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PopCap CEO defends move to free-to-play

PopCap CEO defends move to free-to-play

Fri 16 Aug 2013 9:11am GMT / 5:11am EDT / 2:11am PDT
PublishingDevelopment

Plants vs. Zombies 2 downloads have already eclipsed performance of first game

PopCap CEO Dave Roberts has confirmed that Plants vs. Zombies 2 has enjoyed great success in its first hours on sale.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 was launched yesterday, introducing a free-to-play business model to the much-loved franchise. In an interview with GeekWire, Roberts claimed that PopCap has "gotten a lot of flak" for the move to micro-transactions - which is consistent with EA's strategy for all of its mobile releases.

However, the widespread belief that "free-to-play is so evil" hasn't damaged the game's early performance.

"I don't think anyone at EA has seen anything go up that fast to the top downloads. By 6 a.m. this morning, it was already at number one," he said yesterday. "My guess, by lunch today, we will have hit the same number of downloads that it took us five months to hit in the first version. It probably took us close to a year to hit that number on the PC."

"My guess, by lunch today, we will have hit the same number of downloads that it took us five months to hit in the first version"

Perhaps inevitably, Roberts staunchly defended the free-to-play model, citing the number of players the game will ultimately reach as its greatest strength. "We can now talk to a million people in a day or two million people in a day or five million people, or whatever it is going to end up with today. That's a huge deal," he said.

"People used to complain about ... (when we started) we sold $20 download games. You had a 60-minute trial on, and then you had to pay $20 for it. And then you owned it. It was two percent conversions, and it was the same thing. A lot of people would try it, and a small number of people would pay for it. And that's how PopCap grew up."

More importantly, Roberts believes that, for better or worse, the market has already voted in dollars. On mobile, free-to-play is the clear winner, with the app store's top grossing chart dominated by freemium titles until, "70 or 80 or 90."

"That's the sad truth," he said. "People have decided that free-to-play is a better way for them to monetise. And, some of the purists would argue that the industry has made them do that.

"Can you do it in a way that preserves what we believe is the great game experience and customer experience? We hope so. We think so."

47 Comments

Free to play can be good for the the right game genre/business but not necessarily good for all game types which fits the more traditional upfront payment eg. Uncharted (to go to the next level, would you like to pay more....:)

Posted:A year ago

#1

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
Look... if somebody wants to make a free to play game, thats perfectly fine. Its just not the future of of games. Its simply a different approach to games. And it doesnt necesarrily work for every game. And not everyone likes playing free to play games. I much prefer a game where progression and things I earn or unlock are solely through gameplay means. Its like saying every game has to be an MMO. For people who play F2P games this is perfectly great news, for those that dont this is completely irrelevant. But one thing for sure, F2P isnt the future. Just another approach to certain types of games that need to be taylor made to fit the F2P concept. Since designing a game around F2P affects game balancing, dificulty and progression. Im not a fan of having to pay more to go to another part or gain a new power.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 16th August 2013 1:03pm

Posted:A year ago

#2

John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London

486 457 0.9
Actually Sony have pretty much turned Uncharted into free-to-play already, releasing the multiplayer component of Uncharted 3 free to download for everyone (but with a level cap until you pay to unlock it) and the single player free for PlayStation Plus subscribers, while selling tons of extra character models and outfits as well as traditional map packs.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,185 1,271 1.1
Popular Comment
I still cringe when I look at the microtransactions and think "remember when you carefully selected those plants for strategic deployment as part of a game you fully owned?" Now it is like "too hard? here is the cheat."

There is also something to be said about how f2p will impact gaming culture in the long term, when 10% of your customers are mined for every penny, while 90% are somewhere between not caring about one particular game and not care about this type of gaming as a whole. It could be argued that Wargaming's recent PR efforts of establishing themselves as a "free to win" company is in pursuit of attracting a gaming culture their f2p product lacked in the past.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
Popular Comment
>> However, the widespread belief that "free-to-play is so evil" hasn't damaged the game's early performance.

If I could just pimp a blog post here: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/PaulJohnson/20130702/195491/Ranting_about_Free_to_Play_its_not_what_you_think.php

Short version is that there isn't a widespread belief that free to play is evil. There is a small (comparatively) minority of people who are very vocal on the subject, but the rest of the world aren't posting to forums, they're busy playing F2P games. Everything you can point at backs that up, yet still I shall be derided for even mentioning it...

