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The Reciprocal Ed Value

April 15, 2013

Dear Reader,

I’ve been playing a lot of Free to Play games recently: League of Legends, Wizardry (though not for long), Warframe, and Planetside 2.  I’ve documented my playing of others here in the past, as well.  We’ve seen a few shut down recently, too, due to lack of funding; Glitch and City of Heroes come to mind.  Every time a F2P game shuts down, we hear the same two cries: “Why is it shutting down?  I love this game!” and “Yes, but did you ever spend any money on it?”

My buddy and I have taken a big jump into Warframe.  From what I can tell about 10 hours in, it’s a Vindictus-style FPS game, meaning it’s got a central lobby for stage choice and character development and a series of procedurally-generated boards that you and a few friends can play.  We can argue some other time whether that makes it a multiplayer ARPG or a MMORPG, but for today’s sake I’m going to refer to it as an ARPG, which is how Steam categorizes it (seemingly proving me wrong, I might add).

We’re 10 hours into a relatively fresh F2P game, and I have to say it’s the second best F2P I’ve encountered, only topped by LoL.  That is to say, then, that it’s LEAPS and BOUNDS above most F2P games.  It’s got intense firefights, a fair amount of character development, randomized loot drops, and crafting.

I got to thinking about LoL and the hours I’ve played (probably 50+ by now) and Warframe and the probable hours I’ll play (though Vindictus grabbed a lot of my attention and then faded VERY suddenly).  My buddy and I were joking about “It’s been worth every penny,” mostly since we’re becoming penny-pinching game misers who refuse to pay full price for games regardless of the fact that we badly want to play them.  That’s a very unflattering phrasing, but intentionally so.

I’ve mentioned before the “Ed Value,” an idea that originated from a friend of my buddy’s and mine who was otherwise kind of a sleazebag.  The idea is that a game should provide at least X hours of entertainment, where X is the cost in dollars.  Well, with a F2P game, you’re always getting your Ed Value for the game, even if you hate it and uninstall it immediately.  But how does that interact with the F2P business model?  Should my thinking, perhaps, adapt to the CoH and Glitch deaths and create something that works the other way, too?

Hence the Reciprocal Ed Value.  I propose spending  money in F2P games for the amount of time one’s been playing them.  I haven’t decided on the exact amount, but I’m going to suggest to my buddy that it be 1/2 X calculated every 20 hours of play time, so 10 bucks or so every 20 hours, up to a cap of 50 or 60 bucks over the long term, which is generally the very top-end of game prices.  I expect he’ll scoff and refuse, of course, but you never know.

What do you think, dear reader?  Is it foolish to buy the cow when you’re getting the milk for free (a nice reappropriation of an otherwise sexist old phrase)?  Do you ever spend money on F2P games?


Stubborn (and inching back into WoW – played 5 or 6 hours from Fri to Sun)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2013 8:16 am

    My usual M.O. is to not spend money on F2P games. I am perfectly fine with buying games at $10-$15 pricepoints if they vaguely interest me, but how far would $15 in a F2P really get you? Far enough to want to spend more? Then, next time you turn around you are suddenly spending more than $60, which I have largely refused to grant to even full AAA titles.

    Case in point: I have sunk around $75 into PlanetSide 2 thus far. Is that a pretty good “Ed value?” Yeah, sure, I have 160 hours /played. On the other hand, I had 200 hours on Fallout: New Vegas for $60, 250 hours on Skyrim for $40, and so on. Or, going in the other direction, 50 hours on S.P.A.Z. for $10.

    I can see how it is… moral (for lack of a better term) to pay money into a F2P if you are getting enjoyment out of it. At the same time though, are you then avoiding Steam sales out of the same principal? In a very real way, you are already supporting a F2P game by playing every day and being a positive influence in it – any obligation for reimbursement ended when the designers decided on F2P, in my opinion.

