Free-To-Play Gaming Arrives On Steam

By John Walker on June 14th, 2011 at 6:37 pm.

They cannot be stopped.

Valve have just announced, as a few were speculating, that they will now be supporting free-to-play (F2P) games via Steam. The first five that have now arrived on the service are Spiral Knights, Forsaken Worlds, Champions Online: Free for All, Global Agenda: Free Agent, and Alliance of Valliant Arms. There’s to be “exclusive content” if you try each of them out on one of the following days until this Saturday, depending which is the “F2P game of the day”. The micro-transactions will be handled by the same tech that’s currently selling hats in TF2. So that’s Hi Rez, Atari, Sega, Perfect World and NHN USA Inc. on board already, with surely very many more to follow. F2P is out there, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. You’re even – whisper – bound to start playing one soon.

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80 Comments »

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  1. Asskicker says:

    Spiral Knights looks amusing, I’ll have to try it out!

    • Jumwa says:

      I thought the very same! A nice light-hearted co-op dungeon crawler is just what I need. And free is the right price.

    • VA1N says:

      Agreed. Spiral Knights looks awesome. I think I’m going to finally check out Champions online as well.

    • Koozer says:

      From what I played of it a while ago, it reminded me most of FF: Crystal Chronicals or Four Swords on the good old Gamecube, but without the puzzles unfortunately.

    • Bhazor says:

      Well at 300mb it’s a small enough download to consider a demo. Will have a poke around at it tonight.

      Edit: Huh, you can run it using your Steam account. Now that is a nice feature, the one thing that puts me off FTP games is having to remember a dozen different usernames and passwords and slogging through long registration forms.

    • Asskicker says:

      It even has Steam Achievements! Couldn’t get any better.

    • Jockie says:

      I gave it a go and it was insanely laggy, anyone else finding this?

    • starclaws says:

      It’s fun but getting the best gear while being F2P could take years…

    • Psychopomp says:

      Spiral Knights is indeed quite good.

      The only thing you payed for in real money is the ability to run more dungeons/craft more things, and even then that energy can be bought off other players like PLEX in EVE.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Oh wow. I hadn’t played Spiral Knights in months.

      For one, the steam version seems to run much worse than the web version.

      For two Energy prices have inflated to the point that even someone running tier 2 or 3 dungeons is going to have trouble getting the in-game cash together to buy energy and STILL have the cash to actually buy things.

      You can sell mats and whatnot for a nice sum of cash, but as far as I could tell there’s still no in-game market house, so finding the going prices is a bit of a bitch.

      Still, not a bad game, and it’s worth having around for the odd run every now and then.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Spiral Knights is fun… nothing deep, no grind if you don’t want to. It’s a casual arcade-game MMO, and pretty fun at that.

      A couple of hours a day makes a nice change from anything else.

    • Bhazor says:

      Spiral Knights a Review
      Seems fun but has crazy lag
      Try again later

    • Baines says:

      Like Psychopomp, I haven’t played Spiral Knights in months. It was fun for a while, but the energy restriction killed its continued replay value for me. You log on, you run a couple of dungeons, and you are done for the day. You could make more characters, but the only difference between characters is their equipment, so you don’t get any different experience.

      Plus there wasn’t much equipment, most of the equipment was fairly similar, and you needed to upgrade all your equipment to access new areas anyway. Plus equipment binds on equip, so you couldn’t even pass old armor to someone else to help them along. You could only sell never used armor to others.

      I do remember it running well on my PC, which was fairly poor for games in general. If people are having lag problems on Steam, maybe they should just try the web site directly and see if it is any better. Maybe there are problems with the Steam version?

  2. frenz0rz says:

    Free to play, or pay to win?

    • darthmajor says:

      or even pay to access any actual content beyond what a trial would offer, those are the best…

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s almost as if it’s a business model, and not a grand act of altriusm! Fancy that!

    • subedii says:

      Personally I’m just stunned we need to actually play the games to find out, instead of merely asking sardonic rhetorical questions about them.

    • Oneironaut says:

      I just played about an hour.

