Rant: My Free-To-Play Dilemma

Victory Screen and Deluxe Chest Unlock

As someone who plays and who has worked on Free-to-Play (F2P) games, I get both sides of the matter. It’s fun to play a game that doesn’t cost money and I understand the need to make money in order to make more games and/or add more content. But I really hate it in F2P games where you hit that imaginary wall in place to meant to ‘suggest’ to the player ‘maybe you should spend some money so you can get better at the game’.

Until you start playing a F2P game (or if someone tells you), you don’t always see the wall coming. The hardest part is that the wall changes based on how popular the game is or if the developers are struggling to keep people playing. The wall always changes because the whole point of F2P is growing the user base and hopefully, earning revenue from them.

The whole point of this rant of mine is that the F2P game that has consumed so much of my phone’s battery lately, Heroic Magic Duels, has me at a crossroads.

My Recent Run of Form

If I want to progress any further, I have to invest real money to do so. I am no longer getting the items necessary to progress. In fact, I am going backward, losing more duels than I am winning. My opponents are stronger, my deck draws are unfavorable. If I want to get better, I clearly need better luck with the reward chests I get or to spend real money.

My wish for F2P is the scenario that a lot of MMOs incorporate. Give us the base product for free but charge us for additional single-player content. Reward users who play (and complete) the single-player portion while the F2P community can still play the multiplayer aspect without feeling the pinch of needing to pay. At the same time, it is my thought that these situations, you’ll convert more players because they know ‘hey, I want to get better and I know that if I play and complete the single-player, I will get what I need to be that.’

For example, Heroic recently did two weekends of what they called “Last Man Standing”. A king of the hill type mode where people play against each other to win a rare unit.

Last Man Standing Victory Screen

Yes, it was possible to get the unit if you dedicated a large chunk of your weekend doing so, the easy way to unlock was to earn the 80 tokens for being the ‘Last Man Standing’.

Although it was possible, there were definite strategies to be the most successful. This wasn’t really a battle of wits but once again stacking the deck in your favor with specific units and hoping to get drawn against those who didn’t already pick up on the ‘exploit’.

I invested a good chunk of the first weekend unlocking the character but the second time it came around, I didn’t bother. I quickly saw the same lack of tactics happening again and I was not interested in spending my weekend solely playing the game.

On the flip side, if this was a single-player mode where I had to progress through a series of challenges that got progressively harder and that required me to edit my deck in creative ways to win, I would gladly pay the 5, 10 or even 20 dollars for it. If I know I will get a few hours of value and know that there is a reward for my trouble, I am more willing to spend real money.

Paid Chest

The other factor that comes into play is the deck size of Heroic. At the time of this post, I have 44 of the 56 available Minions, but of the missing ones, most of them are the “Epic” and “Legendary” ones, including one long-range Legendary character that I feel is a cheat-code. I can spend money on Chests in the hopes of unlocking it, but as it stands, I’m more likely to get Minion cards for units I’m not really using, so I can’t actually improve my deck in any meaningful way.

As of this blog, I am slowly shifting away from dedicating hours a day to Heroic Magic Duels. I may return but I have more enjoyable games (both on my mobile phone and elsewhere) that deserve my attention. While my not playing won’t hurt the developers now, but if others start feeling the same way, it could have long-term effects.