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How Does the Free-Game Model Ruin Video Games?

Roman Luckett is a young author who loves writing and gaming, and most importantly, rabbits.

Free and Fun, right?

The video game industry is a lucrative and competitive industry. It is projected to generate over 159 billion dollars by the end of 2020, and it will grow by over 9.3% in the next year. So it's easy to understand why so many companies and independent developers want a piece of this enormous pie. But can you ruin a game by trying to make a profit?

This is most prevalent in free games- the only way to produce profit is to offer in-game purchases. To keep people buying products, you have to keep them playing the game. But this leads to a plethora of issues.

The short answer is yes- it is very possible to ruin a game when the main concern is instant profits. The biggest issue is that game developers sometimes focus on short term instant profit instead of long term slow profits. Why spend your time actually making the game better when you could produce a large amount of revenue relatively quickly?

Gaming industry revenue, 2000- 2019

Gaming industry revenue, 2000- 2019

A relevant example: Fortnite.

A prime example of greed over quality can be found in Fortnite- The most popular game of 2019-2020. It generated 1 billion dollars in its first year of infamy. In order to understand how Epic Games (creators of Fortnite) started 'ruining' Fortnite, you need to know why Fortnite was so popular in the first place.

Fortnite combined elements that had been tried and tested in games before it. They took the shooter RPG style of games like PUBG and combined it with the building element of games like Minecraft to create Fortnite. There are other factors that influenced how Fortnite was made, but those two are the most obvious. Fortnite allowed players to fight and defend themselves in a way no other game had. Combine that with the multi-player aspect of Fortnite and you have a frighteningly popular game that took over the world in just a year.

However, it wasn't long before players realized Fortnite would easily put down player experience for a quick buck. Fortnite was free to play and had in-game purchases. And Epic quickly learned that the more new players they amassed, the more money they would make.

The issue that would plague Fortnite is that new players were being outplayed by veteran players. In summary, it just wasn't fun to play Fortnite if you hadn't been one of the so called 'OG' players that had been playing the game before it boomed in popularity. One of the things that keeps you playing Fortnite is the hunt for the coveted 'Victory Royale'. There was one man who streamed himself playing Fortnite until he won a game- the stream was nearly a day long. Epic needed to keep players playing, but it was becoming increasingly harder for new players to survive. It seemed Fortnite was suffering from success.

Fortnite decided to 'level the battlegrounds'. Basically, they tried to make the game easier for newcomers. Not only did this completely backfire on Fortnite, it nearly killed the game.

Epic Games started adding things to Fortnite that countered the elements the game was so popular for. For instance, they added the boogie bomb- which when thrown at an enemy, would make them dance. The affected player could not shoot, build, or use tools while they were dancing. This was the start of a landslide of controversial items.

Even worse than that was the machines and tools that Epic added to the game. In season 7 of Fortnite planes were added. These planes allowed players to destroy buildings, eliminate players, and travel across the map quickly. This was controversial because it ruins the trademarks of Fortnite- building and shooting. A small rifle or a hastily constructed box would not stop a plane from ripping you apart, and this infuriated players. But, it did make it easier for 'noobs' to get that sweet 'Victory Royale'.

It wasn't until season 10 that players actually started leaving the game due to these updates. In season 10, Fortnite added robots that you could pilot. These robots had infinite ammo for the shotgun and missile launcher the robot was equipped with. There was literally nothing you could do if someone attacked you with one of these. They could simply blast away, and at some point you would run out of materials to build and protect yourself with, and you would succumb to the robot. It was in this update that players starting leaving in droves.

Season 10 was released on Aug 1, 2019. Around that time, you can see the drop in players. Fortnite views dropped by 22% around this time.

Season 10 was released on Aug 1, 2019. Around that time, you can see the drop in players. Fortnite views dropped by 22% around this time.

Did earnings drop because of this?

While revenue did drop after season 10, Fortnite remained at the top. It started to lose players steadily after season 10, though. Since the start of 2020 games like Minecraft have overtaken Fortnite in views. Fortnite is still a extremely popular game, but has 'died' since it's hay day. The evidence points to the cause being that Fortnite tried to keep more people buying instead of keeping playing, which would have reaped more long-term profits. Fortnite will still go down as as staple of the 2018-19 gaming community. Fortnite has made well over a billion dollars and is still making more, but has given up the crown to games that prioritize gamer experience- like Minecraft.

Minecraft has overtaken Fortnite in views recently.

Minecraft has overtaken Fortnite in views recently.

Slow and Steady or Fast and Wild?

In conclusion, it's very easy to ruin a game when you care more about money than player experience. And it does have consequences, evident by the money game developers have lost like Epic Games in their pursuit of high revenue. The question this leaves us with is this: Is it better to make a quick, high-revenue earning game or a long, slow-revenue earning game? Based on how well Minecraft has done (a game that has been extremely popular for over a decade), it seems the latter is the better option. Maybe some companies are okay with only making a small amount in comparison to what they could make over a long period of time.




© 2020 Roman Luckett

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