Last week, Ten Ton Hammer’s Eric “Dalmarus” Campbell suggested
that  target="_blank">free expansions for P2P games
might actually reduce overhead expenses for publishers and headaches
for developers. I agree with Dalmarus in his assessment of the feeling
of entitlement (albeit justified) consumers develop when they pay for a
product. The line of reasoning posed by Dalmarus makes sense for a P2P,
but I have been arguing the other side of the debate when it comes to
F2P games. It still firmly believe that  href="" target="_blank">F2P
games would do well to explore the benefits of retail boxes.
My idea calls for retail prices sufficient to cover production and
distribution of boxes, which would provide invaluable marketing, but it
obliterates the developer’s ability to call a game F2P. More
importantly, most F2P games simply aren’t good enough to warrant the
expense and logistics of retail. So does that mean we F2P gamers are
stuck with soft launches?

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

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 200px; height: 125px;" alt=""

Dungeon Runners has a retail box, but is
it helping the game?

The primary deficit I observe in digital distribution of F2P
games is that the lack of retail presence results in diminished
marketing, which causes beta phases of development to be  href="" target="_blank">little
than marketing ploys. It
makes no sense. F2P developers typically expose gamers to a product
already beneath industry P2P standards but with dozens of bugs or
incomplete translations to boot. It’s a bit like asking the three
little pigs to invest in an unfinished straw hut that sits across the
street from a nice sturdy stone house that just needs a paint job. We
already know the outcome of this mindset: F2P games have a short window
of opportunity to entice players, a poor retention rate, and a horrible

As awesome as I like to think all of my ideas are, F2P games
aren’t ready for retail boxes yet.  href=""
is available in stores near you, but I
have no data about how that has helped or hindered the game (and I
welcome anyone from NCsoft to drop into our forums to comment). style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners is
very polished as F2P games go, and it would be one of three or four
games I’d think could get my retail distribution plan to work. Most of
the rest of F2P titles would not live up to the demands of consumers or
would not be able to generate impulse buys. For instance, I never would
have tried target="_blank">Nostale
even if it were available in a box that only costs $5. The style of the
title was too cute and screamed “for kids.” Given how style="font-style: italic;">Nostale turned out,
it’s a good thing I didn’t pay for it, too, because I would never try
another game from that publisher again. Since I didn’t feel like I
wasted any money trying it, I would be willing to give something else
they make a go.

Mike Tinney, North American President for CCP, is right when he
says  target="_blank">retention is a bigger factor than big
numbers in the success of MMOGs, then F2P games have got to
change their focus from cycling players through a network full of games
to a focus on keeping players in a single game. As I have noted before,
this means making betas be about fixing bugs, finding different ways to
market, and making launch day noticeably different from beta. If retail
boxes aren’t the answer, then television commercials and print ads will
have to fill in the gaps.

I’ve covered my opinions before about betas needing to be
demo-like sections of the full version of a game designed to promote
reporting and fixing bugs, so I won’t repeat myself. I also have
outlined that I think constructing a F2P game that promotes community
and that is good enough to warrant item mall purchases  href="" target="_blank">keeps
a F2P gamer playing the same title. I see some companies
already working to these ends. Frogster successfully used an exclusive
closed beta to refine  href=""
target="_blank">Runes of Magic before moving into
open beta.  href=""
does a number of things to promote
community interaction. Both titles are mostly solid, too, which lends
credibility to the F2P initiative.

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

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

The launch version of Runes of
Magic will
contain content beta testers did not get to see.

In addition to the careful management and proper use of a beta
test and the quality exhibited by the staff behind style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic, the
team also knows a thing or two about launches. It may sound like a
silly concept to P2P gamers, but F2P titles frequently transition to
“live” status with little more than a news blurb on their homepage. style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic is
set to launch March 19 with the inclusion of new dungeons, skills, and
quests. That is to say, players will be able to tell the difference
between the beta version they play on March 18 and the release version
they play on March 19.

By contrast, I was worried about style="font-style: italic;">Atlantica at a
couple of points in the beta process. The website would promise the
beginning of the next phase of beta or a launch pending a certain
number of registered users. Stipulations like that led me to believe
that NDOORS was relying more on speculations about potential revenue
than the readiness of the game to reach the next phase. I imagined some
sharp-witted business person telling the board, “A% of F2P gamers make
item mall purchases. The average revenue per month per customer is $X.
To reach our target of $Y per month, we need B total registered users.”
Then B became the new benchmark for progressing to the next phase of

Parting Thoughts

My concerns over Atlantica,
which were private until now, turned out to be unfounded. NDOORS
continues to blow me away with their game and their handling of it
since launch. In fact, Atlantica
released a free content update in February that did a good job of
increasing the title’s depth. Included are new main classes, new
mercenaries, new dungeons, and new items. This follows the first live
update that grew the game up with an increase in the level cap.

Sadly, Atlantica
is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to quality and
development of a F2P game. As much as I’d love to see retail boxes for style="font-style: italic;">Atlantica in my
local stores, the bulk of the F2P industry has a long way to go to be
ready for the kind of expectations the average gamer has when paying
for a product. I make it sound simple: make beta an exclusive affair to
fix bugs, make launch open up a lot of new content and features, and
then reinvest in the game with your item mall revenue. For now, I’d
just be happy to see more companies start by putting an end to the
wimpy “launch” days that have no meaning for players. Pay attention to style="font-style: italic;">Runes of Magic,
developers. I think they’re on to something.

Do you agree with Ralsu?  href="mailto:mailto:%[email protected]">Email
your thoughts or post them href=""
target="_blank">in our forums!

The Top Ten

to page two to see Ralsu's
latest Top Ten list. 

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

Atlantica Online
is not the only F2P title adding new content. style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi players
are enjoying the Pioneers
of Iria
content update. This expansion of the original
game adds new races, quests, and plot. The new land mass is bigger than
the old one by a long shot, too. From beast-transforming elves to
refined character development, Pioneers
of Moria
is a significant update that propels style="font-style: italic;">Mabinogi up to my
#2 slot this week. View our Pioneers
of Iria
gallery right  href=""

My final note this week is that I have heard some rumblings
out of the Runes of
community about a patch that changed TP costs for
skills. The patch sounds good as the cost of the skills went down, but
I know of at least one RoM player who has gotten shorted as a result.
His skills were all reset and he was missing some TP; that is, he had
been refunded the new reduced price for the skills and lost some TP.
His support ticket came back with a reply that the new cost was lower
and that the loss of TP was permanent. Has anyone else experienced
this? Please let me know. I haven’t played RoM in almost three weeks,
so I wouldn’t have the first clue about how many TP I should have.

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

March 9, 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: 4
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: 2
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: 3
href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 100px; height: 100px;" alt=""
src=""> style="font-weight: bold;">Dungeon Runners -
( target="_blank"> 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;">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="">Ten
    Ton Hammer Preview


week: 7
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!)


week: 8
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
  • Rreview (coming soon!)


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;">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
  • 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 Dungeon Runners Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016