Feb 18th, 2013

One of the new developments for this generation has been the evolution of the free to play genre of game. Originally these games were reserved for hardcore Korean grind-fest MMOs were micro-transactions were the only way to stay competitive. Companies used this free to play model because they knew once they got the player hooked, they’d be willing to throw down cash to stay competitive with their friends. While this business model certainly works well for drug dealers and the business end of things, it’s not so great for consumers. Thankfully, over the past few years that has begun to change.

How Hats Changed it All

Did you know that hats were the start of the free to play revolution? It might seem strange, but it’s true. In 2009, Valve Software introduced micro-transactions to its pay-to-play FPS, Team Fortress 2. Avid fans of the game flocked to buy headwear that was purely cosmetic and served little purpose, showing the business world and investors in gaming companies that players will vote with their wallet when the game is good enough to do so.

Two years later, Valve rocked the world again by announcing that Team Fortress 2 would go free-to-play, supported entirely by micro-transactions. This may  not seem revolutionary since many MMOs have gone free-to-play before, but it turns out that as a F2P game, Team Fortress 2 earned 12 times more revenue than when it was behind a paywall. TF2 continues to be a top earner for Valve and for that reason, many Western companies are re-examining the way they offer games to consumers.

Free to Play vs. Pay to Win

One of the main problems with F2P games is finding a balance between what’s perceived as free-to-play and pay-to-win. No player wants to spend months on a game to achieve what can be bought for a few dollars. Korean MMOs suffered from this which is why Western markets were hesitant to embrace the model. However, the introduction of hats with absolutely no stats or innate abilities as micro-transactions showed the world that cosmetic items are a great way for developers to earn cash.

This is something that games are doing even now to attract bigger numbers and have more people willing to pay for items they want to see on their characters. A good example of this is Dust 514 on Playstation 3. Players in Dust 514 can purchase dropsuits or guns that have different abilities that increase with leveling up, but there are numerous dropsuits that start with the same basic stats but sport different appearances.

Another example of this is Zen Pinball 2 for Wii U. The basic game is available for free in the Wii U eShop and has a few default tables for people to play on. If you want more, you can choose the tables you want to add to your collection in the form of DLC. This is less pay-to-win and more akin to going to a buffet and only eating the food you want instead of being served something you might not like.

Other games that have balanced the free-to-play versus pay-to-win concept are mainly on PC–Planetside 2, Blacklight Retribution, Warframe, and Lord of the Rings Online–just to name a few. With so many great free-to-play games available to PC gamers, isn’t it time that console players get a bone?

Benefits of Free-to-Play

Currently Dust 514 is one of the definitive examples of free-to-play when it comes to current generation consoles. However, developers who hope to embrace the future could definitely profit by creating free-to-play games for next generation, including the Wii U. Zen Pinball 2 has kicked it off by offering the initial game for free, but I can think of several other games whose model would support this type of play as well.

The upcoming Toki Tori 2 could offer the first two stages to gamers for free, while offering up the other stages as a $1.99 download. Two Tribes would still make the same amount of money if a player enjoys the game and buys all the packs, with the option to expand the game in a more timely fashion instead of waiting to issue large patches that add more and more content. Most gamers seem more willing to put small amounts of money on things and invest in them further if they enjoy them. This is why the mobile market for games is currently booming.

What are your thoughts on free-to-play games? If some of the aforementioned games were to be released on Wii U, would you support them? Tell us your ideas for free-to-play and whether or not you support the movement in the comments below.

Would you play a free to play game on Wii U?
pollcode.com free polls 
local_offer    free to play  Nintendo  Team Fortress 2  valve  wii u  
  • Ultranist


  • The_fuzz_buzz

    It’s a waste of time, buy the demo, you like it, pay for the ENTIRE game right then and there, so you aren’t all into the game one day and then your like, “Say whaaaaa?!?! I gots to buy mowe levahs? Ain’t goin down wit dat!”

    • Fred

      I disagree, I’ve bought so many games for $50 or $60 and then never finished them. With the free to play I may have just spent $20 or $30 and saved some money (actually probably would have just used the money on more games), but at least I’m getting more bang for my buck and if it’s a game I will end up conquering then I’ll spend all the money. I like the concept of paying for each level, but I hate the concept of paying to stay competitive. I started playing Evony once until I realized how it was set up, I hated the idea and quit playing straight up.

  • GeDDeN

    I most def will play free to play games.. Its a no brainer really

  • Nintendude

    That’s funny, I was just about to go play some TF2.

  • Linskarmo

    It depends on what the micro-transactions are for, and how much they are, for me. It really depends on the game too. An interesting business model, but I think it may get abused with too many micro-transactions sometimes.

    • That’s a position many people hold. That’s why I wanted to list only positive free-to-play experience, instead of the more awful ones like SWTOR.

      • Linskarmo

        I see. I think this type of game can definitely be great. I might get Zen Pinball sometime soon to test it out. (Oddly enough, SWTOR is advertised on this same page. 😉 )

  • NintendoNoob

    As long as devs don’t take advantage of micro-transactions and the F2Ps are like TF2

  • Henry Hotspur

    I just don’t want a WarZ situation.

  • Nintedward

    I’m enjoying my free2play  Tank Tank Tank in UK 😀 . I get to play it for 3 times day which is like 15-30 Minutes.  I’m actually considering buying some of the add on content. 

