Why Defiance Going F2P is Good
News broke last week from Trion that their Defiance mmofps was going the free-to-play route. The date for this event will take place on June 4th, which took some people by surprise as the game was released just a little over a year ago. Now I know that many people are saying that the game hasn't been the hit that Trion was hoping for and that by making Defiance free-to-play, they're bowing to the inevitable and doing what they can to keep the game going and profitable. Looking from that context, I can understand that viewpoint. However, making such a move isn't an unmitigated disaster for the game. Allow me to make the case why Defiance going f2p is good.
Our first reason why the Defiance f2p model isn't the end of the world is that it'll bring in new players. Every online game needs a healthy community of players to thrive, and an mmo fps like Defiance is no different. Opening the game up to gamers wiling to try it without having to spend forty dollars or more will result in more net payers. Long ago, being a free-to-play game was considered the kiss of death, but Turbine changed that attitude when they switched Dungeons and Dragons Online from a subscription game to a f2p one. Right away, the player base got five times as large and the revenue doubled. Similar situations have occurred with other online games that have made the switch to f2p, and I expect Defiance to continue in that vein.
The timing of Defiance going free-to-play was chosen wisely. As the game is making the switch on June 4th, they can take advantage of the second season of the Defiance tv show on SyFy. The new season premieres on June 19th, just a little over two weeks after the game goes f2p. The show has been a hit for SyFy and plenty of people will have their eyeballs on the new season and will then be exposed to the game when it's advertised. In the first season, a lot of promos were run for the fps mmo, but now they can attach that magic word of "FREE" to their commercials. As many of the viewers of the SyFy channel are gamers, it's more likely that they'll check the game out now that they know there's no upfront cost to doing so.
The basic model of Defiance does lend itself to the f2p model. The game didn't require a subscription to play. It followed the Guild Wars 2 route of having players buy the game and then make purchases in the game's cash shop. There have been a few DLCs that have been sold by Trion, but the game itself didn't really depend upon subscriptions to get by. A the game was already set up with a cash shop to begin with, they're much more poised to take advantage of this new development and the influx of new players. It's not like they have to redesign the game to force it to adapt to the free-to-play model, which can lead to a botched conversion, such as what happened to Warhammer Online. Overall, Trion has a good track record of converting games to free-to-play, such as they did with RIFT. Players who already had purchased the game will not see any changes as they'll keep everything that they currently have. Free players will have the usual less inventory and character slots.
Now let's get to the most obvious reason why Defiance free-to-play is a good thing. This reason is...that it's free. While that seems obvious, this dovetails in with bringing in new players. I'm always up for checking a game out if it costs me nothing. Also, Defiance is being smart by having free content roll out during the second season of the tv show. This way, new players won't feel like they're getting pinched for some DLC just when they're just starting the game bur perhaps get that little nudge to stock up some items from the game's cash shop. The five original DLCs will still be available for purchase for those who want them.
Overall, Defiance going f2p isn't the end of the world. The game was never a subscription mmo, and it still has a healthy player base. However, Trion desperately wanted to add new players and to capitalize on the second season of the tv show. Going the f2p route is a good decision that will surely increase the player base and generate additional revenue, which is what the business side of online gaming is all about.