so that each game cost $0.25 per game; maybe dropping to as low as $0.10 after the 100th or 200th game. However, none of this would go towards buying the game.

One last final incentive would be for the winner of a match to play the next game for free. So, for instance, you could play 10+ games on the same quarter if you can maintain an unbroken winning streak.

As you can imagine, having the game cost so low (versus a regularly priced game) would make the game more enticing to people; making them likelier to give the game a try. And if it merely costs $0.50/$0.25 per game, it wouldn't be hard to believe that people would be willing to continue throwing money at the game.

Any thoughts?

10-25-2012, 07:09 PM
That's a very confusing pay model, considering the idea of Free 2 Play is to appeal to a wide casual market. If the game is free, your game experience, whether good or bad, is not tied to any sort of monetary loss.

With paying whatever amount of money per game, you want a sense of satisfaction out of your purchase. There's little reason to continually pay to play a game if you lose often either because the learning curve is too steep or the matching system is pairing you up with someone of a higher league.

If you pay per play, then Blizzard has to make sure every game is worth the purchase else no one will pick it up. It's often not the $60 price tag that deters people from playing, it's the hardcore nature of RTS games that distances most people from the genre. Free 2 play softens the blow by saying 'you've got nothing to lose playing this game'.

Starcraft is the complete opposite of a typical Arcade game. You get no immediate satisfaction out of the gameplay and your enjoyment of the game grows slowly over time. This monetary model is also most successful when matches are short, and Starcraft 2 promotes longer, methodical play over rushing/all-ins.

mr. peasant
10-25-2012, 07:16 PM
I don't think it's that confusing a payment scheme. It's exactly like the old arcade games. Basically, that 50 cents buys you a 'life'. With it, you get to play until you die (i.e. lose a game). At a cost of 50 cents, there isn't very much Blizzard has to do to 'make it worth a player's while'. All they need to do is balance it away from rush/all-ins at the beginner level; which is something they are already doing.

The price drop following an X number of games is to incentivise people to continue playing the game after a point where their interest might have begun to wane. For casual players, the thought of paying a few dollars to test/play a game for a few days is a lot more appealing than paying whole price for a game that they may or may not even like; let alone play for more than a few days.

10-25-2012, 07:49 PM
It boils down to being an antiquated payment system for a game that's simply not designed for it. F2P simply works better because it's a No-Risk system as opposed to a Low-Risk system that you're suggesting.

The goal of F2P is to bring in a wider audience into an otherwise niche genre. When I pay my $60 for Starcraft 2, I'm not paying for each game I play online; I'm paying for a package that includes the campaign, the custom games, the map making etc. The psychology changes once you monetize it per game, making you value your time and experience within each game much more highly. This works against Starcraft 2's gameplay because you are SUPPOSED to lose and learn from experience in order to grow and not be thinking 'am I having enough fun for my money'

If anything, it would be better if this was payment per time like a monthly subscription. I think they do this in certain countries. This would be a low-risk payment method that does not emphasize the monetary value of each individual match.

10-25-2012, 11:00 PM
I think it would be too confusing for customers. A better way to approach it would be to give lets say 10 free games per week. If you want to play more, you have to pay x$. The next week you'll still be able to play another 10 games and etc. After having paid y$(probably the cost of the full game) you get full access. A lot of f2p facebook games employ this kind of model.

But honestly, I feel that since LoL is the main "competitor",(or at least stealing away some of the core fans) they should focus on using a F2P similar to theirs. Both of our ideas are inferior to the LoL model in terms of content/$ so this probably wouldn't be the way to go.