I have recently been looking for a new game to sink my teeth a little further into, and as a part of this endeavour I found myself running into a game called Eldevin for the first time since it’s release in late 2013. That means the game is still new – only a year old – and from my experience, games tend to be at their best when they’re still fresh.
As I delved into finding more information about the game, I was reminded of why I originally put the game off my radar of potentially playable games. When I first played the game in beta right before release, it wasn’t the gameplay that put me off – no, while I didn’t get very far, I thought the gameplay looked quite promising. What put me off was the business model, which I considered P4P (pay for power – note that here it is being used synonymously with the term P2W).
To explain the business model of the game, it is as follows: just about all the game features, items, skills and whatnot are available to all players. Practically speaking, all the content the game has to offer is open. The client and accounts are free as well. However, there is a subscription option. What does that give? The answer is, subbing increases all experience and money gained by a percentage and periodically rewards the subscriber with potions that may be used in combat.
The first time I heard of the business model, I knew I had a problem with it. But when I would call the model P4P, I would often get objections from fans of the game. They would claim that since all of the game’s content was available to the free player, the game could not be P4P. Even Hunted Cow Studios, the creators behind the game, say the following on their site:
Eldevin is a free to play game. As gamers ourselves we are definitely opposed to “pay to win” games, so when we say free to play, we mean that our players can enjoy the entire game – all realms, all quests, all levels – without spending a penny.
So I had to go back to thinking, what exactly was it about Eldevin’s model that made me feel it was P4P. You know those moments when you intuitively understand something, but find it difficult to put the thought into words in such a manner other people can see a reasonable argument behind what you’re saying? That’s the sort of feeling I had.
The end result of thinking it through is as follows. The fact a free player can see all of a game’s content is not what constitutes a non-P4P game. In fact, this has nothing to do with it. Content, you see, does not equal power. This is something even the developers of the game seem to (purposefully?) misunderstand, judging by the quote above.
The simple reason I regard Eldevin P4P is that paying customers are not paying for content (or cosmetics) – they are paying to progress faster than free players. A subscription boosts progression rates and money gain instead of providing the paying customer with new content.
This model is inherently different from that of another medieval fantasy browser game, RuneScape, to the model of which Eldevin’s has been compared to a couple of times by some people. In RuneScape, subscribing unlocks all of the player’s skills and the full map along with all the quests, items and what ever may come with that. In addition, subscriber-only servers become available.
The difference between the two models is that in the other, the dedicated customer pays for content, where as in the other they pay to merely progress faster than others. The conclusion becomes easy to draw. RuneScape’s free portion is a form of an extended trial period of a subscription game – you like the game, subscribe to it for more content. In Eldevin, you subscribe because you want to be stronger than others. In one you pay for content, in one you pay for power.
Now, whether or not one likes either of the models is down to opinion. But personally, I strongly dislike the P4P (or pay-to-grind-less, which is a form of P4P) model of Eldevin. When I pay for a game, I expect to pay for content, for stuff to do. I don’t expect to be spending real money to make my character stronger than others – one of the reasons we play RPGs is precisely to get out of that situation, for in games we all (usually) start at in equal beginnings.
Frankly, I view Eldevin’s model as unhealthy – not necessarily from a business perspective but from a psychological one. Especially considering browser based games tend to attract a lot of younger players. What exactly does it teach our children when even in virtual worlds they are expected to embrace and exploit our inequal beginnings in life?