When I started gaming it felt like there was one way to get a new game – buying it. In reality I was missing a whole sub-culture of public domain, shareware and game demos but the mainstream only understood going out and buying a game from your local gaming store, or possibly ordering it online. The coming of the Internet bought an explosion of confusing types of payment models which are only become more popular and convoluted as time goes on. So what is there?
Freemium used to be called crippleware and is now often called in-app purchasing and is a popular way of distributing games and software. The idea is that a feature light version is given away to anyone one wants it. If they want to get to more advanced features or progress at a reasonable speed you have to pay. This type of model is more often used for than games with notable examples being Evernote, Dropbox. It is also used for in app purchases – perhaps the most notorious example being the Smurfs Village game from Capcom.
Free to Play or F2P
Free to play games differ from freemium in that while the game is still distributed for free but the features that can be paid for tend to be more cosmetic or time saving than essential. This tends to be historically used by MMO’s which find it easy to provide in game cosmetic items. The game is usually playable without making a single purchase, but serious players will usually make several purchases. Notable examples include Quake 3. Team Fortress 2, Everquest and Neverwinter.
This model is most often used on mobile devices but has made some inroads to the desktop. The user gets a fully functional version of the game or app but an advert is displayed on part of the screen. This app developers get small but continuous income which can be a good motive for them to continue adding to the game.
Pay to Play
Pay to play or P2P is as the name suggests you pay to be allowed to play. This is often in the form of a time based subscription and the most obvious example is that of World of Warcraft. Pay £8.99 and receive full access to the whole game for 1 month.
Pay What You Want
Pay what you want is a model popularised by the Humble Bundle where the buyer can pay any amount for the game or service – in some cases this could be nothing. There is often a minimum level to get something extra involved – for example pay over the average for the Humble Bundle and get a bonus game, or with the IndieGameStand pay over a $1 to get Desura keys.
Finally we come to the most simple way to get a game – buy it straight out. This has the benefit of being easy to understand and the most mainstream system. The disadvantage is that you often do not get a chance to see the game before you have to pay for it so if there are any issues – for example it gives you motion sickness – then there is nothing that you can do to reclaim your money.