Fantasy Strike is Free to Play — Sirlin.Net — Game Design

The Fantasy Strike fighting game is now free to play. I’ll explain why this is a landmark for the genre.

First, this is something we’ve been working on for years. The original vision of the game was always to capture the essence of the genre along with all its strategic depth and difficulty, but to make it radically easier to understand and control than most of the rest of genre. And then really open it up by making it both cross-platform and free-to-play. We hope by doing this that we can bring a lot of new players to the genre and show them why it’s fun and interesting. I’d love for the genre to be even bigger.


Making a game free-to-play is no small thing. It’s very expensive to do because the developer (me and my team in this case) must go through all the time and expense to make the game itself AND must then take on a completely separate, huge, and expensive project of developing all the supplemental content and features that can actually be sold. So it’s not surprising that this hasn’t been done much in the fighting game genre yet. We wanted to really push the envelope of the genre in numerous ways, many of them detailed here, but it took us until now to finish the development of the free-to-play aspect.

Isn’t This Standard?

You might think there are numerous free-to-play games, so it’s no big deal. There are, in genres other than fighting games. Within the genre there have been a few attempts, but they are at the other end of the spectrum from what we’re doing. Also, it’s important to understand there is a spectrum of what ‘free-to-play’ really means, and we chose the very extreme end of it.

Games like Heroes of the Storm and League Legends (both in the “MOBA” genre) are free-to-play. But their model is to have players slowly grind to unlock characters, and then charge money to unlock characters one by one. Having access to all characters is extremely expensive and/or extremely grind-intensive in these games. This is pretty standard as f2p games go. An extreme outlier is DOTA2, a game where you instantly have access to play ALL the characters. No grinding to unlock them, and no need to buy them. You can just play them for free, and they monetize on cosmetics and extra features. That’s very unusual, and hardly any major f2p games work this way—but Fantasy Strike does.

Fantasy Strike’s free-to-play system involves giving everyone immediate access to ALL our characters, including the two new characters we just released (Quince and Onimaru). You can play them or any of our characters right now, for free, in online casual play, online ranked play, in practice mode, and even vs the AI. The things we’re offering for sale are several different types of cosmetics (that don’t affect gameplay or give any competitive advantage), a “core pack” that enables several different game modes, and an optional subscription called Fantasy+ that has even more features and cosmetics. It’s best to check this post for details about all that.

Shout out to other fighting games that have tried various kinds of free-to-play. I’m not mentioning them to slam them at all, quite the opposite. In each case, they took a risk and got the genre a little closer to really fully trying this model. I just want to clear up any confusion about where they are on this spectrum compared to Fantasy Strike.

Killer Instinct was originally free to play with Jago only (just one character), and offered a $20 pack (or $5 per character) to unlock their season 1 cast (with no way to grind to unlock). They later added another character or two free, in a rotating fashion, I believe. Basically this was a demo that gave you a taste of the game with one or two characters. Dead or Alive 6 works similarly. A couple free characters, and you can buy the rest. Brawhalla (a Smash-like fighting game), allows a few characters for free, a grinding process to unlock more, and has a “core pack” for $20 that unlocks all characters. That’s pretty awesome, so again, shout out to them. We decided to make our characters $0 and use our $20 core pack to add more game modes though. We’re also aware of Rising Thunder, shout outs to them too. Their game was only ever released in alpha form, where it was free, but never finished as a commercial project.

Time To Try It

This is all a grand experiment, and a very risky one. We were the first traditional fighting game to have crossplay between Switch and PS4, the first to show “frame advantage” inside visual effects inside each hit during gameplay, and now I think we’re pushing the envelope again by bringing this level of free to play to the genre.

I love fighting games, and just want to show you all how fun they can be when you get to the actual strategy part of them. So try out Fantasy Strike and see how quickly you can get there.

More info on this huge update.
List of notable features from our launch last year.

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