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Free-to-play (F2P)

Definition:

Free-to-play (F2P) – is a game distribution model where players can access and enjoy the core gameplay experience without paying an upfront cost. This model has revolutionized the gaming landscape, especially within the mobile gaming sector, where accessibility and ease of adoption are crucial factors for success. F2P games often utilize various monetization strategies to generate revenue and sustain development costs.

Key characteristics:

  1. No Upfront Cost: This is the most defining characteristic of F2P games. Players can download and play the core game experience without needing to pay a purchase price initially. This removes a significant barrier to entry, attracting larger player bases and fostering wider audience engagement.
  2. Microtransactions: To generate revenue and support ongoing development, F2P games often implement microtransactions. These are small, in-game purchases players can make using real-world currency to acquire virtual goods or services. These can include:
    • Cosmetic items: Skins, character outfits, weapon attachments, etc., that alter the visual appearance of characters or items but do not provide any gameplay advantage.
    • Convenience items: Boosts, experience multipliers, or additional lives that can expedite progress or offer temporary benefits within the game.
    • Unlockables: Access to new characters, game modes, or additional content that may be restricted in the free version of the game.
  3. In-Game Advertising: Some F2P games integrate advertising as a revenue source. This can be done through:
    • Non-intrusive advertisements: Displaying ads between matches, during loading screens, or in designated areas within the game interface without significantly interrupting the gameplay experience.
    • Reward-based advertising: Offering players incentives like in-game currency or items for watching ads voluntarily.
    • Branded content: Collaborating with brands to integrate their products or services subtly within the game environment.

Case studies

Fortnite

Overview: Developed by Epic Games, Fortnite is a global phenomenon that exemplifies the success of the F2P model. Its popularity stems from its engaging Battle Royale mode, constantly evolving content updates, and a wide variety of appealing cosmetic items.

Monetization: Fortnite’s primary source of revenue comes from the sale of V-Bucks, the in-game currency used to purchase cosmetic items like character skins, emotes, and gliders. Players can earn a limited amount of V-Bucks through free gameplay, but the vast majority of cosmetic items are only obtainable through purchase.

League of Legends:

Overview: Developed and published by Riot Games, League of Legends (LoL) is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game with a massive global player base and a thriving esports scene.

Monetization: League of Legends utilizes Riot Points (RP) as its primary currency, which players can use to purchase champions (playable characters), skins, and other cosmetic enhancements. Players can earn a small amount of RP through gameplay, but most players who wish to acquire a diverse champion pool or frequently update their character aesthetics will need to make occasional purchases.

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB):

Overview: Developed by Moonton, MLBB is a highly successful MOBA specifically designed for mobile devices. It has garnered immense popularity in Southeast Asia and other regions due to its accessibility and focus on mobile-optimized controls.

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Monetization: MLBB adheres to the F2P model with a focus on in-app purchases. Players can acquire new heroes (playable characters), skins, and other cosmetic items using diamonds, the in-game currency. While some heroes are available for free through gameplay, the majority require purchase, acquiring a diverse character pool as a potential driver for in-app spending.

Author

  • Yudistira Adipratama

    Yudistira Adipratama is the Managing Partner of K-CASE Lawyer, the first esports dedicated law firm in Indonesia. K-CASE Lawyer has worked with and provided legal consultation to various esports stakeholders in Indonesia, including game publishers, esports clubs, event organizers, streamers, game associations, government, and universities. Yudistira holds a key position in the policy-making process of the esports parent organization in Indonesia. He was involved in the drafting of Law No. 11 of 2022 on Sports, which recognizes esports as a competitive sport for the first time in Indonesian history. Yudistira is also the drafter of PBESI Regulation No. 034/PB-ESI/B/VI/2021 on the Implementation of Esports Activities in Indonesia, a policy that regulates the implementation of the esports industry ecosystem in Indonesia. His expertise in law and the esports industry also led him to be involved in the drafting of Presidential Regulation No. 19 of 2024 on the Acceleration of the Development of the National Game Industry. In addition to esports, Yudistira also has a deep understanding of sports law and actively serves as a speaker representing Indonesia at various high-level international conferences attended by representatives of the International Olympic Committee. Under his leadership, K-CASE Lawyer has supported Indonesia’s participation in various international multi-sports events, such as the 19th Asian Games in 2022, the 2023 SEA Games, and the 14th IESF World Esports Championships.

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