Editorial by Coyote, Ten Ton Hammer's MMOG Humorist
"Free to play."
To gamers and geeks these three words have almost mystical properties.
They can lift your spirits, renew your hopes and conjure countless
images of fun and adventure. From flash games slapped together by
wannabe game creators to the latest and greatest buzz word craze out
Are free MMOGs really
Nothing grabs the attention of the community like the promise of
something for nothing. But what exactly style="text-decoration: underline;">is a "free"
MMOG? Are they truly free? Are there strings attached? Can they be any
fun? I mean, they're free right? How can something style="text-decoration: underline;">free be
In order to answer these questions (and more) you first have to
understand what a "free" MMOG really is. You need an analogy
masterfully crafted by a writer with both the wisdom and understanding
to explain such a unique genre.
Too bad they gave this assignment to me, eh?
So what is a free MMOG? In short, it is taking your first hit off of a
digital crack pipe. Chances are you didn't see it coming and you had no
intention of trying it, but some smooth talking gamer in a suspiciously
big hat and gold teeth cozied up to you and offered you a sample of the
And you liked
"Yeeeaaah. You like that
don't you? You seein' all sorts of far out worlds you ain't never
imagined, ain't you? No no..go ahead man. It's free. It's allllll free.
Yeeeaaah you like that."
And just like that you're hooked.
New worlds, new levels, a new community full of strangers just like you
who have something in common. You love the game and find yourself
thinking about it at work. Plotting your next adventure in your head,
hell, you even turn a couple of your friends on to it so that you're
not the only one doing it.
And best of all? It's free.
It doesn't cost you a dime. How can you justify playing? How can you
playing? Haha! How do these rubes make any money?
But then your magical journey into the mystical world of free gaming
takes a much, darker turn. You've been playing for weeks, and you're
starting to feel like you've seen it all. You've killed the monsters,
and you've rescued the damsels, but you're still hungry for play. So
you go back to your dealer to see what else he has to offer.
But now your crack dealer isn't so friendly. (Not that crack dealers
usually are, I imagine. In fact when I think of "friendly" I don't
immediately associate the words "crack dealer". I usually associate
"crack dealer" with "glistening scabs and pistols". But then again, I
watch a lot of TV.)
Once you start on the
free MMOG, it's hard to stop.
Maybe he's aloof, and playing hard to get, or maybe he seems to really
care. So he puts a big fuzzy pimp coat clad arm around you as he shows
you a new weapon. Or points out a style="text-decoration: underline;">new zone
full of new
monsters and new
rewards, just ripe for the picking. Your heart races, your pulse pounds
and you feel the same rush you felt when you first found the game.
But now there's a catch.
Your free game isn't so free anymore. That bonus content? That's for
"subscribers", and "subscribers" pay money. Sure you played for free
before, but that's just the taste baby! Do you want just a taste of the
burger or do you want grease dribbling down your chin as you take a big
juicy bite? Besides, you've been playing for free, don't you kind of style="text-decoration: underline;">owe them a
little bit of cash? And who said that it has to be more than once? You
can quit any time you want! You're just playing for fun and if it
eventually costs you a buck or two, who are you style="text-decoration: underline;">really
Two weeks later you're knifing your grandmother and selling her
pacemaker on eBay to cover your alt habit. You've lost all of your
teeth, you smell like the horror side of a hobo's boxers and your beard
makes you look like Tom Hank's body double from Castaway. Your family
life is shattered, your social life is a memory, and your grandmother
looks like she went three rounds with a face hugger and lost.
All because you got into free MMOGs.
is how they get you. I mean their angle, not like hunting you down with
face huggers that implant eggs in your throat. Because that would be a
horrible new user incentive. Sooner or later someone is going to read
the system specs on the download page and question the whole "Spacious
chest cavity" requirement.
The point is; free MMOGs are anything but free. "Free" is their hook.
Their gimmick. They get your interest, give you a taste of the product
and try to entice you further into their lair. It is the same tactic
used by strip clubs across the globe. They always have some hot young
busty chick on the suggestive billboards, not because she was the only
model available at the time, but because they know the truth. If they
show you the "Tuesday Night Lineup" full of bad hair weaves and
cesarean scars, chances are you aren't going to stick around long.
Unless you're into that. Nobody is judging you.
Free MMOG's are there to make money, despite whatever counter message
their name may imply. No company wants you to play their game out of
the goodness of their heart or because they love gaming. They want to
make money, and they want you to invest in their product.
It is just a different type of marketing strategy. And you can't call
them dishonest or misleading - because you don't style="text-decoration: underline;">have to pay
in order to play. But the old saying remains true, even in a digital
"There's no such
thing as a free lunch."
"There's no such thing
as a free lunch."
So if you are going to play them, then by all means do so. Download
them, enjoy them and become part of the gaming community. Some of the
best MMOGs out there are the "free" ones, and if you understand your
part in their existence you can have all of the fun you desire without
costing yourself a dime.
But always take them for what they are.
Like the stripper with glitter lipstick that seems to be truly into
you, they're there for one reason only; to get your money. The MMOG
doesn't love you, and it isn't connecting to you on a "real" level.
What you have isn't magic or special, it is a business arrangement.
Proclaiming anything that tries to counter this obvious truth will just
get you laughed at by your buddies and teased mercilessly.
If you understand this and accept it, then paying a little bit of cash
for something that you enjoy a lot is always a good deal. There is
nothing wrong with paying money for access to a "free" game.
Just make sure to wash your hands, never touch the doorknobs on the way
out, and bring a change of clothes because glitter is almost impossible
to get off of your shirt and really easy to spot.
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed are those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of
the Ten Ton Hammer network or staff.