EA Say F2P Competes With Consoles

By John Walker on June 29th, 2011 at 11:19 am.

I'm too tired to do better.

When archaeologists dig through the layer marked “early two thousands” they will notice a change in the colour of the rocks at the beginning of the second decade. (Yes, this IS how archaeology works.) Eventually one monocled genius will identify this as the time the games started going free. With news of online stalwarts such as Team Fortress 2 and World Of Warcraft catching the bug, this is no longer the domain of seedy half-arsed MMOs my lord, but increasingly a mainstream option. It’s a significant shift for the PC, and one that I think it’s safe to say everyone is pretty wary of. But it’s one that EA are claiming can be as profitable as the console market. And that’s a big deal.

As spotted by the eagle-eyed VG27 in GI.biz’s interview with EA’s Frank Gibeau, on Wednesday’s morning, on God’s internet, the head of EA Games believes that F2P could be a market as profitable for them as their console games.

Let’s put that in perspective. A game like Modern Warfare XVIII sells around 60% on 360, 35% on PS3, and 5% on PC. It’s still a significant number of sales, millions and millions, but clearly nothing close to the cascading downpours of gold bullion that they source from elsewhere. So if F2P can equal this, you can bet your mum’s bum that publishers will be all over it like Kieron on your mum’s bum.

In discussing whether AAA game budgets are getting out of control, Gibeau explains that EA’s own game label has dropped from 20 releases a year to six (cripes), and acknowledges the “top twenty market” of modern gaming. But then he adds,

“But at the same time we’re aggressively investing in things that are very low cost like free-to-play. The free-to-play group inside of EA Games is growing extremely fast – we’ve got 17 million users, 4-5 services stood up right now. And if you get a couple of those to scale they’re as profitable as a console game.”

You may groan, thinking of the mishmash of nonsense that’s formed so much of the F2P market until recently. But times are changing, folks. Real proper games you’re going to want to play are going to launch as “free”, as developers figure out the correct way to deal with micropayments and the like. And they’re making lots and lots of money. And money attracts publishers, and that means the PC will be getting some of that attention it’s been missing from the bigger names in the business.

It’s happening.

But of course it’s happening now. Two years ago the future was DLC. So where will this all be in another two years?

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105 Comments »

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  1. Choca says:

    It’s funny how the industry is attracted to shiny objects.

    I remember when subscription MMOs were the golden goose of the week. How great that turned out for all involved.

    • Keukeu says:

      I remember when good games were the golden goose of the week.

    • somini says:

      @KeuKeu
      I don’t…

    • Shuck says:

      @Choca: It did turn out great… so long as developers weren’t trying to directly compete on equal terms with World of Warcraft (which spent so much development money so as to make that impossible). So many MMO developers tried to do just that because WoW created a whole new audience that they wanted to tap into; it took a while for some parts of the industry to realize that the audience WoW created was mostly interested in playing WoW. For those developers that have tried something different (e.g. Eve Online), it continues to work out pretty well. I’m also still convinced that there whole untapped areas of MMO play far away from WoW that would work quite well for any developers willing to venture there.

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      “I remember when subscription MMOs were the golden goose of the week. How great that turned out for all involved.”

      Go tell that to Blizzard.

  2. NegativeZero says:

    Star Wars: TOR will be free to play then?

    • Jumwa says:

      I imagine at first it’ll be subscription based, but if they don’t meet a level that gives them the influx of money they need to start offsetting the tremendous costs involved in making the game, they’ll start bringing in tons of microtransactions and likely considering F2P.

      Just my guess.

    • Lobotomist says:

      GW2 will be F2P ( Or more correctly – subscription-less)

      For me it will be one of major deciding points , which of these two games to play long term.

      Subscription is dead concept. And only PVP oriented games like EVE should keep it , in order to maintain fair play.

