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Future trends in online PC gaming

I’m no Nostradamus or anything, but I’ve noticed a few successful trends repeating over the course of the last few years in the online PC gaming world.  These trends are leading me to believe that they will be the ‘model of the future.’  While none of this seems like a real surprise, I’m putting it all here anyways.  These trends include the free-to-play model, attached to that is micro transactions, and lastly is adding RPG elements to nearly all types of genres.  Let’s look at these further.

Free-to-play will be king soon — if it isn’t already.  If you make a worthy product and are able to make it available to everyone to download it for free, people will download it without much hesitation.  If it’s good, other people will get their friends to download it and suddenly you got something viral on your hands.  There is no need for hesitation for the free-to-play model, you can try out the game and if you don’t like it, you’ve lost nothing.  Instead of dishing out $60 for every brand new game, the free-to-play model opens that product up to everyone the day it comes out.  Where is the flaw in this strategy?

PlanetSide 2

PlanetSide 2

The obvious flaw in that is that the developers aren’t making money for the sales; that is a huge part of their income.  This is where micro transactions come in.  There is a lot of potential for players who play the game for free, and end up loving it, to actually want to buy in-game items with actual money.  These items are all digital, so once created by the developer, they have an infinite supply of it — this is how the developers make money.    

The difficulty in micro transactions is just what you allow players to buy.  For the most part, if developers focus on cosmetic aspects and not aspects that give paying players an edge over other players, then all is good.  When a player can pay real money to become more powerful, that's when trouble starts brewing.  Cosmetic changes are fun, add flavor, and don’t reap any sort of bonus.  Lastly, if you are really enjoying a free-to-play game, what’s the harm in throwing a few bucks into it to show support and get something quasi unique?  Throw Kickstarter somewhere into the mix and mind = blown.

League of Legends

League of Legends

Online gamers love leveling up, distributing skill points, choosing between a plethora of perks, and customizing the shit out of things.  These RPG elements have been seeping their way more and more into games over the years — whether you’ve noticed it or not.  I don’t see this trend stopping or slowing down at all.  Why do we love experience points and leveling so much?  Simple, it shows progression and adds extra depth and reason to do the same task over and over again.  Due to the heavy amount of customization in your experience, it becomes more unique and more ‘yours.’  This adds yet another layer of attachment.  RPG elements are in your favorite types of games: FPS, third-person shooters, MMO, strategy, RTS, MOBA, survival horror, etc. 

Remember, this is all purely my opinion, but at the same time let’s look at the free-to-play model combined with micro transaction and RPG elements in games.  The first game that comes to my mind is Riot’s popular MOBA game League of Legends.  It is free-to-play, has micro transactions that allow you to buy characters and skins, and your ‘summoner’ gains levels with skill trees.  The micro transactions don’t allow you to buy runes which can possibly give you an edge over other players; for the most part, they just help you get characters faster and allow for cosmetic changes.  League of Legends is growing rapidly, has tournaments, has record breaking e-sports views, and costs nothing to download and play.

End of Nations

End of Nations

Games that are coming out with a similar model are PlanetSide 2 and End of NationsPlanetSide 2 is a faction-based FPS, and End of Nations is a faction-based RTS.  Both are free-to-play, both have micro transactions, and both have leveling up RPG elements.  Neither of these games are live yet, so I can’t say how successful they will be, but the formula is still present.  This is the future.  I welcome people to disagree with me, but this is my mighty prediction.  I recall a day where free-to-play meant a lower quality of game, but it looks like these days are long gone.

Ac
Andrew Clouther Human, historian, teacher, writer, reviewer, gamer, League of Pralay, Persona fanboy, and GameZone paragon - no super powers as of yet. Message me on the Twitters: @AndrewC_GZ
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