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THE RISE OF FREE-TO-PLAY: HOW THE REVENUE MODEL CHANGED GAMES AND PLAYING

Kati Alha



 

Free games have revolutionized the gaming industry. Offering the game for free and collecting revenue through voluntary in-game payments has proven to be the most productive way to make money from games. Thanks to the model, games are played now more than ever, and their economic importance has multiplied. At the same time, Free Games have received criticism that they offer weaker gaming experiences and take advantage of players by manipulating them into playing and paying.


Despite the criticism and changes in gaming experiences, research on free games is still largely focused on examining economic perspectives with the aim of maximizing profits and finding the best implementation methods. Players' perspectives are explored mainly through log data and quantitative surveys, and exploratory, qualitative research has been in the minority. The meanings and connections of free games to our gaming culture and society have not been studied much.


This dissertation takes up the challenge by examining free-to-play games from multiple perspectives and using multiple methods focusing on qualitative approaches. The work creates a broad understanding of how and why Free Games became popular, how they have changed games and what problematic features are associated with them. The main considerations of the thesis are related to five points: 1) the undervaluation of free games, 2) the unique challenges between money and gaming experience, 3) the different frames of fairness, 4) the need for transparency and legislation, and 5) the revolutionary power of free games to change the consumption and production of games.


The results show that, despite their great popularity, free games are valued less than other games. This applies especially to mobile and casual games and describes how we evaluate and award games. The lack of appreciation is partly related to the nature of free games. They are often endless and slow-paced and offer challenges unlike other games. The experiences they offer are different from the traditional, meritocratic values ​​typically associated with games, and especially paying money to progress is at odds with these values. The lack of appreciation can be seen, for example, in how games are discussed, how they are evaluated (or not evaluated at all) in the gaming media, and how they are studied. Free games players can also be banned from player communities or player identities.


Ethical problems related to free games should be taken seriously. Issues related to lack of transparency, problem gambling, similarity to gambling, marketing to minors and privacy raise important concerns. While free game companies must provide players with enough information and build tools to prevent damage purchases and problem gambling, the gaming industry also needs regulation from the outside. In order for the legislation to be fair and functional, we need the expertise of researchers and industry in legislative bodies.


Despite the challenges and undervaluation, the impact of free games on the game industry and game consumption is both significant and irreversible. Thus, they deserve our attention and critical scrutiny as a legitimate part of our gaming culture. If you don't know free games, you don't know games.

 

PUBLICATION DETAILS

LANGUAGE

BINDING

EDITION

ISBN

YEAR

PAGES

English

Paperback


9789520317737

2020

262

English

eBook


N/A

2020

262

 

TAGS


Authors: #KatiAlha

Publishers: #TampereUniversity (Tampere University)

Languages: #English

Accessibility: N/A

Year: #Year2020

Genres: #GameStudies


Companies:

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Public Figures:

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Games:

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Misc:

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