By Definition Free To Play Games Are Not Free to Play With Xbox Live

Free to play games are all the rave today and rightfully so. Games like World of Tanks, HAWKEN, Ghost Recon Online, Planetside 2 and Don’t Starve are just a few of the many greats title we at Game Insider hold in high esteem. Now console gamers have the ability to jump into the action able to experience some of the sweet nectar of free to play. But what does free to play actually mean?

By definition, free-to-play refers to any video game or social or mobile application that has the option of allowing its players/users to play/download without paying (thank you wiki). While there are micro-transactions as well as reasonably priced DLC attached to many F2P titles, the initial investment is absolutely free. On PC or the PS3 for example, if a game is dubbed free to play users can simply download the title and begin playing with no strings attached. The initial access point is an open gate to gaming bliss, unfortunately this is not the case on the Xbox 360 or the upcoming Xbox One due to the Xbox Live Gold paywall.

17633283ba424665002b80eb52512955By no means are the intentions of this article aimed at pointing a negative finger at Xbox Live Gold as the service has been arguably considered the online standard for console gaming. Yet the fact remains, Xbox 360 and Xbox One users will need to have Xbox Live Gold in order to access those so-called free to play titles. At the moment, World of Tanks which is a popular PC online MP tank shooter is currently available for the Xbox 360. My excitement ran pretty high about this update until I was made aware that I needed to update my Live Gold account in order to play World of Tanks. Are you kidding me? The simple answer…pay up or shut up, a pretty hard pill to swallow, even if I can grab a discounted Xbox Live Gold card from my local retailer.

Though by now it should be understood that Xbox Live Gold is synonymous with anything attaching itself to the full access of the Xbox ecosystem. This is a mindset in which Microsoft wants to be considered as the given. From here all the wonderful riches within the Live ecosystem are yours for your pleasure. The only problem, there are other attractive options by which gamers can also have a true free to play experience. With that said, is it then fair to state that by definition the free to play model is non-existent on the Xbox 360 and soon to be released Xbox One due to the Xbox Live Gold paywell? The simple answer…yes!

Sure, I understand the rationale behind the Xbox Live Gold membership as a benefit for gamers to experience a stable and interruption free multiplayer engagement, maintained by a robust server farm, regardless, free to play titles are called free to play for a reason and of course I will digress from delving into the applications which users already pay for which are also behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall as well.

Xbox live Gold is a great service for those whom the service completely makes sense for. For gamers who have to play online, Xbox Live Gold is a no-brainer and with that they are also able to access those so-called free to play games and everything else placed behind the paywall. This rationale applies to all users however, and has the great potential of being considered a value splinter in light of the competitions approach to the free to play model.

Warframe which is coming to the PS4 at launch has been confirmed as a cross-platform PS4/PC cooperative shooter under the free to play model. While PS4 users will need to be subscribed to Playstation Plus to play online, free to play titles can be accessed and played online without the use of Plus. So, if your question is can a new PS4 users rush home, hook up their PS4 to their TV monitor and the internet and beginning downloading Warframe as well as DC Universe Online, Blacklight Retribution, Don’t Starve, Planetside 2 and War Thunder without paying a dime, the answer is yes! Crazy, I know.

With Microsoft singing a new tune toward indie devs being able to self-publish, we may in fact see many of these soon to be released free to play PS4 games on the Xbox One. In fact, Warframes VP of publishing Meredith Braun stated:

“We’d be silly not to consider Warframe for Xbox One now. The system itself will be awesome and now the landscape of games that it supports has just become limitless. Exciting times.”

Warframes on Xbox One would indeed be awesome but by definition it would not be free to play.

What are your thoughts on free to play games on Xbox 360 and Xbox One? Are games really free to play with the mandatory Xbox Live Gold paywall? Share your thoughts below.





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  • Ryan Akagi

    What about the games that sometimes come with a free Xbox live gold trial? Would that be an exception to the f2p/p2p definition, or would the fact that you have bought the Xbox game rule out the ability to call an Xbox game a free to play game? Assuming you are buying the game to play the campaign and not Xbox live, then the Xbox live trail is a bonus that you didn’t pay for.
    Additionally, what about games that you buy or consoles that come with free downloads for games that you would normally have to buy. You didn’t technically pay the that game, it was free along with the game you bought. But I guess the question still remains if you can even call an Xbox game a free to play or not.

  • Hey Ryan, to answer your question, a game that comes with a free Xbox Live Gold trial is not free-to-play, as you stated, the game was paid for.

    When buying a new console we see many offers bundled with great new games. Often the bundle is valued at a slightly higher price point than say just buying the console by itself. In these cases the extra cost associated with the bundle prevents the actual game from being free-to-play. However, there have been console/game bundles where there are no added costs making the game a free to play title.

    The simple way of looking at it is as long as there is no extra cost associated with the game itself, such as entry fees, activation fees and so on, then it is free-to-play. Sony’s PSN model of free-to-play is in-line with the Steam/PC model, adding to the attractive draw of free-to-play on the PS4.

  • Ryan Akagi

    Great, thank you for clearing that up. I was having a conversation with my friend about free to play vs. pay to play and I was curious.

  • Ryan Akagi

    Fantastic articles by the way.

  • Thanks Ryan! 🙂

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