Free-to-play and the loss of player leverage

The other day the devs of a free-to-play game I enjoy made a decision that I was pretty uncomfortable with. I’m not going to go into specifics because this isn’t a post about that specific situation.

But as I sat there fuming about this asinine (in my mind anyway) decision, I started to think about what I could do to convey my displeasure. And do you know what I came up with? Not a thing that would make any difference.

I mean sure I could rant here or rant on Twitter and it might make me feel a little better, but since I’m not an Internet Super-Ego it wouldn’t really have any impact on what the company was doing.

The only real leverage we gamers have is to vote with our dollars, and even then it’s pretty trivial. We can stop subscribing to a game and/or vow not to buy the next game from that publisher.

But this was a free-to-play game. I didn’t even have that tiny leverage. The only thing I could really do is stop playing and deprive them of one player, and I’m pretty comfortable saying they’d never notice that difference amidst the background noise of the constant churn that Free-to-play games ‘enjoy.’ I guess I could vow to never buy anything from their cash shop but that would just mean I was like most of the other players (in any Free-to-play game the majority of players never spend money).

In short, I felt (still feel, really) helpless and frustrated.

Co-incidentally, not too long ago I also had an issue with a subscription-based game. In THAT situation, I had leverage, used it, and got my situation resolved. The company wanted my business. I mattered to them. That alone was enough to make me feel more forgiving towards them, to be honest. Being heard, being made to feel like you matter…that’s important, at least to me.

When was the last time a Free-to-Play game really made you feel like you matter? Probably the last time they were having a cash-shop promotion.

There’s an upside to paying our way. Sure it’s nice to get things for free, but free also means giving up what little leverage we as gamers have.