I'm 29 and I've been gaming since I was 5. To me, a game can be many things, but most of the time, it's a game you MIGHT play in the arcade, then hope it comes in some sort of console version right to your home. Back in my day (oh man I hoped I'd never say that seriously), that's just the way it was. Now look. What arcades? I can't blame that on free to play, but I'm certain you're thinking what I'm thinking and if you read on, you'll see what I mean.
Videogames no longer a social medium and yet still a social medium but on a different scale, arcades slowly faded from existence. Oh, you'll still find a few here and there at bowling alleys and so on, but for the most part they're gone. I always looked at this as a negative step in gaming because even though they weren't staying popular, I looked at them as part of the history of gaming.
No matter. At least gaming will stay the same with the same genres or possibly just improving them, right? Where did survival horror go? Why has adventure gaming only been recently tackled by the indie crowd and become more novelty than serious genre? But the one question that kept barraging people over and over again was "is this game really worth $60?" Nope.
$50 was hard enough for a lot of us to manage, but at least games were spaced out. Now it's all about the marketing and that could become a problem, especially for a lot of us oldschoolers. Anymore developers are learning to target specific times of the year for their releases. It's not just "let's release it when it's done." No, it's "let's release it when it MAY be done, but definitely around this date for maximum profit and competition with titles X, Y, and Z."
And of course, if you were planning on buying titles X, Y, and Z, guess what? Yup, $180 right there and in that one month. It's no surprise, then, that the indie scene has blown up lately. What, $15 to $30 for a game that's just as good as retail or at least matches what you wanted such as Amnesia? Fucking sold! Ah, but this has led to another unfortunate tactic in the gaming industry: free to play.
By now, everyone should know what free to play is, but if you don't I can sum it up as so: the game is essentially free, but you can buy different stuff with real world money to "enhance the experience." Sometimes it's as simple as a new outfit, other times it's a "premium" mission. But hey, you don't HAVE to purchase them. And even if you do, it's only, what, a dollar here, a few cents there...so whatever.
The Farmville marketing ploy was heavily criticized, yet I recall seeing an article stating they'd got millions of dollars or something like that the first year...on a game that was "free to play." You put as much or as little an investment in the game as you want. That's the basic principle. Now imagine this. So last night I'm playing Skyrim and it dawns on me...this could also have been free to play.
How so? Well, what if you were only limited to 10 quest attempts a day, there was a lot of trial and error, and if you failed a quest, no biggie, you still get solid experience and sent back to a town hub somewhere, but it takes up a quest attempt. Oh, but you can buy an additional 10 quests a day for $5. So if you wanted to keep playing, there you go. If you wanted to get good items early, unlock certain shops or guilds, talk to certain people...you get the idea.
And I certainly don't DISLIKE free to play, but I worry that's what everything will be somewhere down the road. True oldschoolers like me will just want to pay for the product and be done with it, whereas a lot of newschoolers will think we need to be retired and be perfectly happy shelling out pocket change here and there to keep playing...totally unaware of how much they've actually put into it. Hey, wait a minute...
In a way, it's almost similar to an arcade, but less a social activity face to face, more a social activity online. You'd think I'd be thrilled, but I'm not. If things switch to free to play, it's likely they'll never switch back. And I'm sorry, folks, but I'm not paying for extra lives in the next Mario game or the ability to ride a horse in Zelda. But I would pay for the ability to make Sonic not suck. So there is that.