    The game is very basic and low graphics , But it’s pretty fun 😀 . And this way I can spend £  slowly  adding a different thing every week or so…

    • Fred

      Tank Tank Tank is a great game. I hope they add that option here in the US cause I’m one of the few people that was willing to pay $50 for it

      • Nintedward

        Is it very simple and the graphics pretty much suck even though it’s a deliberate arcade style. But there is something pretty amusing and charming about the game 😀 

  • Sounds like something cool

  • Fred

    I’ve never done free to play, but if it is the way you’ve described zen pinball or Toki Tori I’d be happy to do that (on the other hand if I had to pay full price up front for either of them I probably wouldn’t). In fact the way it is right now I haven’t yet bought Fire Emblem Awakening, but if it was set up the same way Toki Tori was described I’d absolutely have bought a few levels already. I’ve never played a Fire Emblem game so it’s hard to drop $40 on it, but if I could drop $2 and get going and then $2 more when I was ready I’d have already done it. Go Nintendo let’s see this!

  • AAAkabob

    As long as there is an option to buy the full game for no more than typical retail price I am down w/ it.  I’m just disgusted by games that make you buy the ending or practically force you to pay if you want to progress at an acceptable pace when you already paid  more than $50

  • DemonRoach

    Na.  Should of just stayed with a PC.  

  • David Rampa

    if its rediculously made like tank tank tank bullshit then no. that game still makes you pay for singleplayer and some multiplayer missions. thats not really free if you ask me, yet they still advertise the game as free.

  • Gearchin

    If TF2 came to wii u, i would play it in a heartbeat.I believe the F2P will be an integral part of gaming this generation.

    • Alex Damman

      YES. it would be so awesome to have tf2 on the wii u. i am both a nintendo fanboy and a valve fanboy. if valve were to decide to put a game or even steam on the wii u… well, let’s just say i would probably explode from the pure barrage of awesomeness it would create. either that, or from the demoman sticky-bomb raiding me. KA-BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

  • fireheartis1

    As long as I’m not paying to stay competitive then this sounds awesome.  If I have to pay just to keep leveling up then I’ll be pissed.  If I have to pay to get knew worlds in the game and some new equipment than it would work just fine.  I will be downloading Zin Pinball for sure and if I find a table pack I like then I will buy it.  To me this sounds amazing and it could work out for indie games that I want to try out.

  • ludist210

    Give me Phantasy Star Online 2, and yes, I would buy into it.

    • Oh man!  Give me PSO2 and I would give them a blank signed check, they could fill in the amount!!!

    • Gearchin

       YUMM PSO2 man that game needs to come out already, wouldn’t surprise that the pc US version isnt announced yet, all because they are waiting to announce console versions at E3.

  • Andrew Nguyen


  • Laud

    I dislike free to play games because it never feels like I can progress unless I’m willing to drop a percentage of my paycheck. 

    That’s just me though.

    • Alex Damman

      have you ever played tf2? you should try it out if you haven’t already. the thing about tf2, is that

      a) like the article said, half of the things you can get on micro-transaction are purely cosmetic items so if you don’t want to pay for them you aren’t hurting yourself

      b) you can also get the weapons, but here’s the thing: they are side grades, not upgrades. each has strengths and weaknesses, and none is considerably better than another. so again, you aren’t hurting yourself by sticking with the stock loadouts.

      c) you can still get the weapons on random drop. so you have a chance of getting all the weapons without paying for any of them.

      d) if you make one single purchase, no matter how big or small (and it doesn’t matter if you ever make another), your account will go premium, expanding your backpack size and allowing you to trade wit other players, so trading is yet another way you can aquire weapons without paying more than once, more than the cost of the cheapest item on the online store.

      and if you have tried tf2 already, and didn’t like it, that’s fine with me.

      • Laud

        I played it before it went f2p and then stopped when it went f2p.

        The whole hat thing was annoying to me and so was losing every game because your team mates were all spies.

  • Takarashi282

    Free-to-play games are good in most cases.  Some games are exploding out the ears with content, it is almost ridiculous that it is F2P.  However, you still get what you pay for for these types of games.  So, if done right, more F2P’s won’t hurt.


  • brian murphy

    no dont want this crap starting on the wii U if its anything like what zynga does i wont buy anything they can go plow there selves

  • Einar

    Without doubt I would play F2P games on the Wii U. However it has to be a game that isn’t pay to win, much like League of Legends or TF2, where you only buy accessories that doesnt’ really change how well you do in game.

  • Gabe Hoffman

    Just imagine TF2 on Wii U!

  • 9Tales


    • sexigarro collective

      donaald was rape by a plumber in his childhood, im sure of that.

  • Edward Rhoderick

    Yeah who wouldn’t


  • john madsen

    there is a major loophole as you have stated though if you can buy it great but users dont buy it instead they hack it or steal it which hurts developers this is why hacked versions of perfect world with custom servers came to light because gamers want to play for free and have the items free as well and not pay for a single item or upgrade or world of warcraft with the free servers from canada and the u.k that require no monthly fee this is why they need to fix this issue badly if your game is good make your games code better not worse 

  • Nikola Matanović

    “Another example of this is Zen Pinball 2 for Wii U. The basic game is available for free in the Wii U eShop and has a few default tables for people to play on. If you want more, you can choose the tables you want to add to your collection in the form of DLC”

    Wow, you never played it, did you? It’s not ftp, it’s a trial game. TTT is a bit better since you can actually play it but it is still a bad game. Still waiting for a decent ftp game for the Wii U…

  • InterTreble

    Why not? Interesting pattern for some kind of games. Better to have than not. The problem is when you have to pay, even for the online…..

  • ElladanCZ

    Not really TF2 person, but a Dota 2 on the wii u would answer all my wishes. Valve has shown that games can be completely for free and that you can pay only if you want. (Not like MMORPGs where in order to pass some level you have to buy item X for 5 dollars.

  • MadCrain

    Tribes Ascend on the Wii U? Instant Boner.

  • Joseph Parsons

    free to play games on wii u  hell ya i wood