    • April 15, 2013 10:32 am

      Well, the type of influence I am in a F2P game may be open to interpretation by the little twerps to whom I try to teach good manners, but I get your point (;
      Yeah, I can see having a hard time stopping paying for things if you start. Perhaps different F2P models might handle that better or worse; I can see Allods, for example, continuing to suck up money because you don’t want to stop getting your XP boost and go back to grinding forever for a level. I think LoL wouldn’t be too bad as long as you spent the money on skins and not IP or XP boosts there (which might also be hard to wean oneself off of).
      I see why you hesitate with the word “moral.” I looked and thought for a while for what to call this “rule,” and I ended up liking reciprocal for both the mathematical meaning and the standard meaning: I got something, so I’m going to give something back. And so far I’m completely with you: I’ve never paid a single cent in any Free to Play game, but I did start wondering whether that was – if not moral – fair.

      Incidentally, the games you mention – Fallout and Skyrim – are PRECISELY why I set the cap. Those games were great values for their cost, and more games should live up to that.

      I’m confused about the Steam sales comment, though; I ONLY buy games on Steam Sales now, to specifically maximize the Ed Value (I got Skyrim for 30 last 2 Christmases ago, for example), so I think I may be misunderstanding you there.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • April 16, 2013 8:51 am

      I brought up Steam sales because they are sort of the opposite of the reciprocity argument. If someone “should” pay money to a F2P game if they end up enjoying it, what does that say about people like us who pay $10-$30 less for a game like Skyrim (etc) when it goes on sale? I mean, aren’t we arguably hurting the developers by holding out for sales?

      I understand the “did you buy anything?” sentiment when F2P games shut down, but I don’t feel (like I should be) responsible for making the better economic decision for myself. If games like Glitch would have survived if everyone paid $5, they should have charged $5 instead of going F2P.

  2. Cain permalink
    April 15, 2013 1:26 pm

    I think it’s fair to say “I really enjoyed this game so I’m going to spend money on it”, but I don’t think I’d tie it to time spent. You mentioned above saying you only buy games on steam sales, so what about asking yourself what the game would be worth in your mind on a steam sale? There are some really great games on steam that still sell for very little during the sales, especially from smaller developers. Example: If you think it is at the same level as Skyrim, you’d be willing to pay $30 bucks for it. A game that normally retails for 20 bucks on steam you’d probably expect to get on sale for $7-10. If you think it’s similar to one of the many indie titles you can usually pick up for under $5 on sale, than that’s your valuation.

    • April 15, 2013 4:39 pm

      That’s an interesting point that may make more sense than a base cap, to set the cap based on similar games. Interesting thought, and definitely worth some consideration.
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Krel permalink
    April 15, 2013 5:55 pm

    The only F2P game I’ve spent money on so far is WoT. I’m basically paying about as much per month as I would for WoW or anything similar, about $10-15 a month. It’s worth it to me to have the faster progression, since I’m playing mostly tier 8 and 9 tanks now. The way I see it, I was willing to pay about $15 a month for a sub game, and paying about that much a month for a freemium game that isn’t P2W is worth it to me. Plus, I don’t tend to buy other games – I can’t remember what the last single-player game I bought was – and so I’m not exactly blowing tons of cash on video games anyway.

  4. April 15, 2013 6:18 pm

    I always give money to ftp games after a certain.. Not based on amount of time though but amount enjoyment. Some ftp games I’ve played for many hours just to see if they get any good but if they weren’t they still got nothing from me

  5. Samus permalink
    April 16, 2013 4:28 pm

    The big thing for me is how they price things. There are many F2P games (if not most of them) that appear to be priced assuming you will either pay nothing, or hundreds of dollars a month. All Zynga games are like this. They claim something like only 4% of F2P players spend any money. Well, maybe with YOUR pricing scheme.

    My own calculation is similar to yours, but I compare what the game offers for the money to what WoW offers with a subscription. As much as I like LoL, I can’t pretend they are adding anywhere near $15 a month in content. They do focus partly on balance (they actually do a fantastic job with this), but mostly focus on new champions and skins (things they can sell you). So buying a $15 skin per month seems excessive.

    That’s not a knock on the quality of the game. Minecraft is an awesome game, but it isn’t a $60 game, and if that’s what they tried to charge they would deserve their drastically lower sales.

    I am still waiting for the F2P game which offers something of real value for less than $5 a month. This is what I feel is the appropriate price value for most of them. As long as they are priced to “give us all your money or don’t bother at all,” I’m not going to bother.


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