      The game has an energy system. It takes 10 energy to enter a dungeon, every day your energy bar will refill to 100. You can buy more through the shop, this kind will allow you to have over 100, and can be used to buy some items, I haven’t really looked at the energy vendor yet.

  3. CMaster says:

    Wonder what cut Valve take and how that will effect ingame pricing.

    • MCM says:

      It enhances their network effects – assuming they aren’t getting paid by the companies to do it in the first place.

    • FakeAssName says:

      I’m guessing that they will start selling generic cash shop credits kinda like what you get for those “Ultimate Game cards.”

      they are also probably going to start trying to set up their own F2P host system complete with steamworks so you HAVE to play your games through steam. thanks to the whole “no box sales” aspect, combined with all microtransactions being run directly by the game provider with no middle man, F2P games have been taking a massive bite out of the retail market. so in a way, it’s not surprising that they are trying to do this.

      I still have no desire to run my f2p titles through steam, but thankfully most f2p companies are greedy fuckers and will never release their hold on running their own cash shops unless they have no other option. from the game list so far it looks like that’s entirely what is happening.

    • Shrewsbury says:

      Nah, microtransactions use the Steam Wallet system, which uses real currency instead of funny money.

  4. Miker says:

    Didn’t realize these had Steamworks integration. The only F2P game I play right now is League of Legends, and I suppose I’d be happy to see it show up on Steam, though I don’t think it would work well with the launcher.

    • OverHeadParry says:

      I don’t think RIOT and Valve are on good terms after the whole DotA copyright fiasco.

    • VA1N says:

      Exactly what the other commenter said. I doubt you’ll see it on there, but I wouldn’t mind being surprised.

    • Thants says:

      The League of Legends launcher is one of the buggiest pieces of software I’ve ever used. I wish it would get replaced by something else.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Thants, your information might be a little outdated there. We replaced our old launcher with new tech 2-3 months ago and the new launcher is pretty much rock solid (if you’re thinking of the “can’t login after login queue” issue, that’s server-side and really only happens when our servers have major issues).

      We indeed don’t currently have plans for a Steam integration at Riot. The collector’s edition of League of Legends used to be sold through steam, but that was Europe only deal under the old distributor, GOA. I’m a massive Steam fan myself, so I’d love to see something like that happen.

      To my knowledge, none of our long range nukes are aimed at the Valve HQ. That is to say: I really don’t think we’re on bad terms with Valve or anything. Obviously there are super complex business strategy decisions to consider here (that I wouldn’t be in any way involved in), but I know that a lot of us at Riot are Valve fans. Never say never, I guess ;)

    • jamesgecko says:

      @Daniel Klein:
      I actually sort of prefer the old launcher also. Visually, anyway. I don’t really remember what it looked like, but I could put it on my second monitor and ignore it while it downloaded stuff.
      The new launcher has some sort of flash or shiny thing sweep across it about every five seconds. It’s very distracting. That sort of UI design is fine in-game, but it’s poor form for something coexisting with other windows on a desktop.

    • alice says:

      @Daniel Klein

      Does this mean you guys are off of Adobe Air for the launcher? I could never get LoL to install, always gave me Air errors no matter what I tried until I gave up.

  5. Sensai says:

    Are any of these games worth looking into?

    • Tei says:

      Global Agenda is somewhat like a sci-fi Team Fortress. Champios Online is the typical mmo produced in this decade. I say is good if you like this type of thing. I don’t know the others.

    • CMaster says:

      Click the tags for RPS coverage of each game.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      That would assume our tags were consistent. They are not.

    • Torgen says:

      Jim, you should hire a summer intern (for zero pennies) and have them standardize the tags throughout the archives.

    • CMaster says:

      @Jim
      I’ve got a feeling I mentioned that in my feedback email, actually. Also, just realise that the Global Agenda tag isn’t the normal GA one, but a new F2P GA one.

    • Premium User Badge

      dirtyword says:

      Also, more tags would be excellent. (WiT, Review, preview, etc.)

    • Psychopomp says:

      Spiral Knights is the best co-op gear based Legend of Zelda starring cute robots ever.

    • alice says:

      Spiral Knights and Global Agenda are both work a download and a looksee.

