Making money with "free-to-play" games
Free-to-play games carry similar challenges to open source products--confusion in what customers get and where they can find value isn't helping.
Free-to-play games are looking more and more like open source products as commercial entities behind the development and operations figure out ways in which to add value and monetize their user base.
In the open source world this typically consists of a split between "Community" and "Enterprise" versions of the products. For casual and free-to-play games, the split tends to be associated with some kind of premium offering or a payment mechanism like micro-transactions.
In terms of a solution, I propose calling our games "MTS Games" (Micro-Transaction Service) or even MTG (Micro-Transaction Games) if you prefer. I think this label, while a bit technical, gets rid of the "As seen on TV" quality stigma and cynicism that "free to play" engenders (it really can't be free--can it?) Equally important is to define what an MTS game is (and what it is not). An MTS game would be a game that: An MTS game would be a game that:
1. Requires no purchase to download and play the game
2. Does not have a level-cap or content-cap beyond which you need to pay
3. Is at least partially monetized by sales of in-game goods
By calling our games MTS games, I hope to separate our games from the cynicism associated with the "free to play" label. I think the definition above also addresses the bait-and-switch concerns as well as an MTS game as defined above would not require any purchases to play.
There are obvious parallels with commercial open source efforts, including the challenges associated with the word "free." It's perfectly acceptable to charge people for software (and really anything else) that they find value in. The important thing is to make it clear what is free and why you might want to pay.
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