The ‘free’ part of that equation is subjective. If you want to upgrade a few of your SMITE gods to their Epic skins you previously had one option, pony up some cold hard cash. No Favor grinds for that Sobek ‘High Seas’ doodad or ‘Lil’ Mana’. Now you can trade some marketing information and a bit of your time for free Gems, the MOBA’s in-game currency.
In some people’s minds it’s still a bit of work, but the cross-promotional tool is become more and more common in the F2P genre. Developers open up easy avenues of revenue that are opt in for the player base. Players get in-game currency to pimp out their characters. Don’t mind giving up some details and a few moments of time, then by all means dive right in.
Personally, I’ve always been weary of these. Perhaps even cynical. I believe it dilutes the brand, as the developer does not control what’s being advertised, nor the Terms of Service that its players agree to. It also opens up additional support costs, as players that have issues (incorrectly) seek help from the developer. In fact, Hi-Rez is already seeing some issues.
Economically for the gamer, you’re putting all sorts of time and effort into very little return. Makes sense for those without cash flows (or credit cards). For the rest of us, farming Favor and money is far more time efficient.