      And really, the only tag you need is Staring Eyes.

    • Commisar says:

      Global Agenda is pretty fun, an action RPG type MMO. I am havinf alot of fun with Champion ATM. I have been playing it for about 3 weeks now. You get the full game plus the comic serises with the F2P, but check out their website to see what subscribers get. Champions is a bit different than your average MMO, being about superheroes after all. Please give it a shot and look for Deadeye in-game.

    • Stromko says:

      In Champions can you actually get travel powers without buying them? It seems like there’s an awful lot of them on the market, perhaps all of them. The tutorial was terribly laggy and I lacked any interesting options to make a character without buying them (plus all my old characters are now unplayable unless I upgrade to a subscription), so I don’t know what they might have fixed / broken in the switch to F2P.

      Also, I only had the option to choose a single power set at the beginning. If I recall you might get to choose a second power set down the line but I can’t be sure. I could have sworn the original Champions let me choose any primary and any secondary power on the list rather than rely on a single archetype choice.

      I didn’t find AVA compelling. Very dated and flavorless gameplay. It’s easy to pick up and play since it doesn’t require coming to grips with any new mechanics. Headshots are very powerful, so even though it isn’t what I would call a serious shooter it isn’t casual either. Game play is simple but instant death / kills are around every corner, largely governed by surprise and luck of the cone of fire. You could say this about most shooters, but there’s very few features here to add any other layer except dumb luck and basic reflexes.

      Comparing Champions Free4All to its original troubled release, playing it for free is even worse. AVA lacks the refinement or features or flavor one would come to expect in any modern shooter. Yes, they’re free, but if F2P is such a profitable business model at what point is that no longer going to be an excuse?

  6. Jahandar says:

    This is a big jump for F2P. Hopefully more titles like LotRO are soon to come.

  7. Mike says:

    Excellent! This is just convenient enough to tempt me into playing these.

  8. PIGSquad says:

    Wow, I’ve never heard of Spiral Knights before. Looks similar to Magicka. I might have to check it out

    I hope they do this with LOTRO

  9. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    how dare you, I WILL NEVER PLAY A GAME WITHOUT HANDING OVER LARGE SUMS OF MONEY BEFORE HAND!

  10. Icarus says:

    I’ve been meaning to check out Champions Online again, actually. I tried it when it was still in beta and was a little disappointed, so now it’s gone F2P I might jump back in and see what they’ve changed.

  11. SilverSilence says:

    Oh now this is odd, only two of them are available in Australia.

    • rayne117 says:

      And they still cost a few hundred dollars. And they’re all censored. Ain’t that something?

  12. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    Is one of these games worth playing?

  13. Premium User Badge

    Seniath says:

    Not gonna lie, I saw “Forsaken [World]” and got all excited. If only…

  14. mmalove says:

    This is pretty cool – downloading them now. Really hoping it’s not pay to win – that instantly destroys pvp and makes every grind look like an excuse to milk money from the customer.

  15. keith.lamothe says:

    If LOTRO shows up on this that could be… schedularily perilous.

  16. Moonracer says:

    Free to play has always turned me off, not because of the games, but because of what I have to do to play them. For example I wanted to try APB reloaded but to do that I have to register with gamersfirst and install their service software. Then maybe install the game (if there aren’t any other loops).

    So if rather than having to register and install service software to try out F2P games I can just get them through steam this might actually encourage me to try some out.

    • Stylosa says:

      That is exactly what puts me off from trying them, all the extra crap they want you to install and sign up to.

      Just being able to use steam for these type of games should cut down on the extra layers of crap you can be forced to wade through. Its definitely going to make me try some of them out.

    • FakeAssName says:

      WTF are you talking about? there is no “other software” with gamersfirst, you download an installer then run it. yes you have to make an account with them directly because it’s a bunch of MMOs we are talking about, so yes you need an account to log into, but once you make an account it is shared by all the games from that provider.

      running your shit through steam is the part where you have to jump through a bunch of extra hoops because in excess of needing an account through the game provider and -gasp- installing their game, you will need to log into your steam account, then launch the games updated/launcher, then log into your account with the game, then launch the game it’s self.

