In the future, nothing will cost anything. Ever. Well, except when it costs something. Which will be sometimes, but not always. Or ever, unless you want it to. Those are the sorts of wonderful logical fallacies somewhat - shall we say - misleading phrases like "free-to-play" conjure up, but there's no denying the business model's effectiveness. Even so, there are plenty of kinks to work out, which is why life's great big studio audience emitted a collective gasp when Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli announced that his company was closing up the non-F2P part of its shop as soon as possible. During a recent interview with RPS, however, he clarified that stance and noted, among other things, that it's "too early to say" whether or not Crysis 4 will be F2P.
That's not to say Yerli pulled out a nano-powered unicycle and backpedaled from his previous statement in the blink of an eye, but he espoused a slightly more measured approach this time around.
"It's too early to say," he replied when asked if the next Crysis will be F2P. "I don't think F2P's a mutually exclusive way of looking at things. I mean, the future is definitely free-to-play, but likewise, retail can co-exist with it. Premium games can be free-to-play. When I said free-to-play's gonna be our future, I meant that and I hold to it. But I didn't mean it for tomorrow. When I say there will inevitably be only free-to-play games, I mean that there might be ones where you can just download them with a free-to-play business model, or you can go to the store and buy it for $60. So that's what I meant: there's gonna be free-to-play available, which brings the entry level down to zero from a price perspective."
"But if people like packages or they want to go to the store for a special edition with a nice statue or whatever, then they're going to get that experience. Because that's how games still are for at least another five years. But that amount is fading off every year. So fewer and fewer people are buying packaged goods, and at some point, it'll just be people downloading games and streaming them."
What about in the very near, non-supersuit-and-microtransaction-powered future, though? Doesn't it seem a bit odd that Crysis - Crytek's flagship series - hasn't even dipped its toes into the rapidly expanding free-to-play ocean? Well, according to Yerli, that's actually been part of the plan for quite some time. But plans change.
"We even considered a standalone free-to-play version for Crysis 2, to be honest," he explained. "Launching the single-player as a packaged good and then making multiplayer free-to-play-only. For various reasons, it didn't happen. We also considered that for Crysis 3, and it didn't happen again. but there are definitely considerations like that."
Is it something Yerli wants to do before too much longer, though? Oh, absolutely.
"My desire is that everybody can just play Crysis and don't have to spend money from day one," he enthused. "So people don't have to think, 'Oh, do I really want to pay $50 for that game?' I don't want that question to be asked. I just want them to be able to give it a try. And then they can make their choices about spending money. That's honestly why I'm most excited about free-to-play – regardless of [how it'll impact] storytelling, single-player, multiplayer, and co-op experiences. I think there's an answer to all of those problems."
Check back soon for the full interview, in which we discuss everything from piracy, to the effect THQ's ailing financial health is having on Homefront 2, to the slow fall of traditional publishers. And also - because I'd have regretted it for the rest of my life if I didn't - I asked Yerli the most important question of all: Why call it Warface?