Free-to-play outfit Wargaming is implementing a new monetisation strategy.
The studio is best known for online sensation World of Tanks, where players buy, build, and upgrade tanks before taking them into massive multiplayer battles.
This has been a huge success for company, so it might come as a shock to see it changing tacks, but the execution of the previous free-to-play strategy drew some criticism from users who felt it was necessary to pay in order to win.
Wargaming's new free-to-play tactics focus on removing all “pay-to-win” options, instead allowing players to buy additional content and customisation options that don't give an edge on the battlefield.
Gamasutra reports in a Q&A with the developer that this new strategy is being called “free-to-win”, first conceived in 2011 and has been in testing since last year.
“We've been working on for the idea of "free-to-win" for quite some time now,” said Wargaming VP of publishing Andrei Yarantsau.
“We made in-game purchases that were previously only available to paying players open to all players. Things like gold rounds, premium consumables, camouflage patterns, emblems, platoon creation and other features were switched over to be purchasable with in-game credits.”
The key idea behind free-to-win is to attract more players by removing aspects of the business model that could be a turn-off.
“Wargaming is a company delivering free-to-play online games, and we strongly believe that you can't provide a truly triple-A free-to-play experience without absolutely making sure all combat options are free of charge to all players,” said Yarantsau.
“We don't want to nickel and dime our players - we want to deliver gaming experiences and services that are based on the fair treatment of our players, whether they spend money in-game or not.
“The amount of time and effort payers and non-payers spend to succeed in-game may differ, but at the very least the list of accessible options at their disposal remain identical.”
This could be seen as a major risk; the fact that players have to pay for certain advantages certainly drives those who are hooked to spend more and removing the competitive incentive from the business model might hurt profits, but Wargaming.net doesn't think this is the case.
“The free-to-win concept is sure to enhance customer loyalty and attract new players to the game. As for the company's economic efficiency, we expect no decline in profits,” Yarantsau explained.
“If anything, the introduction of our free-to-win features will likely cause a decrease in the purchase of premium ammunition. At the same time, however, players will use gold to buy credits, pay for premium account status, or purchase premium vehicles. In the end we project that it will all balance out.”
It's not just the in-game battle that Wargaming is fighting with 'free-to-win'. The company plans to put the new model into all its games, and is out to win the war for free-to-play through the hearts and minds of consumers.
“This isn't just about the game economics of World of Tanks, either,” said Yaranstau.
“We aim to completely overhaul the free-to-play concept that exists as a whole in the gaming community by getting rid of the idea of "pay-to-win," ultimately helping lead what we consider the roll-out of "version 2.0" of free-to-play gaming.”