    • Tei says:

      I just recently installed Windows 7 64 bits. This count as a total wipe of the windows registry, drivers, et all.. and APB still works. (AND IS GREAT!), so this means APB is highly standalone, with few dependencies. I am sure I have not installed any shit to make APB run again.

  17. Premium User Badge

    DarkWeeble says:

    Global Agenda is at least worth a look. Hi-Rez are the people involved with the Tribes reboot so you can at least get some idea of what they put into their products.

  18. ChampionHyena says:

    Spiral Knights Spiral Knights Spiral Knights Spiral Knights SPIRAL KNIGHTS SPIRAL KNIGHTS SPIRAL KNIGHTS.

    Your excuses not to play it are thinning by the hour. Achieve joy happiness feelings with us.

    • Dominic White says:

      Spiral Knights is decent, but it gets ridonkulously grindy after the first dungeon tier unless you pay up. The ‘pay credits to revive and progress’ mechanic doesn’t really work for me. If they rejigged it to be a little more mid-range friendly (it’s good for super-casuals and rich kids, but not much in the middle) it’d be gold.

    • TonyB says:

      I agree with ChampionHyena. I understand Mr. White’s issues, but a group of us have been playing it in lunch breaks and it’s perfect if you limit to an hour a day like that – you have just about enough time to go on a run through one set of dungeons in that time, and unless you’re having a particularly bad day you’ll get through that on just the energy you get free every day (with some spare until the hardest set).

      Since you can trade in-game currency for the energy other people have paid money for (allowing them to buy new recipes or whatever more quickly) you can still progress to the more interesting items and levels, it just takes more grinding and if played in this way with friends that’s not such an issue.

      It seems an existing Spiral Knights account can’t be linked to a Steam account at this time, so this isn’t an especially important announcement to me, but if it gets more people trying out the game that can only be a good thing as I think it deserves some success.

  19. Inverselaw says:

    Global Agenda’s conversion to free2play was extremely disappointing. As much as I could tell last time I logged in, every single equipment vendor now demands a certain amount of cash tokens in addition to ingame cash for every single bit of gear.

    Former players like myself got automatic elite agent status but that means i get better loot and exp I still have to pay an average of 5$ per piece of high level gear (unless i hope random chance gives it to me).

    Basically this is the first free to play game ive seen where the content for players who played before it went F2P has actually been reduced.

    • Gnoupi says:

      That’s not “in addition”. That’s an alternative (the UI is confusing about it, though, I agree).

      Each object you can pay for with game currency OR with “agenda points” (bought with real cash).

      Nothing prevents the regular player from enjoying the game the way he was before, so far. Only options for people to use real money.

  20. Dominic White says:

    They really need to sign Turbine. Lord of The Rings Online is probably the best of the WOW-esque ‘traditional’ MMOs, and Dungeons & Dragons Onlne is shockingly involved, hardcore, complex and challenging.

    TotalBiscuit recently quit WoW (his MMO squeeze of the past however many years) to move back to DDO, and he’s done a few videos on it. It’s a really impressive game now.

  21. Axyl says:

    So, umm..I bought both Global Agenda and Champions Online when they were full price games..
    They’re both still sitting on my Steam games list..

    Do i get like..any extras or bonuses cos i’ve actually bought these games? Honestly, i’d be kinda pissed if not..

    I mean, it’s not like i play either of them anyway, but i think being lumped in with everyone else who fancies a freebie after actually paying for and supporting both games for a while would seal the deal and keep my not playing them.

    • Dominic White says:

      For Global Agenda, yes, you basically get the full suite of paid account perks. Free players get something like half the XP and loot of what you get normally.

      Champions Online, I’m not sure about, but you probably get some kind of perk. So long as you’re not subscribing, the base game is effectively without value anyway, though.

  22. Vinraith says:

    Am I the only one that actually feels bad playing free games due to his backlog of games he paid for? I think this is part of what’s keeping me away from Dwarf Fortress , for example, though as has been stated on RPS before I should probably just toss them a donation and pretend I’m “buying” the game.

    I’m a twisted little cruller, aren’t I?

