Free, Fremium, and More in the Great Recession

So recently I put the game Dungeon Fighter on my Asus Netbook.  Dungeon Fighter is an interesting game – a side-scrolling beat-em-up game and an MMO at the same time.  You play one of several unique classes (that at times vary from fantasy archetypes or expand them), fight monsters in modular dungeons, and have colorful sprite-based fun.  It's easy, simple, surprisingly deep, and the Priest class whacks enemies to death with giant crosses, scythes, and rosaries, so how could I resist.

The game is of course free-to-play, but you can blow cash on getting extra equipment, respecs to re-build your character, and, of course, character clothing so you don't look like everyone else.  Very standard model.

So as I played this game, I debated if I wanted to get some credits in the game for extras.  It suddenly struck me that the freemium, free-to-play, and other free-but models differ from the usual monthly-charge MMO games in another way besides the obvious.

They allow you to timeshift your expenses.

If you can't afford that new level or that new hat, you can wait until you can.  If you want to give a gift card for a game you don't have to give it in time for it to pay for a monthly cost – it can be used any time by the recipient.

In this Great Recession, the ability to timeshift entertainment expenses sounds like a potential edge to me.  If you loose a job you won't loose out on your game if it has some of these "free-plus" models, you'll just have some limits for awhile.  If you don't want to invest money in a game in these tough times, you can try out a game and then jump into using all the "payable" features later.

These are tough times.  The ability to have more control over what and when you pay would appeal to people.

So I wonder if companies like Nexon, etc. have a real advantage in appealing to their market with their pricing models.  Based on what I'm able to find free-to-play/freemium/free-plus games seem to be as profitable as equivalent games with monthly charges.  However, the appeal of such pricing models to people in the recession sounds like it'd provide an advantage to the companies in that people would simply be more likely to try them – and to pay when they can.

Any thoughts?

– Steven Savage