What are Free to Play MMO Games?
Obviousness of free meaning something you don’t need to pay for aside, these games do share some common qualities. At the same time, they also split in some key areas for how they generate revenue from the players.
Fifteen years ago, we would never have believed that some of the best games of the genre would be free to download and play. Back during the inception of the MMO era, this genre of gaming was actually the most expensive to play. There was a box fee like any other video game and an additional monthly subscription fee. And the average subscription fee started to climb, not decline as popularity increased. But then a few publishers decided to try something that would change the online landscape forever.
Instead of forcing players to pay money upfront prices and a subscription fee on top, these publishers decided to release their games as free to play MMOs. These games individually weren’t particularly novel, typically copying the best of paid MMORPGs into a free MMORPG model. The catch here was that players could buy items in game with real money. And paid items in these games were typically far better than what a non-premium player could acquire. So while the big money spenders were getting really strong, they were also the ones financial supporting the game for everyone else. This is typically referred to as a freemium model with some players getting a “premium” version of the free product. It’s a formula that still works today, but is one that creates some anxiety as people (including us) worry about pay to win freemium content.
Eventually, makers of big budget titles saw how successful MMOs with a free play option could be. Free MMOs started to release with unique features and modern capabilities instead of the copycat, rehashed game design that the subgenre was initially known for. They also began to toy with free to play monetization models. They introduced optional subscriptions for more content, in game skins and costumes to change character appearance, and “fun” items without any power benefit. They also provided options to buy things for much less real life money, meaning less “whales” but many more consumers. Especially because the populations of free to play MMO games with a fair revenue model tend to be much higher. You’ll find many different monetization strategies and how the cash shop affects the in game economy can be a huge boon or bane to overall enjoyability.
Although pay to win is certainly a concern, it doesn’t necessarily ruin gameplay. Many titles don’t have a lot of direct player interaction (for better or worse). As a player this lets you consume free content without the worry of falling behind, possibly just dabbling with freemium items as the need suits. The free online RPGs that stifle growth when competitive PvP starts are the titles of which to be truly weary.
Today, the free to play MMO space offers a myriad of different options with different choices. This is both in terms of the games themselves and how they choose to monetize. Ultimately, we try to present the best free MMORPGs available on this page. One size certainly does not fit all so keep that in mind when looking. It may take a few tries to find your perfect MMOG from the batch of games offered. Luckily, we always try to keep the list updated as new games release.
Last Updated: 1/4/2018