    • Avish says:

      No you’re not the only one.
      Basically I avoid games that take too much of my free time and list includes MMOs, mindecrafts and the likes…

      And I do sometimes buy games or bundles just for the sake of giving some cash to small developers.

    • Stromko says:

      I try to avoid MMORPGs these days as I feel I have nothing to show for all the time I put into them once I’m no longer subscribed. I was never bothered by subscriptions before, but with this newfound attitude I find them much less appealing. Now if only commercial F2P games didn’t have all the fun sucked out of them, or weren’t so heavily monetized that even if you could have all the content said content is a pointless, soulless, packaged good that provides no real boost to the over all experience of the game.

      On the other hand, I have eighty pages of graph paper filled with designs, experiments and musings to show for my years-long addiction to Dwarf Fortress. I used to donate every month until crucial dental repairs bent my bank account over a table and .. you know the rest.

  23. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Goody!

    Has anyone given Global Agenda a burl?
    I’ve been interested in it for a while, just never felt the urge to pick it up.

    • Thunderkor says:

      I picked up Global Agenda a few months before it went F2P. I got it for really cheap so I don’t feel ripped off or anything. I rather enjoy it, I think the only reason I haven’t gotten more involved in it is lack of interest from my friends, and the fact I have more games than time.

      It can be fun, some times quite a lot of fun.

      The one I’m interested in checking out is Alliance of Valiant Arms. I’ve heard it’s pretty good but I didn’t want to go through the hassle of setting up an account and all that mess before. Since Steam makes it so easy I might finally try it out.

  24. Oak says:

    Oh cool, more clutter in my Steam list.

    • zeroskill says:

      Oh cool, another guy that hasnt figured out how to use filters in the games tab yet.

  25. thegooseking says:

    That reminds me, I should either play Champions Online or cancel my account. Most likely the latter. No time, and F2P gives people nothing to lose by griefing.

    Edit: Never mind. My account was already inactive because I changed my card and never updated my details.

  26. sassy says:

    Since not all the games are available in all regions, you can do a simple trick to get the game.

    go to http://store.steampowered.com/?cc=us (if you don’t trust that url, just go to the steam homepage and add ?cc=us to the end of the URL, exactly as I wrote). This makes steam show you the U.S version of steam (notice that now everything is in USD and cheap), normally this doesn’t allow you to buy things but in this case you just navigate to the F2P game you want and hit install.

    If you want to change steam back to your region, type ?cc=*region code* or delete the steam cookie. I can’t tell you what your region code will be but it should be easy to guess (for Australia it is au).

  27. Premium User Badge

    MinisterofDOOM says:

    The F2P version of Champions Online is terrible. Customization is what MADE that game, and it’s also what is locked out in the free version. I played Champions for a while after launch and was excited to return to the game. Until I actually did return. All the free changes did was made a game already unworthy of subscription fees even less appealing.

    They should have put effort into making it more appealing to subscribe to the game, not pruning it down to the point where they can afford to offer it for free.
    And the first step in making subscriptions more appealing is ditching the terrible-awful-bad instanced shard format for a true MMO setup.

    • Stromko says:

      I heard that DDO became very profitable after it went free to play, so why is Cryptic so scared that they have to lock away most of the content and make us pay for it? From what I’ve heard, LoTRO did the same thing, and that was managed by the same company as DDO so you’d think they would have been in a better spot to be generous.

      I think consumers are unable to properly gauge the value of a game that is ostensibly free but has tons of content gated by purchase. I really get the sense we would need to pay hundreds of dollars to get all the content of a premium game.

      I might be more tempted by all of these now-Fremium games on offer if I hadn’t bought them on release years ago. The fact I no longer have to buy a box, then, really doesn’t provide me any benefit. I’m also not certain if I would get the full premium content if I simply subscribed, and I could have subscribed years ago if I thought any of these games were worth 10-15$ a month to play again.

  28. KingMudkip says:

    Well… time to try Global Agenda, I guess. My last excuse has been taken from me.

  29. Turkey says:

    Why would you name your mmo Forsaken World?

  30. dsi1 says:

    Needs more Bloodlines