Posted:A year ago

#5

Shane Sweeney Academic

417 441 1.1
Technically it launched four weeks ago in Australia as a test bed for the rest of the world.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 16th August 2013 2:27pm

Posted:A year ago

#6

Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions

72 291 4.0
Theres so many factors as to why pvz 2 is selling so quickly he cant possibly be trying to justify bastardising the game based on improved sales for a much anticipated sequel?

Posted:A year ago

#7

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,021 1,470 1.4
@ Bruce I agree, the silent majority are fine with F2P. They also see those games as disposable time wasters. None of them have the lifelong impact of development on a child as an old Zelda, Sonic, Mario, or Final Fantasy game did. That's not to say there's anything wrong with that. It would just be sad if that's all there was to gaming.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,196 1,176 0.5
@Nicholas: Did you just mix up Paul and Bruce there? That's cosmic karma somewhere in the universe working for and against you, i guess.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Rogier Voet Editor / Content Manager

72 31 0.4
Because the majority of people don't oppose free to play, does not mean that the F2P business model is a good one from a consumer perspective.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. I understand from a business perspective why developers choose F2P lot's of potential for fast growth of install base and a lot of reoccurring revenue. F2P was invented to increase adaption and revenue growth: there are no benefits for the consumer.

As a gamer I truly dislike this model for 3 reasons

In order to maximize profits the value of Premium Services is extremely low. As an example the 0,79 cents you have to pay to go further in Candle Crush. A low value but if you add this up, it does paint a bleak picture. Let's say 10% amount of users pay 5 euro's every day for a Bejeweld-clone which can be bought for 2 euro's. That is a lot of money for something that is not worth it (if you compare it to most traditional pay tot play titles)

The game designer will say that players are in total control, in how much money they are spending on games, but the tactics used are simular to Insurance, Bank and other often misleading business tactics.

With F2P game design is not primarily used to make great experiences but to nudge people into buying premium stuff. Fun becomes the tool to keep you paying instead of paying to have unlimited fun.

A F2P you never own, you never stop paying, there is no game ownership, so also no control because you don't own it, you use use it.

Posted:A year ago

#10

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
@Greg. I noticed that also and it caused a wry smile. I often agree with Bruce but I don't have anything like his consistency or staying power. :)

Posted:A year ago

#11

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
@Roger, you're making the same usual mistakes I'm afraid. Let me just post some stuff back at you

>> Let's say 10% amount of users pay 5 euro's every day for a Bejeweld-clone which can be bought for 2 euro's. That is a lot of money for something that is not worth it

Many people just don't give a toss. It's peanuts, exacerbated by the low numbers. 5 euros is just the same thing as 2 euros to most people and they'd prefer playing the game that all their friends play far more than save some change.

>> With F2P game design is not primarily used to make great experiences but to nudge people into buying premium stuff. Fun becomes the tool to keep you paying instead of paying to have unlimited fun.

This is just a prejudice. If F2P games weren't fun, nobody would play them. And for sure nobody would spend money on them. What is happening here is that people are having fun in different ways to what we're used to.

>> A F2P you never own, you never stop paying, there is no game ownership, so also no control because you don't own it, you use use it.

This depends on the game. You should go read my blog post. But not all of us want to own it. And lets not forget here that you'll have to buy a shitload of smurfberries before you get to the cost of a single console game. "Whales" are often highlighted as being the driving force behind F2P monetisation, but on mobile games at least, a "whale" would just be a basic customer everywhere else. Maybe some of us are sick of giving our work away for $0.99 and want to make some real money.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Paul Acevedo Games Editor, Windows Central

16 18 1.1
Paul, that's a great response. But given Rogier's emotionally (not reality) based response, I doubt he'll warm up to the free to play concept.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Acevedo on 17th August 2013 5:12am

Posted:A year ago

#13

Rogier Voet Editor / Content Manager

72 31 0.4
Paul, i read your blog post with great interest, and thank you for your nicely written response. I understand from your blog that market conditions have actually forced a lot of developers into using the F2P-model, which is a shame.

I agree that the gold rush of Apps has dropped prices below what is reasonable. I think for mobile phones the drive for cheap games to play on the go will remain strong, but you would think that with also a large tablet market that people would be willing to pay more for a more rich game on the tablets.

It's strange to see that the Mobile App market remains so focused on low pricing, while digital markets like Steam have much more price dynamics (both high and low and also F2P). I want to reply to your comments.

