Is free-to-play a clever way to sell cheat codes?

Remember how godmode ruined Doom 2 experience?

I do.

If we look at the F2P games out there in the market, I think there’s roughly two type of genres:

1) “Save time” packs: Games that are designed to exploit our gambling habits by introducing hidious grinding which takes a lot of time. Time which you can “save” by paying. For example, they tell you must kill 100 orcs in order to progress further, and it takes 10 hours with a rusty sword. If you buy a “kill 100 orcs” spell (costs just 1 USD), you can snap your fingers and get through the obstacle.

2) “Personalize”: Games that sell “cosmetic” stuff that doesn’t affect gameplay difficulty in any level, and there’s no other way to gain the cosmetic stuff besides buying. There’s no “kill 100 orcs” spell, but instead you can buy paint and colorize your rusty sword. All other players have rusty metal swords, but yours has nice blue blade. (Assuming there’s no other way to get different colored rusty sword)

Please notice that if you can get access to blue paint by going through 100 hours of grinding, then that’s closer to #1 than #2 category: it’s still about “saving time to personalize”.

That’s a pretty simplified classification, but should cover two different ends of the F2P opportunities.

I think the difficult issue with #1 type of cheat codes selling (and this is what mr. @lemmy101 stated so well in his most excellent ranting tweets around 15th of November) is that it might give framework for designing games in certain way. The designers are rewarded for designing “games that generate most revenue”, instead of “games that generate most fun moments”.

I read a good post by Daniel Cook and he arguments how “sell 10 buck games” is not working way to generate sustainable business.

My counter is:

  • Expansion packs

I’m not willing to buy new items for my character, or ways to kill 100 orcs easier. But, I am willing to buy new levels with more potential weapons to find, new monsters to hunt.

When developers have some good new DLC additions, it’s a no-brainer for me to buy more.

The “buy 10 buck game” model might not work but “10 buck game and then 5 buck add-ons” does work, and is a fair model.

It boils down to this:

  • A) Do I wanna spend real money to buy items & stuff for my *character*
  • B) or do I wanna spend real money to buy content & stuff for *me as a player*

I’m choosing option B, and that’s probably the reason why there’s not a single F2P game in my computer, and that’s the reason why there’s tons of games in my Steam list.

Which type of games you prefer and what you think of these different ways to sell items and content?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I like your suggestion of Expansion packs, this could work well as long as the game is not crippled (or missing content) when it’s first released.
    PS. I like your ‘Pro-Human Quiz’

  2. I think selling add-ons is a good idea.
    It helps you to understand if the game is interesting to the audience at all. People like your game, they buy more levels, you keep working on it. They don’t like – you stop and make a new game. Win-win isn’t it?

  3. You make a good case for expansion packs. In theory, if a base game is free (or I paid a reasonable fee) and leaves me wanting more I’d be more inclined to buy an expansion pack to extend the experience (for a reasonable fee).

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