The #free2play model isn't a new concept. It has been championed by RuneScape for years… and they’re still going strong! League of Legends, Fortnite, and Crossfire are three games that have remained in the charts which continue to captivate millions of players. They are all #free2play, and new #free2play releases like the record-breaking Thetan Arena are becoming household names overnight.
The history of free2play
Free to play (free-to-play, Free2Play, or F2P) is an online gaming business model in which the game designers do not charge the user or player to participate as opposed to a traditional subscription model. Instead, they intend to make money by selling adverts or in-game stuff like upgrades, special skills, special objects, and expansion packs.
From the late 1990s and early 2000s, the #free2play model evolved from a series of lucrative ‘massively multiplayer online games’ (MMOGs, or more commonly, MMOs) that were directed towards casual gamers and children, such as RuneScape and MapleStory.
Then a transition took place in the mid to late 2000s with many MMOs switching from a traditional subscription model to #free2play. Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings, and Dungeons & Dragons Online all converted to a #free2play model within a few years with some game companies tripling their profits.
Smartphones pushed #free2play further into the mainstream, particularly Apple’s iPhone which was released in 2007, and by 2011, income from #free2play games surpassed revenue from premium games in Apple's App Store's top 100 titles.
All of this has occurred alongside a new generation of games that have built their whole business strategy around the #free2play paradigm. The most well-known example is League of Legends (LoL), a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game that grossed $624 million USD in 2013.
And in recent years, the online gaming sector has been on the increase. More people are spending more time online, thanks to a worldwide pandemic driving an online revolution and ever-increasing mobile and internet penetration.
It's no surprise that the industry is big business. Global gaming revenue is forecast to be worth over $257 billion by 2025. According to Statista, the global #free2play mobile games market alone was estimated at $73.8 billion USD in 2020, and this figure is predicted to rise to $75.6 billion USD by 2021.
While gaining 100 million players is not to be sniffed at, many traditional #free2play games have surpassed that number with a few already in the billions (PUBG: Battlegrounds and CrossFire).
But, who will be the first to 100 million players in the F2P NFT gaming industry?
Thetan Arena has dealt their hand, reaching 5 million players in their first week of launch. It’s proven to be popular within the #gamefi community - as well as reaching record-breaking numbers, Thetan Arena rated 4.7 on Google Play and 4.9 on Appstore, reaching the #1 chart position!
Launched on RADA LaunchVerse, Thetan Arena is the latest big thing out of Southeast Asia, and set to take off around the globe! It’s the first #free2play and #play2earn MOBA game on BSC (Binance Smart Chain) - players earn real money playing.
Cryptocurrency has grown in popularity, and while more and more games are implementing the NFT method, Thetan Arena is the first MOBA game to include a networked battle system. Not only that, the #free2play element makes the game somewhat egalitarian, encompassing anyone who wants to play, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Despite Thetan Arena being a pioneer and the first one to hit it big, many other new #free2play projects are emerging, resulting in a fair and inclusive culture being spread through social connection, in this case, through the online gaming community.
Also released on RADA LaunchVerse, Heroes TD is an exciting blockchain tower defense strategy game that’s #free2play and #play2earn. All players receive a free starting deck of 5 Heroes and have the option to purchase more powerful Genesis Heroes for greater opportunities to earn.
More of these games, as well as the technology to facilitate cross-platform transfers, are already under development, so further user empowerment and global inclusion look set.
Global inclusion matters
With enough elitism in the world (a good example is the sport’s industry), global inclusion must become the norm. Why? Because the world is much more interesting and fun, let alone fair, when everyone can join in. Just take a look at the first Jamaican Bobsleigh team!
Free2play blockchain games have democratic control over new functionality and upgrades since they are decentralized and community-driven. In essence, the game becomes whatever the players want it to be, which is a global first.
Additionally, users are protected by the undeniable proof of ownership of #free2play NFT items, making for a risk-free environment and giving players the privilege to monetize the time they spend playing the game.
For poverty-stricken gamers, #free2play has opened possibilities to compete globally and potentially win substantial prizes, or to at least earn enough for a good income. Removing financial barriers and providing economic freedom through gaming gives people the chance to better their lives in a way that would likely never have happened. Chances that have a knock-on effect on health, education, shelter, security, and much more.
The impact of free2play on developing countries
When many Venezuelans turned to gold farming (the act of playing MMO games in order to obtain in-game currency, which is then sold for real-world money), they discovered that it provided them with more financial security than traditional employment. Venezuela has been immersed in a political and economic crisis for the past ten years, leaving millions without sustenance or access to essential medical services. Ninety percent of Venezuelans are in poverty, and one of the most dramatic and long-lasting bouts of hyperinflation in history means that minimum-wage workers are making the equivalent of $5 per month.
Against this disastrous economic and sociological backdrop, millions of individuals have escaped the country in quest of a better life. The number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants topped three million in November 2019. Those who remained or couldn’t yet flee the country had to devise novel means of surviving. And for some, RuneScape has been that lifesaver; gamers have been able to earn a few hundred USD through gold farming giving them the means to flee Venezuela and build a new life in Peru with their families.
In 2020, The Philippines saw a huge number of non-traditional gamers migrate to #free2play crypto-based video games as a way to earn income during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The country saw grandparents, single mothers, and taxi drivers all turning to a video game to supplement income - starting from nothing, playing, crafting, and trading digital assets which they could then sell on public blockchain exchanges, to transfer into cash.
What makes #free2play blockchain games different from MMO gold farming is the design around open economies, the elimination of restrictive terms of service, and new technology utilizing Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) operating on the blockchain. These new models give power back to individuals by facilitating the ownership of assets they earn.
Free2play - the financial freedom fighter
Normally when we hear the term “globalization” we think about trade agreements, public policy, or big business, however, much of the world's networking now occurs in virtual settings that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, rather than in board rooms.
The economics that has arisen out of #free2play blockchain games, and how players place and build value on digital goods and services, are one of the most fascinating aspects of this swift globalization of gaming communities.
In a world that is fraught for many, having better control over the outcome of one's life feels fairer. Having self-power to rise out of poverty should actually be everyone’s human right, so is #free2play a democratic financial freedom fighter?
It is evident that the age of gaming is only going to get better and needless to say, more profitable to the gamers. The sheer possibilities that #free2play blockchain gaming holds are unlimited, and ultimately, a game changer for global inclusion.