When I first came to the bountiful table of PC gaming one of the things I was most excited about were the free to play games, the thought of having great looking and fun games that are free was a really cool concept to me. As I began delving into this world over the last couple months I have definitely found that I loved some games, while others I've come across I have loathed to no end. For the purposes of staying concise, clear and providing a good deal of compare and contrast style observation I'll be discussing Planetside 2 and Blacklight Retribution.
Before the comments come in a flurry I'd like to say that I am fully aware that one of these games is an MMOFPS and the other is a predominantly "deathmatch" style FPS; however, both PL2 and BLR utilize the same method of monetization. Both games make their coin by charging for weapons, skins and other perks, so there's no need to establish the distinction.
In the realm of visually impressive BLR takes the prize, it is one beautiful, GORGEOUS game that pushes my gaming setup to its limits. The game play controls are also just as stellar, with extremely responsive controls that are key in this sort of game. For me though these things are marred greatly by the fact that instead of "buying" virtual items I have to "rent" them. Let me be clear, I don't mind kicking some scratch the developer's way through purchasing digital items, but renting them...? Every time I start a game I have to be concerned about whether or not my items have come up for a renewal, and if I don't have the Experience points or money available I lose my items. Having to try and remember whether or not my rented digital items have expired is not something I need on my plate, it's like paying rent on an apartment...not fun.
Up until level 10 players on BLR have the option to stay in lower ranked lobbies to keep them away from the sharks, but after that it is every man for himself. Let me tell you that if you do not either have a high level or some money invested in your rented items, you are in for a very difficult time of it. Those who spend $30.00 a month are obvious, because they are going to be racking up 15 kills in a match. While I understand the need to give someone something they enjoy for the money they spend, this should not come at the expense of others in such a way that it makes a game un-enjoyable. For me this was the case with Blacklight Retribution. If I could get even 2 solid (FAIR) loadouts and a custom skin I'd gladly hand the developers $35.00, but I want to OWN them and not have to worry about when RENT IS DUE!
Now on to Planetside 2, a game that has slowly worked its way into my collective conscious mind in a way that is exceedingly rare in my gaming experience. Let me go ahead and acknowledge that this game has its problems in that it is not well optimized for many setups, it does not have the most pretty graphics in the universe, and it does crash/glitch once in a (great) while. But the huge, epic battles and incredibly well optimized squad/team mechanics are something that are very much worth having a look at by any gamer out there. To be sure this game has some huge holes to plug and a lot of ways to go in order to be truly great, but in this humble author's opinion they have laid the foundation for something different and unique...and it's free to play!
The monetization in this game comes into play by way of the extremely customizable soldier classes, vehicles and skins that can be arranged in a way to make your character completely unique. When you are working with an outfit of about 20 people it actually pays to stand out on the battlefield visually, because people can call out your name when they see you doing something. In this way I can see it being worth spending the $5.00 it costs to customize my character or vehicle from a purely visual perspective, because in this game it is necessity and not vanity (not entirely anyway).
Character classes in this game are as deep as they are varied, and chances are that you (like most people) will be playing three at most. And honestly most people that I know play a maximum of 2, and for this reason the $7.00 price tag on unlocking your favorite gun early is not such a big deal. The weapons on vehicles are also at comparable prices, and so it is important that you make the right decision for each weapon accordingly. But even if you do not it is worth noting that your experience points will build a lot faster with superior weapons (due to the obvious advantages), but this is alright because choosing to play for free still gives you the overall experience and fun of playing the game.
As we move forward we are going to continue to see these sorts of offerings in the gaming world, and to be sure they are a welcomed evolution in the community as far as I am concerned. My major gripe is that some of these companies are just jumping into a monetization model without considering their participant base. A major rule of thumb in the used car world is that you had better be offering an amazing test drive if you want to make the sale. I truly hope that the developers over at BLR consider this dynamic and allow gamers to permanently purchase items before the community becomes bored. As for Planetside 2 I have contributed $50.00 to their efforts without batting an eyelash, because I know that I am contributing to an evolving, amazing project.
On another note I'd like to thank Logan and crew for giving us an awesome community to express ourselves in, it's been a (very) long time since I felt compelled to share my opinion with others. I welcome opinions both dissenting and supporting, because make no mistake, this community is comprised of each and every one of us and our viewpoints do have an impact. Happy Gaming!