news\ Oct 24, 2011 at 9:43 am

Minecraft Creator Hates "Free to Play" Business Model


Despite the growing trend of companies switching to the free-to-play business model, there is one developer who doesn't quite agree.  Minecraft creator, Markus "Notch" Persson, who's known for sharing his abrasive opinions via Twitter and blog, weight in on free-to-play games, or as he calls them "as expensive as you want it to be."

That's right, Notch hates free to play.  Let me rephrase, he doesn't hate free to play games, but while he is "skeptical of the free to play trend", what he really hates "is the wording 'free to play'".

The mind behind Minecraft, and a unique approach towards it's launch, claims "the reason anyone switches to 'free to play' is to make money.  You get your players hooked on your game, and then you try to monetize them.".  Minecraft doesn't fall into this "free to play" category, but it did have an interesting release schedule, by becoming available during very early beta at discount and slowly raising the price until it's full official release.  Though not the norm in video game releases, it has proved reasonably successful as Minecraft has sold almost 4 million copies before it's official launch in November during MineCon.

Here's the problem Notch has with the term "free to play".  According to his post:

You get your players hooked on your game, and then you try to monetize them. The idea is to find a model where there basically is no cap on how much the player can spend, then try to encourage players to spend more and more money. Various psyhological traps like abusing the sense of sunk costs get exploited, and eventually you end up with a game that’s designed more like a slot machine than half-life 2.

But then Notch says something that doesn't quite fit in with the rest of his argument.

I do not mind paying for games after the purchase. I like customizing my character, or getting a few extra levels (DX HR:Missing Link, woo!), or even paying a subscription cost for something with running costs.

So let me get this straight, you don't mind a company intentionally leaving content, already on the disc at launch, locked at launch and then forcing players to pay for it at a later date as "DLC". (See Batman: Arkham City).  Those "extra few levels" as DLC can be considered extra content that these free to play games rollout on a consistent basis, often time much more frequently than DLC.  I don't understand how you mind paying a subscription for something with running costs.  Many of these games that are free to play update the game quite regularly.  League of Legends releases a new champion every two weeks, on average, and continues to make balance tweaks.  Might I had that you can also buy these champions for free using in-game IP (influence points).  Yes, you can spend money to unlock them quicker, or buy them "skins", but at no point do I feel obligated to spend money on this.  In fact, the only money I've spent on skins was from a gift card given to me.  Free to play games have the same running costs as games with subscription costs, except I'm not forced to pay $15 dollars a month.  In fact, I spend quite a bit less than that.

Notch concludes, "people who think 'free to play' is a great future are mostly game developers, not game players."

Sorry, Notch, this is one topic that I disagree with you on.  It makes me wonder if you backing the "subscription" plan for games is a way for you to try and casually begin transforming Minecraft into free-to-play now that the launch is almost here.  How do you intend for it to be profitable after launch and fans are no longer buying the game?  Who's going to pay for those constant updates?

Do you agree with Notch (do you think it's a scam) or would you like to see free-to-play as the business model for the future of gaming?

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