In the early days of multiplayer online games, Western developers built subscription models and sold expansions to maintain online game products for decades.
This was considered the standard model that the world followed, until some free-to-play or freemium web games appeared like Neopets or RuneSpace. However, it was not until Nexon released MapleStory and witnessed a boom in the number of subscribers that a new free game revolution took place.
From inspiration in Korea, Chinese developers quickly jumped into the game and took the free game to a higher level. It’s a microtransaction game that wants to get better, there’s no way you have to pay to win.
China’s success has forced Western and Japanese developers to chase after free games. Since then, from the late 2000s to the present, the shadow of the paid game has started to diminish and there are typical reasons for developers not interested in this model.
Collecting compulsory fees is a barrier
At the beginning of charging, the manufacturers probably did not expect that a game’s life cycle could be 5-10 years or more. World of Warcraft has 16 years of operation.
However, the two examples mentioned above are just one of the rare exceptions to be successful by launching in the early days when the MMORPG market was not yet formed and other game genres were not invasive.
Online games are built around the creation of an opposing community group such as guilds, friends, countries or territories. Without players, the community is not created, the game features cannot be operated smoothly and the game will die.
A major limitation of the mandatory fee is that the developer cannot collect more from the player once they have paid all the fees such as game purchases, expansion packs, and preferential packages. While the publisher still has to spend monthly expenses for the technical team, server operation, the inability to collect additional fees from players is the next barrier hindering the development of the online game itself.