Tree of Savior Payment Models

Game Payment Models: Pay to Play, Free to Play or Buy to Play

With CBT getting nearer and nearer, there are still many unanswered questions about the upcoming Tree of Savior Game. One of them is which payment model will IMC Games adopt during the release of the game. Will Tree of Savior’s payment model be P2P, F2P or B2P (subscription based)? In this article, we will compare all three payment models, research the MMO business trends and let you (yes our readers) decide which payment model is best.

Subscription Based, Pay to Play (P2P)

The subscription based (P2P) payment model refers to a player paying a fixed amount (usually around $5 – $15) every month to enjoy the game. Blizzard’s most popular MMORPG World of Warcraft (WoW) and Elder Scrolls Online adopt this payment model.

Recently, there are articles that predicts the death of subscription based MMOs. However, subscription based MMO games are still widely accepted based on this poll. WoW has been extremely successful using this payment model and a quote on IGN explains why WoW still dominates the MMORPG market in North America with close to 7.5 million subscribers.

Though many were critical of the decision to keep the sub fee, the fact it’s worked out proves that the demand is there if the game is good enough. – IGN


  • Subscribers are more likely to return and play the game on a long term basis
  • Passionate and experienced gamers will stay subscribed
  • Gamers get to enjoy the full content of the game


  • Extremely unpopular payment model among a certain group of gamers, who would go as far as hacking and destroying a game.
  • Cash shop may still be around for some games
  • Real money trading is more likely to occur in a P2P model

Free to Play (F2P)

Free to Play payment models usually come with a cash shop. The company make money from players who are willing to spend money on cash shop (microtransaction). This payment model is adopted by popular MOBA titles such as Dota 2, League of Legends and World of Tanks.

Prior to 2010, F2P with microtransaction is an extremely frown upon business model due to its vulnerability to pay to win. However, Dota 2 and League of Legends have both proven that they are cashing in greenbacks using this business models.

Top 10 MMO
Top 10 MMO by Worldwide revenue from

This image shows the top 10 MMOs by Worldwide revenue for 2014. League of Legends topped the chart with $946 million earnings. Dota 2 jumped 20 places to 9th place with $136 million earnings.

The secret to the overwhelming growth of Valve’s Dota 2 despite using the F2P microtransaction model is cash items do not affect the balance of the game. Valve earn money from in-game cosmetics purchases and split revenues with member contributed cosmetic items.


  • Massive community for developers to monetize
  • Easy to return and replay the game after some time off
  • F2P and microtransaction is widely accepted now as long as game balance is maintained
  • F2P market is at least three times larger than P2P market

F2P vs P2P Market


  • Countless examples of publishers destroying good titles with uncontrolled cash shops
  • Developers will find it challenging to maintain the servers without relying on cash shop
  • All kinds of (immature) players from various backgrounds can play the game

Buy to Play (B2P)

Buy to Play payment structure requires the player to purchase the game in a box or softcopy online for a fixed amount to play the game indefinitely. Publishers may still use cash shops or item malls as a method to monetize in order to keep the servers afloat. Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2 was released with B2P payment model coupled with a cash shops.

Blizzard were quick to realize its mistake. Nearly two years after the release of Diablo 3, the developers decided to shutdown all auction houses because it “undermines Diablo’s core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot”. On the other end of the spectrum, players who bought Guild Wars 2 can enjoy the full content of the game, if they wanted more, they could buy aesthetic items to make their characters look cool. The items sold in the cash shops do not affect stats and do not give a distinctive advantage to players who use the cash shop.


  • Focused on gameplay and content
  • Easy to return and replay the game after some time off
  • Gives the developer a boost in capital to develop new expansions


  • Harder to reach a bigger player base compared to F2P payment model
  • Susceptible to real money trading and botting if cash shop is not present
  • B2P with cash shops usually gives the general public a bad rep

Best Payment Model

Each payment model has its own advantages compared to other payment models. To achieve the perfect balance between customer satisfaction and shareholder smiley faces, perhaps more than one payment model could be used at different phase of the product cycle.

Product Life Cycle
Four stages of a product life cycle

Currently, Tree of Savior is at the earliest stage of the “Introduction” phase. I would like to see publishers incorporate multiple payment models throughout the entire lifespan of the product. I do not have the specifics but I believe each of the three payment options (P2P, F2P and B2P) has its strengths in different phases of the product life cycle. But at the same time, I predict incorporating multiple payment options will also bring a lot of messy transitions and uninformed customers.

We would like to hear about your opinion. Which payment option do you think is suitable for Tree of Savior and why?

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