      All else should move to – “pay for what you use/need” system

    • FakeAssName says:

      there are actually three terms at play here:

      P2P (Pay 2 Play: your basic subscription model)

      F2P (Free 2 Play: you don’t every actually “buy” the game, but the publisher still makes money by setting up a micro-transaction shop, or essentially starts RMT-ing items form the game)

      B2P (Buy 2 Play: you buy the game, but don’t pay monthly fees … this is often augmented by the micro-transaction shop from the F2P model)

      by all rights most of the current “F2P” conversions are actually B2P because you still have to buy into the game to get off the glorified trial mode that the game starts with.

      in example: TF2.

      untill you upgrade to “premium” status (which cost about the same as buying the game did before it “switched” to F2P) your running around with your balls tied between your legs not un-like if you were playing under trial conditions.

      there is no way EA will switch TOR into F2P, what this really sounds like to me is that they are gonna be converting WAR into F2P and setting it up to compete with other F2P wow clones like ROM and Allods. Blizzact’s little “free to play (untill level 20)” stunt is nothing more than them adopting to the unlimited trial format that WAR and AOC have been sporting for a while now.

      from this comment by EA, I’m guessing that Blizzact referring to their free trial with “F2P” is actually a little jab at EA saying “we know what your going to do with WAR”.

    • Raniz says:

      I’m looking forward to both SW:TOR and GW2, but for different reaons.

      SW:TOR because it seems to be a nice SP experience. I don’t think I’ll be treating it that much as an MMO, just keep in touch with my friends and run the occansional instance, perhaps team up on a quest or two.

      GW2 because I really really like their ideas about dynamic gameplay, this one I’ll play as an MMO.

      I like the idea of microtransactions, but I’m having a really hard time justifying making them for myself. I’m more comfortable with paying a subscription than paying a few SEK here and there. I’ve got no idea why this is, logically I should love the microtransaction system since I generally don’t care enough about fancy hats to pay anything.

    • PickyBugger says:

      ‘untill you upgrade to “premium” status (which cost about the same as buying the game did before it “switched” to F2P) your running around with your balls tied between your legs not un-like if you were playing under trial’

      I thought you could upgrade to premium by buying anything in the store. The cheapest thing in the store if I’m not mistaken is 39p so that’s hardly the same as buying the game before it was F2P.

      TF2 doesn’t really limit you it just reduces your bag space and the things you can craft. However you can still get almost all of the useful items from random drops.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      EA isn’t publishing TOR are they?

    • DrazharLn says:

      Jason, EA owns Bioware.

  3. I LIKE FOOD says:

    F2P games are and always will be the shallow multiplayer games. As long as there are solid singleplayer games around it doesn´t bother me.

    • Faceless says:

      Team Fortress 2 tips its hat(s) in gentlemanly greeting.

    • Premium User Badge

      Monchberter says:

      True. But what’s of more long term value to the game publishers?

      A one off payment 20 hour single player campaign that you may replay a couple of times or perhaps never even finish

      or

      A persistent ‘free-to-play’ game (multiplayer or not) which provides constant content for as long as you are interested, be that hours counted in the tens or hundreds, but that also provides additional content for those who passionately love the game and are willing to pay a few pence or pounds.

      I’ll bet that judging by the events of the past few weeks (the Team Fortress 2 player base jumped from 30,000 to 100,000 almost instantly), entire projects are being ripped up and made over already. For better or for worse.

    • Khann says:

      Team Fortress 2? You mean the game that has been a paid game for several years and was designed as such?

      I have yet to play a F2P designed game that wasn’t low quality garbage.

    • sigma83 says:

      League of Legends says hi. =P

    • Koozer says:

      World of Tanks waves in your direction.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “F2P games are and always will be the shallow multiplayer games.”

      Man, your crystal ball is awesome.

    • Cyberpope says:

      APB waves its…….oh wait no im doing it wrong

    • zeroskill says:

      it all boils down to one everlasting fact: Good games are good, bad games are bad. It doesnt mather if F2P, subscriptions, pay2play, cash shop or whatever the business model might be. Judging games by the way you pay (or dont) is as stupid as it gets.

    • Tarqon says:

      League of Legends would like to have a word with you. That game can hardly be called shallow, and has one of the more elegant implementations of F2P.

    • Khann says:

      Ok yep, you got me there with LoL. That’s a pretty good example of F2P done right.

      WoT on the other hand… not exactly a high quality game.

    • Zakkeh says:

      League of Legends is F2P but it has terrible coding and is remarkably resilient despite being bad because of the DotA crowd it garnered. It’s not a good game, merely fun and addicting for some time.
      Collect em all! And collect em all faster if you pay for it

    • Aemony says:

      Anyone whom have played League of Legends on the EU servers for the last two months knows how frustratingly bad that damn game is, especially the EU version. From the horrible AIR client with constant crashes, errors and memory leaks, to the in-game WC3 engine with its super-long load times (in comparison with an in-house engine such as HoN’s), bad UI design implementations and unexplained frame drops on even the most powerful computers, to finally the SERVERS and their DAMN QUEUE TIME AND CONSTANT DOWNTIME AND PROBLEMS. Not to mention the unbalanced champions and many (there’s A LOT) champion bugs that exists. The matter of fan service (big breasted chicks, etc) is questionable but one I personally don’t have anything against.