[quoteWith F2P game design is not primarily used to make great experiences but to nudge people into buying premium stuff. Fun becomes the tool to keep you paying instead of paying to have unlimited fun.

This is just a prejudice. If F2P games weren't fun, nobody would play them. And for sure nobody would spend money on them. What is happening here is that people are having fun in different ways to what we're used to.[/quote]

I don't say F2P-games are not fun, there are plenty of F2P-games which are fun to play. The point is that fun is not a goal in a F2P-title but a means to keep People playing and generating revenue.

When I'm gaming I don't want to focus on spending money, but having fun. Being rewarded for the effort I put into the game, because that is satisfying. Great game design does that. Buying equipment with real money does NOT nor paying to continue.
But not all of us want to own it. And lets not forget here that you'll have to buy a shitload of smurfberries before you get to the cost of a single console game.
True but the value of the Smurfs-game is not the same as a full console game. If you compare F2P-titles to Pay to Play-titles the value would be between 5 and 15 (That's 175 Smurfberries or 3 times the lowest amount of Smurfberries you can purchase).

You can compare it to a popular nightclub. You can get in for free and enjoy the music and the partying but you pay at least 5 euro's for one drink. That is the F2P-model. Or you buy an expensive 30 VIP-pass and I don't have to pay for drinks. That is Pay to Play.

So depending on the amount of drinks you consume, it's smarter to get in for free or to buy a VIP-pass. But most F2P-titles don't offer that option.

So Paul is right that even with all your well made points, I still don't like the F2P-model. Funny that Paul said my response was emotional, I would it call passionate.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Dan Wood Visual Effects Artist

37 62 1.7
Popular Comment
I understand the entirely valid argument that the F2P model can be used with integrity and games based on it can be fun and compelling, but really, can anyone truly claim to believe that it doesn't affect the basic design of a game in a serious way, and crucially, not in any ways that are actually beneficial to the gameplay experience itself?

F2P is far more than a business model, it's a design methodolgy conceived from the ground up to exploit people. In a similar way that there are some television advertisements that can be considered fantastic creative achievements, their sole purpose remains simply to psychologically exploit their audience. F2P games are admittedly somewhere between - at their best they're designed to be a compelling product in their own right, in addition to being a vehicle to psychologically exploit their audience. But that factor is still intrinsic to the design, and in my opinion cannot possibly avoid compromising what could have been a far better design had it focused solely on creating a compelling game.

Many people defend the F2P model as something that isn't intrinsically damaging, and only gains a bad reputation from the examples where it's misused. I would argue against that - I believe it is intrinsically damaging to a game's design, in exactly the same way that large studios dictating fundamental game design elements to disguise DRM as a service is intrinsically damaging to that design. (e.g SimCity - we all know how much better that game should have been had certain compromises not been working into the very fabric of the design)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dan Wood on 17th August 2013 1:01pm

Posted:A year ago

#15

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
Mostly it allows people to play a game for free and decide if they want to spend money on it to get the fuller experience, whatever that might be.

The other alternative is spend a whopping 60 bucks on something sight unseen.

Why so many profer the former option to be inferior to the latter genuinely escapes me, but it's obvious the wider public don't feel that way.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
>> You can compare it to a popular nightclub. You can get in for free and enjoy the music and the partying but you pay at least 5 euro's for one drink

You said it. Popular.

That's really the end of it for me, which is why I often react when people start slagging the model off. It doesn't really matter what we might think, and if you want the truth it took a lot of soul searching before I went this route too. No, the only thing that really matters to us as professional developers is to look what (and how) the public want to pay for, and give them plenty of it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 17th August 2013 3:23pm

Posted:A year ago

#17

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
Games are not art.

Posted:A year ago

#18

Rogier Voet Editor / Content Manager

72 31 0.4
I understand the entirely valid argument that the F2P model can be used with integrity and games based on it can be fun and compelling, but really, can anyone truly claim to believe that it doesn't affect the basic design of a game in a serious way, and crucially, not in any ways that are actually beneficial to the gameplay experience itself?
Exactly - F2P was always used a a driver to increase revenue and adaption of games (you can play it for free), but never as a way to actually improve games. I'm not saying every F2P-developer is the next Zynga and I really understand the need to make money but Dan said it beautifully "it is intrinsically damaging to a game's design".

That the general public does not think badly about F2P is easy to explain. They don't know the difference because they are used to F2P already. The whole smartphone, and mobile market is stll really young. The same goes for Facebook.

