Riot games came out with League of Legends back in 2009 when it was just giving players the bare basics of where the game is now. Over its lifetime it has gained over five million active players worldwide as well as opening up its roster from the forty staple champions to the now jam packed one hundred and twelve champions. The game has grown a lot over the years but one thing has always come into my mind, has LoL perfected the free to play model? The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t think of a game that does it better. So here are my personal thoughts behind how Riot Games has perfected the Free To Play model in their game.
First off I believe that there are three things that a company has to keep in mind when it comes to creating a working FTP model:
1. A game that will keep gamers interested. We aren’t talking hours, we are talking days, months and years.
2. A reward system. What I mean by this is a system in your game that rewards players for continual play or for successfully winning a match or event.
3. A way to gain profit. Of course it is very hard to run a game and not get money from it, but you want to make sure it is a system that doesn’t hurt the players or their wallets.
With these steps in mind, let us have a look at how League of Legends has constructed their system and see whether it ticks all the boxes. First off we have the game itself, it is a MoBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) inspired from the game created off of the Warcraft 3 Mod, DotA (Defence of the Ancients). Although the game has suffered from a lot of abuse from DotA players claiming that it is for younger audiences and is far easier than the original, the game has proven to become a great success in its own right. Especially now as it has taken the eSports world by storm and has constantly been looking to improve its game with weekly patches and balancing. Of course the game does not captivate all audiences, hence why there are many gamers that will steer clear of the game, however it does carry some great challenge and skill. Now, coming into the game is made much easier with the updated tutorial section and improved bot AI. Some players complain of the games cruelty when it comes to being matched up against skilled opponents when you hit levels 20-30 but what do you expect? By that level you will be going against the best the game has to offer, with the chance of never bumping into the same guy twice.
Let’s have a look now at the games rewards, what do you get out of playing the game for long periods of time? First off you gain IP (Influence Points) and EXP from games, whether you win or lose. EXP is what you’d think it would be, this is what players need in order to level up in the game. Levelling up allows you to unlock new summoner spells to use in-game as well as opens up the chance to buy higher tier runes. Runes can be used in conjunction with your rune pages to give your character an early game stat bonus that is slightly more substantial than the mastery tree. Ah yes the masteries, you also get to unlock the full thirty points of the mastery tree that will allow you to further buff your character from level one. These buffs in no way make your character over powered as you still need to have the skill to back up the stat changes.
These rewards are a great incentive to keep playing the game over long periods. After you have hit level thirty the game does not stop. You can complete your rune pages, buy all the champions the game has to offer and prove your dominance in casual and ranked gameplay. If you are good in ranked, you may even get the chance to take your skills to the next level in pro circuits and eSport events. So whether it is the achievement of owning everything, the fun of playing with friends or the future goal to turn pro, the game has the power to help your personal drive.
Finally we have the one thing that many FTP games are criticised for, the in-game purchases, also known as micro transactions. Many titles have been blamed in the past for abusing this system and turning their games into Pay-to-Win models that allow you to pretty much buy dominance in the game. This could be anything from a character, a weapon or a consumable. In League of Legends case there is only non game changing micro transaction available. These include: champion skins, rune pages, character bundles and name changes. Everything purchasable, except the champions, are cosmetic purchases that only change how you look or what you have available rather than change your performance in game. Champions can be debated as buying power, but this can be easily disputed as each champion requires their own unique level of skill in order to succeed on the fields of justice.
Overall, I look at what League of Legends has to offer and I see that it literally does tick all the boxes as a Free To Play game. It has nothing to purchase with real life money that breaks the game and causes you to become super powerful, it holds a fun experience that keep making bringing gamers back and it rewards players for long play sessions and commitment to the title. The game deserves the title of best free to play game of the current age, but that is my own opinion.
So what do you think of League of Legend’s standing as a Free to Play game? Do you think it deserves to be crowned the king or do you think it is nothing more than a shoe shine boy? Let us know what your views are and what game does it better in the comments section below.