      Then there’s the weird champion model sizes, where a child is actually bigger than an adult (Annie vs. Ashe), or a certain champion whom is big as hell can hide in a bush far to small for him. Oh, and all their range textures for attacks are inaccurate, and some champions doesn’t even auto-attack minions if they are just on the edge of their range (when initiating the attack your champion doesn’t even move, just starts attacking them).

      I’m an active LoL players but I’m actually on the brink of just buying HoN instead because all of these problems, some really major and some really small. LoL is simply a bad game and nobody can use the number of player accounts to state that the game is good.

      Writing this the servers was down again, when they actually got up I was put in a queue with “over 9000″ (just funny the first time, not the 1,000th time) with a 35 min waiting time… Oh, and look at that, now my client said that the servers was busy again and everything closed down. But no, restarting the launcher it says that another instance is still running, but inactive in the background, and are asking me to terminate it. Sure, do it. Oh, servers are busy again? *sigh*

      I’ll just go and play me something else, cause it’s clear that RIOT doesn’t want me to play their horrible excuse for a game.

    • Odeon says:

      A lesser-known game filled with greater awesomeness is AfterWorld. It’s F2P in that you don’t have to pay to play, download, skill, kill, craft, or anything else within the game, but it’s a much easier route for those that do pay. However, paying $20 gets you a lot of value in the game. It’s a very interesting, and very different model than anything else I’ve ever seen.

      Long story shortened: all usable items are crafted by players and decay with use, eventually being completely used up. The only time that players directly pay the games developers is when they leave the starting area for the first time (this never has to be paid again) and when they craft something, where the fees are extremely small.

    • wazups2x says:

      TF2 wasn’t F2P at the begging. Every game I have ever played that’s been F2P at launch has been pretty bad.

      I really hope F2P games don’t become the norm.

    • Wulf says:

      What about Guild Wars? If anyone would try to say that Guild Wars was shallow (it was anything but), then I’d have to slap them upside the head with an anti-hipster blackjack. Guild Wars — including its two campaigns and its expansion pack, provided a good variety of gameplay, gameplay options, locations, and storylines. It was all that you could ask for from the most premium of premium MMORPGs, and it did it without a subscription and the cash shop only ever carried vanity stuff or mission packs (which were good value for money).

      That’s going to carry over to Guild Wars 2 as well. The only money you need to spend on it to get access to all the content is the price of the box. There will be an item shop, yes, but unlike CCP ArenaNet knows to keep things to vanity items only, just like they did with Guild Wars. They’ve already set a precedent there for their model, and it works, and NCsoft’s financial reports have shown that Guild Wars has been very successful.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wulf

      Guild Wars wasn’t free to play, and GW2 won’t be either. Neither has a subscription fee, but they’re both full priced games.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    >A game like Modern Warfare XVIII sells around 65% on 360, 30% on PS3, and 5% on PC.

    I know you were exaggerating for effect, but every time I see those kinds of numbers reported by various agencies and repeated by gaming sites (present company excepted of course) they are always
    a) US only (not Europe where the PC has a larger market share)
    b) Only retail, not online and especially not Steam which refuses to release those numbers
    c) Very often, if you read the smallprint, a single retail chain. Sometimes not even that, but what one or two stores sold and then extrapolated to the whole market.

    As for the F2P stuff… fun that the PC gets more attention I guess, but those games generally aren’t for me, since I like story driven single player games. I’m thinking we will get a very saturated market too, as all those who started developing MMOs but found them unprofitable will now announce F2P in a desperate attempt to avoid closing down.

    • FakeAssName says:

      there are numerous F2P shooters already out and are making ass loads of money despite being built on shoddy late gen engines. (like quake 3 “late gen”)

      Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Online game will likely rob all those older F2P-FPS titles of their player bases, it would be stupid for EA or Activision to let the Frogs jump into this market with a AAA title uncontested.

