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Free-to-Play in Conquer Online Private Servers

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I think we can all agree that free-to-play (F2P) online game titles are usually pretty attractive but divisive. The money that pays for the server usually come from a very small portion of the playerbase, and that can cause some crazy side-effects such as hyperinflation, broken balance systems, low retention, etc. Looking at the current private server community for Conquer Online, it's clear that these problems are even more exaggerated. Servers allow players to spend less money for a huge amount of in-game currency, which in turn devalues the currency and increases the divide and quit rate between players. Servers die quickly, recycle quickly, and sell quickly in a loop. Recently, these servers started to make me consider the overall morality of some of these predatory practices for cash whales that keep the servers afloat, and there has to be better ways, right?

I see games such as Guild Wars 2 do a good job with free-to-play, where their "whales" aren't spending thousands of dollars on a character. In Guild Wars 2, their shop is appealing to all players (more appealing to the average person who would otherwise be the free player in free-to-play games). For example, as a player not willing to spend $1000 on a game, there's no way I'd get into a game like Conquer Online or play any of the private servers; however, if a server were instead just selling cosmetics, utility items, effects, furniture, mount skins, toys, bonus stories, etc. in $5 - $10 chunks, I'd be totally down to invest a bit. On top of that, Guild Wars 2 has a currency sink where you can convert gold into their paid gems currency. This both allows free players to continue playing without paying and reduces inflation.

Another idea I had around hosting my own server at some point was paying for hosting using a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum (something I picked up from an Extra Credits video on blockchain). Back when it was cool to mine, I thought it'd be interesting if I allowed players to dedicate a percentage of their graphics card to cryptocurrency mining. Players would be rewarded the purchased currency in-game for the amount of hashes they computed, which in turn helps pay for the server (if the host accepts cryptocurrency payments) and doesn't contribute to hyperinflation. Generally, I don't think this is as sustainable today with how difficult it is to make graphics card based miners profitable, and how much the value of cryptocurrencies have fallen again. But if anyone has better knowledge around this than I do, I'd be interested to know what you think about the idea.

Overall, I'm really interested to know what people think about free-to-play in general. Selling CPs (Conquer's in-game currency) in an online store for powering up characters to max is not sustainable, and we know that from the constant failing and recycling of servers. If you want more on the topic, here're a few videos from Extra Credits on free-to-play (and a few other related topics). Again, I'd be very interested to know what people think about this, and what their ideas or experiences are around free-to-play. Cheers.

Videos around free-to-play game theory:

Videos around in-game inflation and currency sinks:

Videos around player type balance:

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