Thanks for all for the good discussion: great respect for all of you:
To put money where my mouth is Just bought "Great Big War Game" for my Nexus 7 should make Paul happy.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rogier Voet on 17th August 2013 5:44pm

Posted:A year ago

#19

Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

471 480 1.0
"Is f2p evil?" is such a black and white way of thinking that rarely ever leads to an answer that is of any use.

Instead I would ask how does f2p mechanics impact on the game mechanics?

When asking, "are games an artform?", I would first ask one to define art and then define games design. The act of creating art is not limited to mere canvases. There is art in poetry, maths and science. Art is not just colours that make images, it is an expression of ones inspiration. Sometimes the inspiration is to recreate reality in the form of numbers, sometimes it is to recreate an aspect of reality through the presentation of an experience.

If all games were f2p I'd play a lot less games because I'd bet my hat that they'd be more expensive to play on a regular basis without having to economise my paying, which reduces the amount of enjoyable playing.

Posted:A year ago

#20

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
Hehe, thanks Rogier. :) Hope you enjoy it.

Regarding fitting the game to the model and not the other way around, we're making a ccg atm - it's actually out in Beta next week. Am interested how anyone would make that game as a premium thing without making it less fun?

Posted:A year ago

#21

Shane Sweeney Academic

417 441 1.1
Games aren't art..... they are a lot more then that.

Posted:A year ago

#22

Carlos Bordeu Game Designer / Studio Co-Founder, ACE Team

77 115 1.5
There's a lot of us working in this industry that do consider our work a form of art. I have never in my life designed a game thinking on how to 'maximize profits' (and sure, maybe that's why we haven't hit the jackpot - we've done modestly well)... I've always started from thinking about how to create a certain experience and then develop it. Later on we can sell this experience in the hopes that others will be interested in it and purchase. Maybe it isn't the best business model, but at least in terms of reaching a vision, I think it is the most authentic one.

I think that the rise of F2P is a understandable concern for many game developers like me - who have for years specialized in the design of games, but not in the design of selling games. It isn't the same skill or design process, and to suggest that this model wouldn't in any way alter our creative visions would be untrue.

I feel that in order to make a successful F2P game you have to marry a game designer with an economist (and a psychologist), and well... damn... I don't want any darn economist or shrinks getting in my game designs!

Posted:A year ago

#23

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
If you're making just what you want to make, just for the sake of making it, then I'll grant you that can be considered art. Not by me, but I can at least see an argument for it. Might be an interesting debate.

But making games for money is what we do for a day job. The clue is in the website title. Anyone thinking or pretending otherwise probably isn't actually involved in the "to make money" sharp end meetings and lives in blissful ignorance of how and why their salary gets paid.

F2P games need to be designed just as much as other pay models. Making games justify their pricetag is what's been happening in the mainstream industry for decades. Here's an example - no gamer on earth wants an unskippable title movie. There is a new model now and some designers haven't got their heads around it yet. That ain't the models fault.

Posted:A year ago

#24

Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

471 480 1.0
@Paul: making money doesn't have to be at the total expense of (a) making what you want and (b) making the best possible gaming experience. Granted there can will be conflict between the three (since what you want to make may differ greatly from other people's tastes).

It is the same case for music, which is why some artists choose to go independent as it allows them to focus on creating the music they want at a much lower cost than working for a major, yet can in some cases yield much more income for them since they no longer have to shell out millions for their entourage, marketing and their oversized production team.

I think the same can be said with films and games. When you fund your own film project you don't have to pick the happy ending because a suit says it increases overall word of mouth, you don't have to cast Brad Pitt for a role that doesn't suit him because a suit says 32% of his fanbase are likely to support the role. And you don't have to neglect the inspiration of the story because a suit said that fitting to formula-235 will lead to a concept that a larger audience can grasp.

Kelis (not sure if you know of her) is an artist who went independent in order to do the music she likes. I can't remember ever liking her independent work, but it's what she likes and it pays her bills.

Even Miyamoto said he'd rather create more new IP's like Pikmin than having to work on iterations of Mario and Zelda several years back. And then you have Minecraft. A game that was made to be fun. Sure everyone dreams of making it big, but he went against convention and became rich off of it.

Facebook is another example. Had they tried to make a profit in the beginning from ads because that brings home the bacon they may not have grown as quickly as they did. At the time facebook came out I always associated certain types of ads with a cheap site (not the type of ads we have here, they're classy). In fact many of his decisions were about making more money, but he chose to do it by not chasing the money and first creating the best possible experience for the user and by focusing purely on serving the user he then found a viable way to serve them ads too.