    • thegooseking says:

      I don’t have figures for CoD specifically, but according to Activision (which, of course, does include Steam sales), in calendar year 2010 their revenues looked something like:-

      MMO – 28%
      PC – 7%
      PS3 – 19%
      PS2 – 1%
      Xbox 360 – 23%
      Wii – 9%

      Of course ActiBlizzard made more money from WoW than they made from the entire Xbox 360 platform. Not including MMOs, and considering only the platforms codmw2 and codblops were released on, it looks like this:-

      PC – 15%
      PS3 – 39%
      Xbox360 – 46%

      You then have to consider the fact that Guitar Hero and DJ Hero weren’t released on PC, so Call of Duty probably makes up more of the PC share than it does of the console shares (but then again the only new Music Hero game in 2010 was DJ Hero 2, which didn’t sell well, so that effect might be overestimated).

  5. zipdrive says:

    WoW going free? Did I sleep all of last month?

  6. Tei says:

    I live safe knowing QuakeWorld will always be free.

  7. Lobotomist says:

    “will be all over it like Kieron on your mum’s bum”

    Thanks for warning !

    • MiniMatt says:

      Is Kieron my new daddy?

    • Bret says:

      He’s your original daddy, as a matter of fact.

      You ever wondered why he writes so much Thor?

      (He’s Odin.)

  8. PearlChoco says:

    I remember a time when it was all about the actual games.

    • I LIKE FOOD says:

      You mean when the developers and publishers were too busy trying to figure out how to make superbly great and original games rather than ponder how to make the most money?

      :)

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      But the gaming industry has always been about profits too…. one or two really passionate indie studios possibly excepted.
      :)

    • Xercies says:

      Every Industry is about money, even indie industry, if you can get money with your ideals and stories you want to make then yes you can go for that but if you can’t well you’ll have to do something else.

      :)

    • Nick says:

      Yes, its always been about making money, but it was less homogenized and there was a lot more (permitted) creativity.

    • Koozer says:

      It’s all about the costs dudes. A 16-bit NES game is a hell of a lot cheaper to produce than an Unreal powered face shooting simulator. This naturally leads to less risky games being funded. Our saviour will be when creating games gets easier. Unity and the like a tiny steps forward.

    • thegooseking says:

      Indeed. The SNES was 4th generation, we’re now on the 7th generation, and AAA development costs roughly double every generation, so a AAA game on PS3 costs about eight times as much to make as a AAA SNES game did (roughly).

    • Bhazor says:

      For reference GTA 4 is said to have cost (dun dun dun) a hundred million dollars.

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article3821838.ece

    • Shuck says:

      “I remember a time when it was all about the actual games.”
      Ahh, you must be referring to that magical era of much lower development costs, when even a mediocre-selling “AAA” game could produce enough revenue to support a studio, as opposed to now when even best-selling AAA games aren’t necessarily enough to keep studios going. Developers could take chances back then, and even if they didn’t entirely pay off, they’d still be ok. As a game designer, I wish I could return to that magical era; the closest we have now is the indie scene, but the huge amount of competition has made even that a lot more desperate and scrabbling for funding.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Phinor says:

    If DLC was the future two years ago, my bet is that F2P is still completely irrelevant two years from now. DLCs are still mostly of poor quality and very much overpriced.

    But then again I’m very disconnected with the general public. They probably love to pay more for their games than before (which is the basic concept of F2P).

  10. Archonsod says:

    “Real proper games you’re going to want to play are going to launch as “free””

    Modern Warfare XVIII doesn’t sound appealing to me even if EA were offering to pay me for playing it. Which I think perhaps is where there problem begins.

    Personally, I’ll be happy to see the PC receive attention from the “big name publishers” when said “big name publishers” realise the PC market is not the same as the console market, and they need to do something more than simply push an “updated” version of whatever it is they put out last year.

    • Gundrea says:

      Would Modern Warfare XIIX be more appealing? Look at the symmetry after all!

    • FakeAssName says:

      why would EA ever pay anyone to play a MW title?

    • The Colonel says:

      How about IVI0d4IVn IXI3rf3r4? Gameplay is going to be F2P but non-interactive parts, QTEs and cutscenes are going to be handled with microtransactions. “Tap X and shove credit card repeatedly into slot”

    • Archonsod says:

      Insert Coin to continue*

      *attract mode

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      @ Gundrea – No, that’s not appealing at all. That number just makes my eyes/brain hurt.

