No gimmicks here, many games have a completely free to play model which lets you embody your character in the game world and enjoy the full game experience, for nothing more than using your internet space. There are paid donations which give you access to more character slots, new items, more storage, exotic pets, and the like. Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach, and Warhammer Online are games with a full-featured free gaming option, with optional donations. The industry behemoth, WoW, recently introduced a more limited free to play option where you may play a character up to level 20, and have limited gold and skill options. Paying removes all the limitations.
Offering a product for free is a bizarre concept to most people's sensibilities, particularly when talented people have to work for years to craft it. Is it a sign of an increasingly demanding and selfish consumer base for video games, one who wants access to a game for free before they plonk down cash? Developers are volunteering to use this model to attract a greater number of users, and hope the donation options will provide a sustainable salary (it does seem to be profitable for some companies!).
Video game consumers are used to paying a lot of money for their product, and are often restricted in the use of their medium more than partakers of other hobbies. So perhaps the consumers are not getting too demanding. Perhaps the free to play model is an increasingly attractive financial option in the crowded MMORPG market, especially with walltets tightening for many people.
Either way, the consumer wins. Despite the access to bonus content for paying customers, there are a lot of free to play MMORPGs which feature full worlds and huge amounts of play time for anybody.
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