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F2P the “most democratic form of development” - Kabam

F2P the “most democratic form of development” - Kabam

Thu 06 Mar 2014 2:47pm GMT / 9:47am EST / 6:47am PST
MobileBusinessFree-to-PlayDevelopment

Andrew Sheppard, president of Kabam Studios, talks about the industry's transition to F2P and its fear of the business model

For the past few years, as the free-to-play business model has taken hold, the rallying cry from core gamers and certain developers has been loud and clear. It's manipulative. It's deceptive. It's just plain evil. There are plenty of others, however, who believe that F2P can be leveraged not only for their benefit, but also for the benefit of gamers. Needless to say, Kabam falls into this camp.

At the recent D.I.C.E. Summit, GamesIndustry International sat down with Kabam Studios president Andrew Sheppard to talk about the industry's continued growing pains with F2P. Sheppard refutes the notion that F2P companies are only looking to extract as much money as possible from the so-called "whales." He believes that the transition to F2P has been painful because so much of the traditional industry has been set in its way for a very long time now.

"What many of the people who are naysayers of F2P have not seen is the first real transition for gaming, which was the transition in business models from coin-op to console retail. This is the first time that the business model has changed in the industry for 15-20 years. And that's a big change," Sheppard said. "So what you're seeing is that people who've become the best at what they do - whether it's development of console games or marketing of console games, or distribution of console or PC games - they are seeing this new form emerge. Our position at Kabam is, sure, just like at retail there are abuses that publishers and developers can pursue but our position is that F2P is the most democratic form of development."

"I do think that there is a fear about it because the model is so different. I think that's the elephant in the room that people aren't talking about"

Sheppard sees the development of F2P titles as more akin to television programming. "You're constantly testing out pilots and building entire seasons and changing the narrative arc to fit the feedback and to drive the ratings; you're in essence feeding into what the customers want. The difference between what we do and what television is all about is we can make those decisions on a daily basis, on a monthly basis or a quarterly basis. So I actually feel it's the most democratic form of game development and I don't think there's an evil element to it whatsoever," he insisted.

"I do think that there is a fear about it because the model is so different. I think that's the elephant in the room that people aren't talking about. Empirically we know that F2P gaming is the fastest growing category, so consumers are choosing it both in terms of users and dollars. So it feels like having a position opposed to that market reality suggests something else than it being an evil."

The last serious business model change, from coin-op to consoles, ended up becoming a permanent one. For all intents and purposes, the arcade is dead. Is it possible that the rise of F2P could lead to the demise of the standard paid model? That's unlikely, but Sheppard does see F2P becoming dominant, partially because of the economics of AAA games and because many mature adults are finding less and less time to play the long, epic console or PC titles.

"As a company we're cautious about forward looking statements because the market is so dynamic. Just looking at history, it is the first time that you're seeing platform and business model changes happening concurrently and we're seeing an expansion of gaming audience coupled with massively steep adoption curves on these smartphone and tablet gaming devices," Sheppard remarked.

He continued, "I'm a hardcore gamer, I love AAA games... frankly, I just don't have time to play everything, but what I find myself doing more often than not is I'll watch TV, talk with friends and simultaneously I'll play a game on my mobile phone. I want something that's entertaining and complementing what I'm doing in the background. I want to be able to stop, pay attention to the show and then switch back when there's an ad. I don't even use my DVR - I prefer to replace the action of fast forwarding with playing on my mobile phone. I think we're really redefining the definition of gaming. I think there will be a place in the home for AAA packaged product gaming but over time it'll change."

1

The other advantage of F2P, Sheppard said, is that it allows consumers to select and influence the best products on the market.

"[CEO] Kevin [Chou] and I talk about this and believe this very much - consumers' expectations for what they get for every dollar spent on a game is growing. That $60 console SKU now takes a thousand people to build and people want not only ridiculous fidelity and immersive gameplay experiences but they also want tons of hours of gameplay. Part of the reason why F2P is so democratic is you give away your game for free and the market only gives you money back if they like it. So in that regard, you're expanding the pie, you're giving people content for free and there are so many people doing that that after a certain while only the best games rise to the top," he argued.

As F2P, and digital in general, become more prevalent, a blurring of the platforms is starting to take place. While F2P has been tried on consoles, to date there are no massive success stories. Perhaps Kabam will seek to change that?

"I definitely agree that platforms are blurring; gamers, more importantly, are sliding between platforms to fit their life. When you have time at home alone, console. When you have a lot of time, maybe PC and an RPG. And if you have less time and you need to be somewhere, then mobile gaming or maybe tablet gaming if you're in the bedroom. For us, we think about game development as, 'Is there an audience that has interest in the franchise? And does the use case and the interaction model fit?' As the platforms change, how can that franchise fit? And it doesn't necessarily fit in all situations," Sheppard said.