I think you need a bit of both because you have to connect with people's needs, but at the same time you need to experiment with your own intuition and passions in the absence of money. That I believe can create the greatest value because firstly it is shown that a persons creative cognitive problem thinking ability is reduced by extrinsic incentives such as carrots and sticks, a fact that Google has used to give people total freedom to work on whatever they like, resulting in the conception of many of their new products.

Though I guess some people will only see things in black and white terms of either making money or making what you want.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 18th August 2013 9:26am

Posted:A year ago

#25

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
>> Though I guess some people will only see things in black and white terms of either making money or making what you want.

I try to find ways to do both.

With a mortgage and salaries to pay, if I could only pick one then it would be the money making. I'd love to live in this hobbyist world where people think they can work on anything that takes their fancy, but sadly I don't. Whilst learning my craft (am self taught) I spent a lot of time working on just about anything, but those days are long behind me since I stopped working in print and started working in games.

Posted:A year ago

#26

Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

471 480 1.0
@Paul: but we are not in a world where making what you enjoy cannot be profitable. It is purely a matter of balance, in fact I gave many examples of how people have successfully achieved both and demonstrated how one of the wealthiest companies in the world creates its new products by doing just that.

We don't have to choose, though I believe it is easier to see it all and make a decision purely as a choice between the two as everything in between may require greater effort or creativity to achieve. How would chasing money have discovered Minecraft? First you would have to justify it financially and invest a great deal of money. At the same time if it did not become profitable Notch would have at some point had to have moved on. Yet if he took the position from the beginning to only focus on what will obviously generate money he probably have taken a job with a 80-120k/yr salary for a financial company or something, happy with his comfortable wage and never having the luxury that his fun experiment has yielded.

Naturally you have to sit down and focus on more secure forms of income (it's something I do agree with), it would just be too dangerous not to; but I make an effort to devote time to fun projects that may or may not make money as well. That is where more lucrative gems may reside.

Again I'm not suggesting we all just focus on making the best games for people regardless of whether it makes money or not. And that is because I don't believe that is the only decision to make or the only way to go about things. Besides, I'm sure you can make a lot more money from your programming in the finance industry, amongst others.
I feel that in order to make a successful F2P game you have to marry a game designer with an economist (and a psychologist), and well... damn... I don't want any darn economist or shrinks getting in my game designs!
Right on. I think that taking things from every angle opens up new possibilities you might have been oblivious to. It's all about communication and management. I've worked with an economist in the games industry and I must say that his input was indispensable. He showed me what a true marketing professional could bring to the table. Never worked with a psychologist before, but I can see how having an understanding of the human experience of it all provides a valuable perspective for informing your decisions and exploration of the problem space.

Posted:A year ago

#27

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
+1 Eric. It's nice to see people talking in the past tense. It's a neat reminder that the subject matter, on mobile, was voted on by players some time ago and free to play won hands down.

What I hear now is just "the public have it wrong, they should like what I like"

Posted:A year ago

#28

Caspar Field CEO & Co Founder, Wish Studios Ltd

40 93 2.3
Paul, as a wiser man than me once said, "Why are you in business? To make money? If you just wanted to make money, smart guys like you, you'd get a job in the city. Yes you need money, but in a creative business money is like air. You breathe to live, you don't live to breathe." Pretty much nailed it for me, although I'm not using that as an anti-F2P argument, because I'm not anti-F2P. Games can be art by the way. A beautiful, individual, scintillating interpretation of the world? Yeah, I've played those games. Super Metroid, Fez, Rez, Ico, Jouney... It's a long list. Breathe to live!

Posted:A year ago

#29
None of them have the lifelong impact of development on a child as an old Zelda, Sonic, Mario, or Final Fantasy game did.
How can you be so sure? Do you have kids? Looking my 12 year old son play Dragonvale on his S2, or Club Penguin or Runescape years before, I can clearly see that F2P games can have same kind of impact to kids that Zelda had to you for example.

Posted:A year ago

#30

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
@Caspar. If I ever have enough money to not worry about my job by the end of the current project, I'll let you know.