    • Odeon says:

      Not to mention being totally un-possible. Roman numerals don’t work that way. Either you start with 10, add 2, then add 10 more, which makes 22=XXII (written correctly); or you start with 10, add 10, then subtract 2, making 18=XVIII (written correctly). (Big numerals followed by small ones means you add the small to the large. Small numerals followed by big ones means you subtract the small from the large.)

      Ancient numbers is fun! 8-P

  11. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Ick. Why can’t we just pay for a game once and be done with it? Instead, with dlc and micropayments, there’s always a palpable feel of monetisation. Like that camp vendor in DA:O. It’ll lead to more shallow game experiences, I fear.

  12. Hoaxfish says:

    Didn’t they just announce that the XBox is looking into F2P models? which’d make it a double-console according to EA?

  13. vanilla bear says:

    Free to play makes me feel slightly queasy. With a normal game, I can um-and-ah over it, if I’m not happy buying it straight off the bat (and I’m usually not) I can set myself a price at which I will consider it – and then when I buy it, that’s the end of it. WIth free-to-play, deciding to play is the start of a torrent of advertising and marketing that keeps asking you “but what about THIS hat? Would you open your wallet for this?”.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      That articulates my distaste for F2P quite well. They may be free to play which sounds great on paper, but with the need to get people to buy stuff in order to be profitable they are rarely free to enjoy.

      A game asking me to hand over money every other corner I turn is immersion breaking in the extreme and I can’t help but feel that luring in players to a free game and then doing your very best to get them to make impulse buys is somehow a bit of a dishonest way to make money.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      The way Blight Of The Immortals did it worked for me, locking off the full content and then unlocking the game if you paid $10. Which makes me think F2P is best when it’s basically a demo.

      So just bring back demos, then.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I’d be pretty happy with “F2P” as an episodic-style payment model as well: the first episode is free, each subsequent one is $5. So you’re always buying the next bit of content. Or something like tabletop RPG books, where you have the basic setting and can buy adventure modules.

    • Odeon says:

      It all comes down to implementation. I’m currently playing an MMORPG called AfterWorld (see my comment above about it) that is totally free to play AND enjoy. However, it’s designed in a way that makes paying even more enjoyable because you can advance your avatar much more freely and easily than non-payers. It’s what is known as an RCE (Real Cash Economy) game, where you put in money to play and advance your avatar, but you can also take money back out and have it deposited to your PayPal account or whatever. It’s at the end of it’s pre-gold stage now, with a massive gold update coming “any day now,” so at this point all payments are considered “donations” but you still receive the same amount of in-game money that you will when it changes to “depositing” once it goes gold.

  14. trooperdx3117 says:

    What kieron get away from my mum, shes off limits!

  15. Kdansky says:

    F2P is genius: It’s a way to extort a lot more money out of the those customers that are too stupid to realize they are getting ripped off, while at the same time giving the others (who don’t want to pay a lot) a “discount” of up to 100% game price. In the end, it’s just market segmentation.

    That said, I’m no poor shmuck any more, and I’d like it if there was a “buy 90% of full product for decent money” deal included, such as Bloodline Champions has with its Champion edition (30$ to unlock pretty much everything except vanity items and future content).

    Not so genius about F2P: Publishers have yet to figure out what they should charge how much for. Pay To Win instantly makes half your players leave, for example.

    • mickygor says:

      I dislike the way so many people brand those who pay for vanity items are stupid people being ripped off. I’m not stupid. I’m aware that it’s a vanity item I’m paying for – but I want to show my appreciation to the devs (in my case to Riot Games) for making one of the best games I’ve ever played. I’m not stupid, I’m just not poor.

    • arccos says:

      Agreed. You know exactly what you’re getting paying micros in a game like LoL. Instead of most PC games that don’t even have a demo now. You can drop $50 sight unseen and be stuck with an absolute stinker.

      I’m really pleased F2P is becoming a workable business model. Part of the fun I have with these is the meta game of what is really the best value in the store, and treating unlocking content the hard way as an achievement that is more than a Steamworks fanfare popup and 100 Gaming Points.

  16. Nimic says:

    Am I the only one who would prefer games to stay decidedly not free to play (or rather free to play, but not free to purchase)? I dread the day micro-transactions are the norm.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I mildly dread what EA will try to crowbar this into, despite the current games I’m playing being one F2P MMO (Champions Online isn’t half bad) and the other having turned that way (TF2).

