The term free-to-play gets thrown around pretty loosely these days, especially because game development has been increasing over the years. Ultimately, this is a boon to us end-users, but going through all the games that just aren’t for you can be pretty tough. Luckily, one of the most popular FPS games right now is free-to-play. Or is it…? We’re here to find out!
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The Wonderful World of Freedom
While it hasn’t been around as long as other gaming juggernauts like League of Legends, with the rate it’s going, Valorant isn’t just the flavor of the month. Riot has proven time and time again that they know how to run games.
In fact, Valorant is one of the few games Riot has released in a long time after the success of League. Have you noticed a trend here? A developer gets a taste of success, and oftentimes they push out more games instead of cultivating the one they currently have.
Typically for online games, they follow a certain set of templates that determine how the game earns money. The following are some of the most common ones.
- A mix of one or another
Let’s get into it, then explain why free-to-play may be a bit misleading in some cases. Most of these are self-explanatory. Subscription-based games refer to the player paying a certain amount of money to play for a fixed amount of time, the most common being monthly subscriptions.
You see this commonly with large-scale MMOs of old. Admittedly, this method of payment has been decreasing over the years, for better or worse.
Buy-to-play just means you purchase the game once, then you get to enjoy it indefinitely. You see this most commonly with standalone games available in online or physical stores. Indie developers usually opt for this pricing method as well.
The advantage here compared to a subscription-based model is that, because you only pay once, there is no time limit. Oftentimes, paying monthly for a game pressures you into playing it to get your money’s worth, which can be mentally taxing at times.
Free-to-play games refer to games that are free to download. There are no real barriers of entry except the kind of platform you’re on. In the case of Valorant, all you need is a Windows PC. At the time of this writing, it is currently unavailable on MacOS.
If you’re a Mac user and need to play Valorant, you might need to count the cost of a PC as part of the gaming capital. However, for the purpose of this article, let’s proceed with the assumption that you are able to run it.
Finally, some games employ a mix of two or more methods to keep them afloat. Some require subscriptions on top of you needing to purchase further expansions. Fortunately, Valorant doesn’t use these strategies.
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The Trap of Microtransactions
Let’s face it, we all need to eat. Developers need to make money somehow. In fact, mobile games have consistently proven to us that – in terms of earnings – free-to-play games with microtransactions are more effective than other models.
Microtransactions are basically purchases within the game to improve your character, whether stat-wise or through cosmetics. I know what you’re thinking. But MMORPGs do this all the time, right? Yes, that’s true. Asian games are notorious for putting microtransactions with gacha mechanics, but they can afford to.
There is enough PvE content for it to not matter as much. In these types of games, whales (players who invest a significant amount of real-world money) run rampant, but don’t necessarily ruin the experience of true free-to-play players. With games like Valorant, though, this can be a bit tricky. Best to let me explain.
Valorant is, without a doubt, classified under the competitive category as far as games go. Because of this, Riot has to be careful with what they sell with real-world money, as any items that somehow provide an unfair advantage will no doubt cause an uproar. Since there is no meaningful PvE content, Riot has to make sure that the PvP aspect is as fair and skill-based as possible.
Luckily, as far as we know, Valorant’s in-game microtransaction items are strictly cosmetic. While they’ve been hit by accusations of unfair skin advantages, it is mostly just rumored. If anything, really cool-looking skins can inspire you to play better or cause the enemy team to think you’re overpowered because of how much you invested in a particular character skin, so there’s that to think about.
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So there you have it! Yes, Valorant is free-to-download and free-to-play. It isn’t plagued by unfair stat advantages and whales. It’s an incredibly polished game that has seen a constant rise in popularity for a reason.
And while it isn’t widely available on that many platforms, people who don’t own Windows devices shouldn’t worry too much though, as Riot has officially announced a mobile version in the works. This is great news for players who live a more nomadic lifestyle where you don’t have access to your PC most times. The optimizations of controls, however, may tell a different story. Still, with Riot’s track record, it is safe to say they have a great chance of doing it right.