Posted:A year ago

#31

Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

471 480 1.0
How can you be so sure? Do you have kids? Looking my 12 year old son play Dragonvale on his S2, or Club Penguin or Runescape years before, I can clearly see that F2P games can have same kind of impact to kids that Zelda had to you for example.
How can I put it: the highest consumed product is not necessarily the "best" creation. It's why more people listen to say, X Factor than Mozart and Bach. But the genius of Bach is not found in X Factor performances, it's complexity is simply not on par. And I've seen artistic integrity lost at the cost of reaching the masses in the music industry.

Although artistic integrity is a somewhat subject matter is is one that is well understood; though I think its perceived subjectivity is more a matter of our difficulty to objectively describe - just like distinct tastes and smells (which can only be referenced in relation to other tastes and smells).

So in terms of this statement:
What I hear now is just "the public have it wrong, they should like what I like"
I think what people are actually saying is that, they would rather maintain their artistic integrity than reduce the idea of their game for easier consumer friendly mechanics. Also it limits all gameplay to having to support a single mechanic.

It's inarguable, a f2p version of Mario cannot be the same as Mario. It might be better and it might be worse, but it is not the same type of experience. In fact I've got it, it creates an experience with a bit of a noose. You no longer have freedom to explore the game, instead at every step of the way you must make a financial decision.

In terms of "winning", well naturally the mechanic is a winner in terms of human behaviour. That doesn't mean it produces the better game, it just produces the better way to seduce people. That is no reflection on how good the game is. It would be like saying debt is better than savings because more people are in debt. But the reality is that poor financial management is easier than sitting down and planning ahead. Also we are terrible at deciding between current and future benefits.

My main problem with f2p mechanic as the only payment method:
My enjoyment (or total experience of the game) is entirely dependant on my willingness to pay more, regardless of how much I have already paid. I guess it is the total lack of ownership.

Things that can be good about f2p:
It's closer to gamers just paying a monthly subscription where good games will prosper because people no longer have to make a financial decision to try a new game.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 19th August 2013 9:07am

Posted:A year ago

#32

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
Metacritic tells me that there are lots of utterly rubbish games that publishers are demanding $60 for. How amoral is that?
The joy of FTP is the our customers can see what the game is like before spending a single penny. They only need to spend money if they want to and they feel that it is giving them value. A much more moral proposition. And our customers love it. Today vastly more hours will be spent on planet earth playing FTP games than paid for games. In fact paid for games are now a niche. A rapidly declining niche at that.

Another effect of FTP is that the number of people playing games has exploded. Around two thousand million people are walking round with a gaming device in their pocket. We are reaching the sort of ubiquity that television has. There are so many customers that we don't need to be greedy. Taking just one cent from each smartphone user would be very nice indeed. So games can concentrate on being excellent fun to attract the biggest possible user base. Then monetisation can be very gentle indeed.

Another wonder of FTP is that the barriers to entry are low. No global staff and shipping tons of plastic and cardboard. This has resulted in the biggest flowering of creativity that the game industry has ever seen. People are trying anything and everything. There are hundreds of thousands of new games. Compare that with console gaming that has been stuck in a rut for a long time now of sequels and me too games in narrow genres.

Of course the FTP business model is developing and changing very fast. Some developers are cynical and/or greedy. But our customers are not stupid, they can see through this. And in seconds they can download another game that is less greedy. So it is up to the developer to create games that are so good that the customer wants to spend money to enhance the experience. A fair monetary relationship where everyone wins.

Posted:A year ago

#33

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

846 732 0.9
@Bruce
"Metacritic tells me that there are lots of utterly rubbish games that publishers are demanding $60 for. How amoral is that?"
As amoral at the monetization of "The Drowning" and all the cloning that F2P market is performing just to pick a check cash-in.
"In fact paid for games are now a niche. A rapidly declining niche at that."
You say that with PS4 out of pre-order stock and XOne going the same direction?
"Another effect of FTP is that the number of people playing games has exploded. Around two thousand million people are walking round with a gaming device in their pocket."
It called "Smartphone" and the REAL stats claims that only 5% of that people use it a regular gaming platform. From which only a 10% of that 5% ever expends money of the game.
"There are so many customers that we don't need to be greedy."
And that is why BlueByte are the only ones release F2P games that you can actually finish without expending a single cent, right? Correct me if I'm wrong (Not sure in this one, but so far the only one I found.
"No global staff and shipping tons of plastic and cardboard. This has resulted in the biggest flowering of creativity that the game industry has ever seen. People are trying anything and everything."
And once again, mixing stuff in a terrible way. I will not ask (again) what has a to do being on a physical or digital format with being creative. But with "creativity" you mean "massive overload of products" then yes; you are pretty much getting close to a Game crash 83 for mobile developers.
And talking about creativity and "trying everything", that is a surprising statement coming from a former Marketing Chief in Kwalee, a company that (aside from some interesting stuff) also released a "Worms" clone like "Farm fighters" is.