      But at least singleplayer games should be safe from F2P, since I can’t see the money being in it if people can’t buy hats to show off in front of other people.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      Sure, but in single player games you get a DLC vendor in your camp who starts giving you a quest and then suddenly demands your credit card info to actually hand it over.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Man Raised by Puffins says:

    Im too tired to do better

    ?

  18. Khann says:

    Say what you will about the game itself (I myself haven’t been a fan since I was 13/14), but Runescape has done the ‘freemium’ thing to great effect for a very long time now.

    It is the only game I’ve seen that does the free/paid split like it does.

  19. Rond says:

    But of course it’s happening now. Two years ago the future was DLC. So where will this all be in another two years?

    It will be wherever the corporations damn well please. Because they mainly care about mass consumer, who will grab anything as long as it’s on the top shelf. So there.

  20. rareh says:

    F2P(with money involved) gets a lot of hate, but my favorite approach to it is the Quake Live one.

    1. You get the game in a way, that the pay members and free members can play against each other in a balanced manner.

    2. No leveling up, you get all the content straight from the start, i hate grinding.

    3. You only need to pay 2 ,4 euros to get your own servers, premium maps, no ads and other goodies.

    Its better explained here. http://www.quakelive.com/#!premium

    If every game applied that principles QL uses on F2P, then i believe in the future F2P will be preferred over P2P or B2P.

    • Rond says:

      I heartily concur.
      I too play QL from time to time, and it doesn’t bother me at all to watch a 15-seconds ad before playing. Also its free version has all the features I’ll ever need. Log on, watch a short ad, frag a bunch of people, log off. It’s a win-win situation (except the fragged guys).

  21. jay35 says:

    F2P is no better for the publisher than the consumer buying the game up front if the overall charge to the consumer is equal. Particularly since getting all of the revenue up front at the point of sale is arguably always better than -maybe- getting a player to stick around and microtransact the equivalent revenue over the course of six months to a year.

    Therefore, in order for F2P to be attractive and beneficial to the publisher, they must ensure the player has to spend -more- via the F2P model than they would if they bought it up front.

    Thus, F2P done “correctly” is -always- a net negative for us, the consumer, and our wallets.

    • rareh says:

      This isn’t true, lots of F2P games have around 3-5 dollar average bought per user.

      F2P attracts more people(since more people are able to play the game and test it out) and as a result, don’t need to charge as much per user.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Agreed.

      I think who it’s good for is people who don’t really care that much, who can bounce from one “free” game to another and never really invest in any of them. That’s pretty much the opposite of how I do multiplayer, and in the end I am mostly a singleplayer guy, so this model is not for me at all.

    • jay35 says:

      @rareh: what’s the context of this article though? we’re talking about triple-A titles here, not indie $3-5 games.
      On another note, this model is also a catch 22:
      If the free experience is good, i don’t need to pay for anything else except if i want to reward them for making it a good experience or give my character a new look or something else inconsequential. at best, you might pay for additional maps.
      If the free experience sucks, i wont be sticking around to pay more.
      And if it doesn’t have an option to pay ~$40 to unlock everything, they will probably miss a good chunk of traditional players who don’t want to be hassled by $5 hits for each little thing. there’s a reason why people appreciate being able to pay for something up front and use it fully. and it’s probably the same reason publishers don’t want us to do be able to that anymore.

    • rareh says:

      @StingingVelvet
      I respectfully disagree.
      Quake live and League of legends are competitive games with large prize pools and people(teams or individuals ) that invest a lot of time to become the best at them.
      Sponsors and well known teams fund them to go to lans, SK, fnatic, EG etc and believe in those games as e-sports.
      Imagine if SC2 was free-to-play, but exactly the same it is today in terms of content, for example you need to pay 10 $ to play a race, but default(free) is Terran, the game wouldn’t be less competitive or anything, because of that.
      Would cost less, you would get same content and bigger playerbase.
      win/win/win

    • Eolirin says:

      @jay35, his point was that f2p games tend to have substantially larger audiences than games you have to pay for, and as such, they can get away with extracting a much lower average revenue per user. If your game has access to 10 times as many people, you can get away with them providing, on average, 10 times less money, individually.

