In the world of video games, one of the most popular marketing techniques is the free to play model. As its name implies, gamers are legally allowed to download, install and play a game for free. In past years, these games were usually old versions of popular franchises that people no longer paid any attention to. Now, a lot of companies are offering brand new versions right out of the box for free.
To the ordinary consumer, this sounds like a bad business strategy. How can companies earn a profit if they give out their products for free? The catch is that these gaming companies don’t actually offer the whole package without earning a fee in the future. For example, in MMORPGs or Massive Multi- player Online Role Playing Games, players take on the role of a fantasy character, going on quests and earning points in order to buy better equipment for their character. As the player goes on more quests, he gains more experience which also allows him to level up, improving his character incrementally.
Here, there doesn’t seem to be any recognizable business plan. The real catch is that most companies will only allow free players to level up to a certain level (for example, level 10 out of a possible 100 levels). There might also be sections of the game which are restricted to these free players, or items which aren’t available in the free version.
The companies then advertise these better items and maps for a monthly subscription fee. This is where they earn money. Because players have already bought into the fantasy world, they’re more inclined to pay for these new features than if they had started from scratch. No wonder then that these MMORPGs remain as popular as ever.