Considering you are 30 veteran in the industry I just' can't believe all the stuff I read from you. Not sure if you are trying to call attention over something (your blog, your ideas, going viral... really don't know), but you are just making me want to stay away from the F2P model even more. Know what bruce? I work in a F2P games company right now; a model I hate but whose merits I won't deny. It's just not for me right now. But I'm a professional and will respect the work of others.
Having 30 or 40 years of experience in the industry, it doesn't matter, you don't have any right to despise the works of other based on which machine it runs into. Maybe it doesn't work for you, but PC and console studios run on reputation. And while no mobile company can offer me a story like "The Last of Us" and a the deep dialogues of "Gone Home" it is a sector of the industry that will not call my interest and with me, a lot of people.

PC gaming is on a massive revival, Current gen consoles still sell a lot while next gen pre-orders are almost gone. F2P market and paid market are two different markets that do not compete with each others. You better accept this rather that living in self denial while claiming that every console sold is to replace a broken model.

Just my point, of course.

Posted:A year ago

#34

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Alfonso Sexto

I don't recognise your stats.
These are more like it: http://www.trustedreviews.com/news/apps-dominate-smartphone-usage-survey-finds

The rest of your post looks like console fanboy ranting. Not the reality of many hundreds of millions of people now playing video games on smartphones who didn't play before.

Posted:A year ago

#35

Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

471 480 1.0
At what expense of game play do you want to make money?

Is your priority money or great games?

Like I said
So, what you gonna do if the finance industry is going there too at some point? :)
That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever ;) Firstly the industry I'm talking about could never be f2p, it's p2p as in (pay to play), you can't let people make money for free. Secondly my point was that if I only wanted to make money there are more beneficial ways to do so. For a start I could just change careers. If I want security I could go into medicine, if I want money I would go into investment or business.

What I do see though is the idea of monetisation being the sole measure of value and the final review. That is a notion I do not agree with on the basis of what we know about the behaviour of consumerism and just human behaviour in general.

...

Of course as you should all already know I am a flip-side type of person so I do see both sides, though rather than take sides I just prefer to identify exactly what is. So don't get it twisted.

Posted:A year ago

#36

Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship

224 462 2.1
Supporting anecdote time!

I was out shopping at the weekend and sat down for some lunch. At the table next to me, there was a group of older women about 50-60 years of age. Their topic of conversation? Candy Crush!

Posted:A year ago

#37

Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

471 480 1.0
Counter anecdote.

I played Zelda OOC, it was awesome.

---

On a serious note though, are you suggesting that the relevance of a medium is defined purely by numbers? Are you suggesting that say, philosophy is less important than Harry Potter because more people have read it than have even bothered to read a paragraph of Socrates?

Are you suggesting Bach is inferior to One Direction? because more people talk about them?
The rest of your post looks like console fanboy ranting
So are you suggesting the hundreds of millions of people who played consoles before smartphones were nothing but fanboys? Or are you suggesting everyone must do the same thing and have the same preference liking the same content as everyone, otherwise they are a fanboy for choosing the less popular one?

Are you suggesting that only fanboys purchased the 3DS? Are you suggesting the 3ds is totally obsolete? Are you suggesting Mario or any of the countless other franchises from other publishers are unnecessary? Are you suggesting people's enjoyment is dependant purely on their willingness to spend more rather than their enjoyment being an intrinsic property of experience (implied by the notion that the success of f2p being the defining factor of what is better).

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 19th August 2013 11:44am

Posted:A year ago

#38

Justin Biddle Software Developer

163 493 3.0
Popular Comment
@Bruce

And your posts don't look like fanboy ranting from the other side of the argument?!

Posted:A year ago

#39

Anthony Gowland Lead Designer, Outplay Entertainment

221 798 3.6
As amoral at the monetization of "The Drowning"
Can you explain what is amoral about it? My Drowning experience was - downloaded it, played it, thought it was rubbish, deleted it. Money spent = 0.
And that is why BlueByte are the only ones release F2P games that you can actually finish without expending a single cent, right?
The majority of people who finish Candy Crush Saga don't spend any money on it.