      Of course that’s not what tends to happen with F2P models; for games with money shops, f2p or not (WoW has a money shop, but is sub based, GW (and until recently TF2) are B2P), large portions of the player base will tend to pay nothing at all, medium sized portions will pay something, but the hardcore set that’s extremely passionate about the game will pay staggeringly huge amounts of money, and basically subsidize the rest. Individual monetization scales based on passion for the game. And because player populations tend to follow the same pattern – with many more people who play being casual than being super engaged, but, provided you’re not in a death spiral, also tend to form a distribution that scales at least somewhat with population, that is, they’re roughly, say, 5% regardless of whether you’ve got 100,000 users or 10,000,000 – you can make staggeringly huge amounts of money if you’ve got a large enough playerbase. By removing the barrier to entry by going f2p, you increase the chances of reaching that critical mass.

      I think there is a point of diminishing returns though. Only so many people are going to care about a game like Europa Universalis, or even Modern Warfare, regardless of whether it’s free. The development budgets do need to take that into account. There’s a much much much bigger audience for Angry Birds than there is fol Call of Duty. There’s also the issue of hardware costs as a significant detriment to making the model work as well. You need to be able to tap a much larger audience than “people who own a decent gaming computer and happen to also like this sort of game.” That’s why so many F2P games have such low specs. The business model relies entirely on having staggeringly huge playerbases, and hardware costs limit the size of your audience more significantly than anything else.

  22. StingingVelvet says:

    When Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls or Fallout turn into “free” online only games I will cry a single tear.

  23. Koozer says:

    F2P isn’t bad, when done right. World of Tanks, or League of Legends for example. The entirety of the games are (is?) free, money only exclusively getting you special interest tanks, quite often worse than their normal same-tier counterparts (WoT), or skins (LoL). You can also spend money on boosts, to earn xp, money etc. faster, which do not effect the game at all.
    When done wrong, you get the likes of Champions Online and LotRO, where you have to buy mission packs and classes/abilities as they’re released, with no end to the spending in sight.

    If I can happily play the entirety of a game’s content without spending a penny, I’ll happily give a game a go.

    • Odeon says:

      Then give AfterWorld (www.afterworld.ru, no relation to the Web series) a go, since this is possible there (I posted two other comments about it on Page 1). However, to really see all that the game has to offer, you either need to put in a lot of work (for the “not spending a penny” route) or buy the “get out of jail for $10.31″ (the extra $0.31 is due to PayPal’s fee) card. Once you’re out of the starting area, you can explore the entirety of the game, see the wide variety of animals, robots, and monsters (and watch them kill you!), chat and skill and everything else to your heart’s content. It’s a slow way to progress your avatar, but it can be done.

  24. squirrel says:

    I strongly believe that economic outlook is everything. There is no way interactive entertainment can evade recession, let alone depression. Economies of our countries after 2007, be them western or eastern, were not good, and will not look that good in the coming few years. We would not spend that much on video game as we used to spend for obvious reason. We anticipate our income to suffer from no increase, or real income will very probably even decrease as our governments irresponsibly print out more money. That, I believe, is the main rationale for most gamers to switch to F2P games, not because people suddenly discover the excitement of those simple games. People simply dont have the mood to buy that many new games, and also not eager to invest as much to upgrade our machines for games. On the other hand, lower income means more risk to try out new concepts. Obviously large publishers are becoming less and less willing to invest in new gameplay and creativity.

    However, indie developers with creativity may have a chance to advance as large publishers are retreating. Large publishers are not the only one to be able to afford F2P. In my city there are countless of MMOs, mainly MMORPG (with a few MMOFPSs, but without exception they all fail miserably), which are cheap to join. They are not free to be exact, costing about ten to twenty pennies (pay in my city’s currency of course) per disc. My guess is the prices are not actually for the developers to be collecting. Most MMOs in our cities have to be distributed through convenient stores. Kids these days dont have a good financial sense. They wont hesitate to spend their pocket money on games, even while they actually have the option to download legally from official game website free of charge. So the convenient stores have the right to collect the revenue for distributing those game discs. The revenue of those small developers mainly depend on online-transaction of in-game tools. Developers come and go, some go bankrupt while some others start business. The MMO industry here is still growing. It may be a good time to break the monopoly of game development by large publisher. Why Crysis must be published by EA?

