Everyone loves the freebie and the free game, well, it’s like a warm hand on your back and a voice in your ear saying, “Go on. You deserve it.”
But is that voice a devil or an angel? Are free games all they are? Why can you complain about something that costs you nothing?
But sometimes “free” provokes “Thanks, but no thanks,” and here’s why.
Free but angry
Scenario: You download and install a free game, only to discover that it is… terrible. Well, at least it didn’t cost you any money. But it cost you time, time to install it, and time to discover this fact.
But even though the game is of high quality, and many of the best free games are, they are often less fun to extort money from the player. An example of this is the excessive grind many free games have.
Progress in the game – unlocking what allows you to unlock the former and then the latter – can be a great way to stay engaged with the game. And it can also be fun, just ask any Monster Hunter player. But the intentionally annoying grinds in some free games (say, Lineage II) aren’t listed there to help you have a good time. Higher tier items are priced for hours of grinding in-game currency to encourage you to spend real money in-game.
Simple pay-to-win games – games where you can buy power (in the form of, say, weapons) are quite rare these days; gamers don’t like the obvious, fun business and can make a fuss like Star Wars Battlefront II. But even allowing players to “skip the grind” gives that rich or reckless player an edge and actually allows them to pay to win. This can create a “has and not” atmosphere in a PVE game, and can make PVP games particularly unpleasant to play, especially for new players who have been shot with powerful weapons.
Then there’s the pressure of endless free games. Epic, we love you, please let them come; we are just trying to chose the HDD and SSD problems. What if you don’t have space to download them all? Are you deleting one to recreate another? This is a small problem but worth mentioning. Getting free games is great, but it’s not always necessary. Quality over quantity.
It might as well cost you money
But even if the game is great and the grind is good, what about your wallet? “Free-to-play” obviously does not mean “free”.
Take League of Legends and take it from us who spent so much money on the game that we won’t tell you how much we actually spent on it.
There is no pay-to-win in League. Everything sold in the game is cosmetic in nature, and you can even get skins without having to do more than grind and get lucky with Loot Crates.
Even so, you won’t get new skins in the Loot Chest, and they’ll always tempt you. Well, they always look cool, don’t they? AAA companies really put a lot of time, effort and talent into their products. League skins are always heralded by malicious marketing strategies – including K-pop inspired music videos, short films and fiction – that will positively tempt you to open up your wallet for them.
And yet, after all, you own none of it. When the servers are down, you can’t play them, everything you’ve spent money on is gone. Pouf.
Still, many say they are willing to spend money on ephemeral fun, paying for it one skin or piece of DLC at a time. Yes, when they reflect on the total amount of money spent, they get chills, but wouldn’t you do that if you added up the money you donated to McDonald’s?
Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not to buy any in-game items or currency, but some games make it nearly impossible and ultimately cause players to completely leave the game.
One of the strange properties of free-to-play games is that even though the game is still available, you can never really finish it. In normal games, you can complete the game in all modes and find all the Easter eggs and worms. However, you can never access every part of League of Legends without spending thousands.
You end up feeling that the “free” part of the “free game” is setup.
Shout for free games that are actually free. Platforms like itch.io always have a wide variety of them, many of which are very strange.
There are also free and open source games, such as 0 AD, a great example of a truly free game that is as good as a pay-to-play game. In fact, there aren’t many really great open-source games out there. Development is usually slow compared to a commercial game. On the other hand, as long as the game’s source code exists on the Internet, development doesn’t have to stop. The game is not going, poof, although players can.
Some of the world’s most addicting games are free. For example, the number of hours we’ve worked in League of Legends, Warframe, and Starcraft II is, well, disturbing, and possibly much higher than what we’ve recorded in all of our loneliness and crying-Steam game money combined.
This is because free games are constantly being updated. They keep bringing you back into orbit with new seasons, skins, character updates, and patches.
And it’s kind of sad because there are many, many other games available to play. Many of us are probably familiar with this situation: a new game has been released and we’re excited, but suddenly we’re playing MechWarrior Online again.
Because we want something new, yes, but new things in the games we know are also new. Anyway, we have so many skins and we’ll be leveling up soon … Our free game didn’t cost us a dime – in the beginning – but now we’ve spent a lot of money and time.