Free-to-Play: Mobile Video Games, Bias, and Norms
An examination of free-to-play and mobile games that traces what is valued and what is marginalized in discussions of games
Free-to-play and mobile video games are an important and growing part of the video game industry, and yet they are often disparaged by journalists, designers, and players and pronounced inferior to games with more traditional payment models. In this book, Christopher Paul shows that underlying the criticism is a bias against these games that stems more from who is making and playing them than how they are monetized. Free-to-play and mobile games appeal to different kinds of players, many of whom are women and many of whom prefer different genres of games than multi-level action-oriented killing fests. It's not a coincidence that some of the few free-to-play games that have been praised by games journalists are League of Legends and World of Tanks.
Paul explains that free-to-play games have a long history, and that the current model of premium sales is an aberration. He analyzes three monetization strategies: requirements to spend, where players must make a purchase to gain access; paying for advantage; and optional spending (used by Fortnite, among other popular free-to-play games). He considers how players rationalize or resist spending; discusses sports games and gacha-style games that entice players to make “just one more” purchase; and describes the framing of certain free-to-play games as proper games while others are cast as abusive abominations. Paul's analysis offers a provocative picture of what is valued and what is marginalized in discussions of games.
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