    • Odeon says:

      Very true and good points. I know that as a “middle class” American, I feel pretty much broke all the time and don’t have the kind of money I used to, when the world’s economic situation was a lot better, resulting in a better situation for myself as well. I had to scrimp and save and wait to upgrade my graphics from an old GeForce 7900GS AGP card that I got years ago to a refurbished GeForce GTS 250 last year and I have no idea when I’ll be able to upgrade again. I bought it for under $100 and it will last me a long time, assuming it doesn’t die on me, but there’s no way in hell I can justify paying $60 or more for a single game, especially when I have very little available gaming time right now anyway. F2P games are perfect for me since (1) I don’t have to pay to play it, (2) I can play in short chunks of time without feeling like I’m wasting money on a monthly subscription, and (3) can make pretty good gains in the game in those short chunks with the right strategies. Plus, when I find I have a bit of extra cash, I can put it into my F2P game of choice, AfterWorld, and “live” on that amount for a looong time.

  25. rareh says:

    @jay35

    I bought Portal 2 and felt ripped of, because of the short length, how the difficulty was dumbed down to the console crowd and other reasons.
    I could have avoided this if it was F2P, i would have immediately seen which system was valve’s priority .
    This is why i prefer the F2P model.

    • Premium User Badge

      shaydeeadi says:

      I don’t think it was a console thing, it’s just everyone knew what they were doing second time around.

  26. DK says:

    “Let’s put that in perspective. A game like Modern Warfare XVIII sells around 60% on 360, 35% on PS3, and 5% on PC.”
    Don’t exaggerate for effect like this because Publishers and the people in charge of them are idiots and they’ll actually believe those numbers are serious.

  27. Freud says:

    The market for F2P games is probably more limited than the companies think. Just because the first games to try it managed to do well, it doesn’t mean there is an infinite amount of gamers sitting at their computer with credit card in hand.

    When hundreds of games are fighting for the same type of consumers, there will be a lot of companies wondering why the revenues are low.

    • Khann says:

      Or maybe it’s that we consumers are a simple-minded flock that jumps from one thing to another non-stop.

  28. Joe Duck says:

    The cool part of F2P’s model (in the case that we start seeing many more games of TF2’s calibre) is it’s effect on piracy. If there are many good F2P games, why pirate games? I wonder how many people are pirating TF2 right now? Additionally, a lot of gamers will get hooked before making a purchasing decision and also they will get the luxury of buying only the part of the game they want.
    This would prove that Gabe was right on the money when he spoke about piracy. Is Valve’s success based on making gamers out of pirates by offering them better service at realistic prices?
    Good games in a F2P model is a win for all.
    Except those who want free time to live a real life, of course.

  29. Hirmetrium says:

    I look forward to WAR becoming free to play.

  30. Daniel Klein says:

    I will say it again, though I’ve said it a hundred times: F2P games that try to make players pay will invariably fail. It’s taking a ridiculous amount of time for people to understand this. Successful F2P games will always be COMPLETE to the entire audience with entirely optional payments.

  31. aircool says:

    Sounds almost unlike the old PC demo scene. Remember when the first third of DOOM was free and you just paid to unlock the rest of the game. Demo’s these days tend to be short lived and quite bloaty. Whether it’s a good thing or not, I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of DLC due to internet speeds, bandwidth etc… being appalling in rural areas.

  32. Kent says:

    Next step: Pay per byte, every gigabyte of what you download is going to cost £5

  33. wazups2x says:

    I’m so sick of F2P. I really hope every game doesn’t start doing this.

  34. MythArcana says:

    Here comes the sea of endless ads, click schemes, micro-transactions, and every other lame capitalistic (opportunistic?) scam you can think of to drain your wallet for one simple game.

    Just put it all in the friggin’ game with no DLC and we’ll pay the $40 or so – don’t nickle and dime us to death. Given the fact that nothing is free, I smell nothing but scam with this latest and greatest marketing research disaster.

    • Catalept says:

      So much negativity about F2P. It’s an established fact that it can be done right, and obviously it can be done wrong. So in the end, we’re right where we always were… with our own money, deciding where we want to spend it. If companies are going to present us with F2P business models designed by bean-counting hellspawn, don’t give them a dime…

      Treat your money not just as stuff that can be turned into fun, but as a way to indicate your approval (or otherwise). I’ve handed over money to Riot not because I wanted champion skins, but because I approve of the way they do F2P, and wanted to reward them for doing it right… and I will never play Assassin’s Creed 2, because I refuse to reward Ubisoft for using such brain-damaged DRM.

      /soapbox

  35. rocketman71 says:

    The guys at EA say many stupid things.

    And do even more.