Should “Free-to-Play” Be Rebranded MTG?

Maple Story is a "Free-to-Play" MMOIn a recent post on Gamasutra, David Chang, EVP of Business Development and Marketing for GamesCampus, explains why he thinks “free to play” games need to be rebranded as “MTG” – or Micro Transaction Games. Why? Because calling games free to play “generates a lot of unnecessary cynicism and calls our product quality into question.”

Chang draws a parallel with how the primary function of Google, searching the web, is free to any user. Both can charge for various premium services (for Google it would be something like paid search and for a game, virtual goods). “In both situations, people receive a valuable service – free search or a free game experience,” says Chang.

Despite the logical comparison, Chang believes that one of the biggest cause for the stigma is a matter of branding; stating that the term “MTGs (Micro-Transaction Games)” would be a far better label. Immediately upon rebranding, there would no longer that preconceived notion of “what is wrong with it?” However, in order to be dubbed an MTG certain prerequisites are required:

  • No purchase to download/play
  • No level/content cap beyond what is needed to play
  • Monetized by virtual goods sales (at least partially)

Of course, virtual good sales are not the only workable business model for an “MTG”. In the article, Chang also touches on the models that can also work for this growing genre, but more importantly, what will not work.

His chief example is content caps, stating, “People end up investing time and emotionally connecting with a game only to find out that if they want to continue, they need an admission fee… you will lose most players at the pay-gate.” This certainly churns some food for thought, as there are a number of “free-to-play” titles that are guilty of this, and the damage to the game’s community from said player lose dramatically hurts the game as a whole.

Overall, however, most free titles are moving in the right direction regarding their business models. “Now is the time,” says Chang, referring to the growing virtual goods business model. “We should be looking at re-branding from free to play, to instead being known as micro-transaction service providers.”