As a member of the media, it's very rewarding when my ideas
see the light of day, and it's doubly rewarding when they see success.
Of course, Fogster Interactive didn't release retail boxes of style="font-style: italic;"
target="_blank">Runes of Magic
(RoM) because href="" target="_blank">I
suggested F2P publishers should look into it as a way to
build support, but the fact that href="" target="_blank">RoM
just topped World of
in the European under 30 Euros sales
chart certainly validates the potential of the idea.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 148px; height: 185px;"

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 200px; height: 150px;" alt=""

No sleight of hand here. RoM is casting a
real spell over Europe.

In just under two weeks since href="" target="_blank">the
official launch of RoM, Frogster's F2P title is shaking the
industry. Even if you normally dismiss F2P games, you have to take
notice of RoM because it does so many things right. I won't rehash it
all here because my review will be along soon enough. The major points
to note are that the title offers a href="" target="_blank">dual
class system, raid content, crafting, and all the other
extras of a standard MMOG. The big deal is that RoM delivers all of the
features well. The game doesn't try to add in features to check off
items on a list; each component is carefully designed to add value to
the entire product.

Frogster also handled beta and launch well to properly market
its game.  The closed beta href="" target="_blank">was
an exclusive affair aimed at getting dedicated
testers who cared about making the game better. Open beta served as the
more traditional F2P marketing event. Then Frogster displayed even
greater savvy, revealing that the launch would come with the release of
new content that had been held back and refined during Open beta. In
this way, Frogster avoided the href="" target="_blank">flaccid
launches that embarrass other games. style="font-style: italic;">

retail box, which Frogster's Axel Schmidt had told me about some time
ago, continues to fly off the shelf in Europe because the publisher did
it right. Even though everyone can download the client for free, the
box sitting in the stores ads extra marketing punch for the game. Its
bargain price means people are more likely to take it to the checkout
as an impulse buy. Finally, the in-game items packaged with the box
provide incentive for current players to go buy a copy and support
continued development of RoM.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: left; width: 148px; height: 185px;"

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 200px; height: 150px;" alt=""

Will more F2P publishers follow the
example set by Frogster?

The full impact of Frogster's choices will be difficult to
measure for a while yet, but the sales charts don't lie: there is room
for success in the West if a F2P game is built well, handled properly,
and marketed wisely. In the short term, the first dent into the armor
of F2P skeptics is here. In the long term, I expect to see more
hybridization of revenue models from MMOG. Gamers can expect to see
more companies use the plans like Dungeon
that allow people to play for free forever but
also offer a subscription and/or a box sale. SOE's style="font-style: italic;">Free Realms is the
perfect example of a future title that will likely have all the polish
and shine of RoM and use a mixed method of generating future
development dollars.

In the meantime, Frogster will need to continue building on
its early success. The next steps will be to convince the group I call
the "P2P snobs" that RoM is href="" target="_blank">selling
hats rather than lemons in its item mall (convenience items
only, in other words), to href="" target="_blank">rediscover
the lost art of developing raid content that will appeal to
the hardcore gamers with a lot of play time, and to find the right
balance of content updates to keep the game feeling fresh. All the
while, the team has to answer the masses about
why target="_blank">bigger is not always better in
gaming worlds and resist the urge to href="" target="_blank">zerg
the market with the next title.

Parting Thoughts

Admittedly, I wasn't taking any more of a risk when href="" target="_blank">I
predicted Runes
of Magic
would "be a huge success...and...grease the
wheels for microtransactions in the West" than I was when I said
BioWare would win target="_blank">the New Space Race.
So far, Frogster is proving almost all of my hypotheses correct.
Hopefully others will follow their example and start making better
quality and lower quantity F2P games.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 250px; height: 160px;" alt=""

It was a weird news week in F2P gaming. href=""
announced the return of its "flesh sac" monsters while href=""
unveiled the new "nut shot." Aiming
slightly above the belt, CABAL
target="_blank">revealed its expansion, style="font-style: italic;">Lost World. Like
the target="_blank">Pioneers
of Iria
expansion Nexon recently introduced for style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi, ESTsoft
is packing in as much content as it can for style="font-style: italic;">CABAL fans. style="font-style: italic;">CABAL spent a brief
time in this Top Ten list, and the expansion is a sign of the
game's popularity.

Meanwhile, Nexon might just be the next company I praise for
following the suggestions I have made for chipping away at the Western
distrust of F2P games. Ten Ton Hammer's Cody "Micajah" Bye has scored
an interview with Nexon that emphasizes a new approach of focusing on
delivering fewer titles at higher quality. I won't spoil the whole
interview (look for it soon), but I strongly encourage all developers
to follow suit. If the economy continues to make money tight for
everyone, F2P gaming stands to see an influx of players. As I have said
before, resist the urge to pump out games like an Alien queen drops
eggs; make sure you support the games you have on the market and you'll
draw more long term customers.