Posted:A year ago

#40

Andreia Quinta Creative & People Photographer, Studio52 London

236 658 2.8
Here's why I don't like F2P; It's default concept is flawed from the get-go, and the F2P genre is too young, too cocky to serve the audience correctly, it's an undisciplined genre. It takes a very dedicated and careful approach to make it both a great long term experience and a profitable one without hindering one another.

One example would be Kingdom Rush from Ironhide Game Studio, they almost nailed it, almost. It's a basic tower defense game (no creativity there Bruce, just copy-cat a successful genre like so many other mobile games) where to can place towers to defend a path,use heroes that you can move freely around the map, upgrade your towers and units, etc. It's very well developed, basic story, cute graphics and units, some puns here and there and killing enemies is what gives you gold coins to create additional towers or upgrade existing ones, they also give you crystals that you can use in the in-game shop to buy additional gold or 1 time use items. It's a great lot of fun ...until you finish the main campaign mode in easy or normal mode.

I was actually surprised I didn't have to put extra money on it while doing the main story, but after the campaign is done new modes are open to you which include harder challenge maps and even the hard difficulty mode, and by then I realized it was literally impossible to do these maps without delving deeper in my own pockets to buy gold with real currency, and the flaws started to come to the surface.
The basic design being that no matter how many creatures you kill, your income is never enough to build or upgrade enough towers to survive the current or next wave of enemies, I'd have to spend $10 to get some 12000 gold coins, and believe me that amount is nothing when you start going for the mandatory upgrades of the towers to make it through wave after wave. For someone to completely finish that game you'd need to either farm crystals from enemies for months to buy extra piles of gold, or spend money with it, lots and lots of money, a hell lot more than $60.

So your experience is hindered because you never end up finishing the game unless you spend months repeating some of the levels farming, or spend real money on it. There isn't a sense of a complete experience without a sense of being exploited for money or made a fool by farming for weeks or months.

It's a flawed design because it's based on making people spend money after giving them a small sample for free (the campaign). You want more? You need to pay some more, while at the same time giving the illusion of choice that you only pay more if you want to finish the damn thing on more challenging and interesting levels. And this is when I make the choice of deleting said game from my phone, log into Warcraft III and play a tower defense mod, because I paid $60 for it on release in 2002, and 11'so years later I still have a community, access to all types of game modes, and community mods beyond count. I have a sense of ownership - feeble as it may be - and that I've put those $60 to good use in 11 years.
Whilst I could have put the same amount of money on that mobile game, and have nothing even remotely comparable in 1 years' time, let alone 11. I'd had rather payed $20 for it and get the full game, balanced to entertain me with a challenge rather then rip me off.

Yes millions are flocking to the mobile gaming arena, even people that never cared to game before - and outside of commuting probably still don't - but that alone doesn't make it the Mecca of gaming where the entire industry should turn to. I value my 3DS a lot more because I know that whenever I play Mario Kart, New Leaf or Luigi's Mansion I'm getting the entire experience for a set price that I've come to agree with, without any rotten surprises.

We've discussed over and over in multiple articles here in GI in how this industry needs to mature in order to grow and be accepted as well as the other entertainment industries are, but if this industry needs to mature as a whole, than the sub-segment of F2P at the moment is like an unruly younger teenager brother doing as he/she bids without careful thought before he/she does it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andreia Quinta on 19th August 2013 1:09pm

Posted:A year ago

#41

Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters

528 788 1.5
Popular Comment
I'm sure as long as people want paid for games, people will still make paid for games. And as long as people keep on playing free to play games, people will make those too. It's no good saying "free to play is flawed" because it's clearly working - for some games. How about, like in every other subject, we try and cater a bit for everyone instead of trying to claim one size fits all?

Posted:A year ago

#42

Caspar Field CEO & Co Founder, Wish Studios Ltd

40 93 2.3
@Paul. Sounds like you need to try a different business model. Have you considered paid-for? ;)

Posted:A year ago

#43

Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

471 480 1.0
@Dave: Right on. I think that's the most insightful statement in this thread thus far.

Posted:A year ago

#44

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
@Caspar: See my post-mortem on venturebeat and the follow up one I'll be releasing shortly. Paid for sucks these days.

Posted:A year ago

#45

Caspar Field CEO & Co Founder, Wish Studios Ltd

40 93 2.3
@Paul... Mate... I was just joking.......

Posted:A year ago

#46

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

960 1,759 1.8
@Caspar, I know, I know. :)

Posted:A year ago

#47

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