In other news, href="" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Warrior Epic
released some new screens at GDC. Some people will be pleased with the
hand drawn backgrounds and oversized armor while other won't. In
particular, I like target="_blank">the shot of a warrior and a spirit
that we snagged. Normally, a picture is worth a thousand words, but
it's go time where Warrior Epic is concerned. The fan base needs to see
the next stage of beta begin soon before their confidence and patience
wear thin.

Moving ahead, look for further discussion about the
hybridization of
revenue models in MMOGs next week and what that means for this column.

cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2">
colspan="3" rowspan="1"> style="color: white; font-weight: bold;">Top Ten
Free-to-Play Games

March 30, 2009 style="text-align: center; width: 75px; background-color: rgb(114, 105, 62); font-weight: bold; color: white;">Rank style="text-align: center; width: 105px; background-color: rgb(114, 105, 62); font-weight: bold; color: white;"> style="width: 334px; background-color: rgb(114, 105, 62); font-weight: bold; color: white;">Game


week: 1
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="width: 334px; vertical-align: top;"> style="font-weight: bold;">Atlantica Online - ( href="" target="_blank">


is a squad-based fantasy strategy game that breaks the mold. Players
can control up to nine characters at once in fast-paced turn-based
combat. A lot of the systems in Atlantica
are different from the standard fare on the market.
  • href="">Atlantica
  • href="">Ten
    Ton Hammer Review

style="font-weight: bold;">


week: 2
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Mabinogi - ( target="_blank" href="">


provides so many things to do that it earns its self-appointed moniker
of “A Fantasy Life.” Players can farm, play music, hunt, craft, go to
school and more in this fantasy land. In style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi, combat is
not the only way to advance.
  • href="">Mabonogi
  • href="">Ten
    Ton Hammer Review


week: 3
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Runes of Magic -
( href=""> style="font-weight: bold;">)


Runes of Magic
is a traditional fantasy game that uses a Dual Class system to inject a
little strategy into character planning and a lot of flexibility into
grouping. RoM has all of the features gamers want in a
subscription-based game, but they’ll enjoy them for free here.
  • href="">Runes
    of Magic Portal
  • href="">Preview

style="font-weight: bold;">


week: 4
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Dungeon Runners -
( style="font-weight: bold;">) NCSoft

Dungeon Runners
is a hack and slash fantasy game that infuses every aspect of gameplay
with humor. DR makes fun of other games, the genre, and even itself.
This is the perfect game for a player looking to blow off steam after a
rough day at work.
  • href="">Dungeon
    Runners Portal
  • href="">Ten
    Ton Hammer Review


week: 5
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Requiem: Bloodymare - ( href="" target="_blank">

Gravity Interactive

Requiem: Bloodymare
is a horror-themed game that blends the traditional elements of MMOGs
with the visceral feel of a gore film. style="font-style: italic;">Requiem is worth a
look because of its fresh take on setting in MMOGs.
  • href="">Requiem
  • href="">Preview style="font-weight: bold;">

style="font-weight: bold;">


week: 6
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Dream of Mirror Online - ( target="_blank" href=""> style="font-weight: bold;">)

Aeria Games &

Dream of Mirror
puts the player in the starring role of a classic
Chinese myth. The eastern-based lore provides a refreshing twist on
MMOGs, and the multi-class system makes character development in this
fantasy game fun.
  • href="">DOMO
  • target="_blank">Ten Ton Hammer Review


week: 7
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine - ( href="" target="_blank"> style="font-weight: bold;">)

Games &

Megami Tensei: Imagine Online
brings the popular RPG to
life in the MMOG sphere. Players can use friendly persuasion or
aggressive coercion to get demons to fight by their side. The dark
subject matter and modern setting of the game is a welcome contrast to
the enchanted glens filled with pixies we often find in MMOGs. style="font-weight: bold;">
  • href="">Megaten
  • target="_blank">Preview


week: 8
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Neo Steam -
( target="_blank"> style="font-weight: bold;">) Atlus Online

Neo Steam
is a steampunk
game set in a world where warring factions compete for a limited supply
of the resource Neo Steam. It was above average in most categories
during closed beta for the US, but it had multiple translation
problems. Atlus Online should iron out the kinks.
  • target="_blank">Neo Steam Portal
  • href="">Preview


week: 9
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Free Realms -
( target="_blank"> style="font-weight: bold;">) Sony Online Entertainment

Free Realms
is a a 3D fantasy
world designed to encourage exploration and support casual play. With
graphics similar to WoW and all the gameplay of a standard MMOG, style="font-style: italic;">Free Realms could
appeal to adults. Its many minigames and events are designed to please
  • href=""
    target="_blank">Free Realms Portal
  • Preview (coming soon!)


week: 10
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Warrior Epic -
( href=""> style="font-weight: bold;">)
Possibility Space

is ready to begin the next round of closed beta soon.
It provides a fantasy hack and slash dungeon crawler experience with
some very innovative features, including the ability to choose
different character classes for each dungeon and a Warrior Hall that
grows with the player.
  • href="">Warrior
    Epic Portal
  • Preview (coming soon!)

This List

Please refer to the Top
Free-to-Play Games Portal
to find out how to get a game you
make or like on this list.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Runes of Magic Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016