"Business and gaming in general is littered with stories of the aggressive acquirer that brings a team in and doesn't do a great job of integrating them"

While Kabam's focus has been on mid-core, shorter session gameplay, the company could be going deeper, but it's not clear if it'll be on consoles. "We have newer games coming out in the next year or two that would better fit what you're talking about, which is more interactive and more immersive gameplay, higher production values, more broad use case - not just the five minutes on the phone," Sheppard acknowledged.

Another major difference between the console world and the mobile F2P space is that licensed properties have largely been a bust on consoles, but they've seen success on mobile. EA, Activision and other companies have clearly backed away from licensed games, but Kabam has embraced them and profited from them to boot.

"Every game company prides itself on its ability to create original IP. We dedicate a significant amount of our R&D budget to that, an increasing percentage actually. However, the licensed games are a unique opportunity," Sheppard said. "Our creative teams actually relish the opportunity to work on licensed titles like The Hobbit or The Godfather or Fast and Furious 6. You're talking about multi-billion dollar franchises that are of global relevance and appeal. What is different about the way we work with those folks from, say, the traditional game companies and the way they've approached licensed products is we really look to extend the universe, and oftentimes we'll tell a complementary story but we won't tell the main story of the movie. This affords us a great deal of flexibility that gets the teams excited about the project, but it also makes the rights holder feel good about what we're doing because we're increasing the engagement with, and the depth of, the universe."

2

He added, "Part of my belief as to why the console licensing business doesn't work very well is you're dealing with very complex development methodologies that ultimately go up against a ship date, and when push comes to shove you've got to ship on time. In our space we have that same constraint, but because F2P is much more about building a blueprint for the game first and then driving innovation within that blueprint, as opposed to traditional where it's 'let's come up with innovation and find a way to make the blueprint make sense,' more often than not you end up being able to [succeed]."

Ultimately, whether it's licensed or original IP, the relationship with the customer is paramount. If you try to sell them on garbage, you'll only get it thrown back at you.

"Our internal drive is to totally break the cycle that consumers have come to believe about licensed products, which is that they are not good titles. We can't [make bad titles] because these are service-based products, like The Hobbit which has been growing for 12 months and continues to grow. It's one of the fastest ramping games in our portfolio. You have to maintain trust with the consumer, you have to deliver a great game," Sheppard stressed.

Looking at the F2P business and Kabam's last 12 months, we can't help but think that the next 12 will be kind to the growing company, which appears to be "seriously considering" an IPO. Zynga's recent move to acquire the talented folks at Natural Motion could put pressure on competitors like Kabam, but the company isn't done with M&A either, it would appear.

"We are always looking for good talent and great games... we have done some M&A over the last year. And what you'll see from Kabam over the next year is we'll continue to do that but only in places where we believe in the product, we believe in the team and we see great cultural congruity between the two parties," Sheppard said. "Business and gaming in general is littered with stories of the aggressive acquirer that brings a team in and doesn't do a great job of integrating them. In their defense, it's incredibly hard to do M&A work and really make it hum, but we've had a great track record and we hope to keep that going. We're very aware of where we need to improve and grow. So I think you'll some big things from us over the next 12 months."

55 Comments

Rolf Klischewski Founder & CEO, gameslocalization.com

43 117 2.7
Popular Comment
After reading all that, I'm pretty sure Mr Sheppard has no idea what democracy actually means.

Posted:7 months ago

#1

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

202 1,107 5.5
Popular Comment
For me, as a gamer, F2P is like visiting an amusement park where I have to pay for each individual attraction. Amount of money I invest equals the amount of fun I have. While the traditional business model is like an entry fee and then you can do there whatever you want.

I guess it is more about each person's individual attitude. I hate free things. I feel like I am being cheated every time someone offers me something for free. But I also understand that I am a dying breed :-)

Anyways, interesting article. Thumbs up for Andrew Sheppard for admitting that there will always be more than just one business model and gamers are actually many different groups of people with different needs. Good to see there are still people living in the real world.

Posted:7 months ago

#2

Felix Leyendecker Senior 3D Artist, Crytek

182 202 1.1
Whether or not F2P is good for the consumer is not often a controversial point. What is more often discussed on this site, though, is whether or not it is good for the people in the industry. I think a real issue is the increasingly fierce competition over people's time. If everyone wants to push their game as a service, make really involved metagames, and hold player's attention for months on end, then they will play a select few games so much that they have no time left for any others. You can already see the effect of this on PC with games like Dota2 and LoL.
Right now, you can call such games outliers, but what will happen if making endless, involved mega-service games is increasingly becoming the only way to make a viable product? The market will be sucked so dry as if a new GTA was releasing every other week.

Posted:7 months ago

#3

Warren Spector Relaxing

2 21 10.5
Popular Comment
I just posted a response to this article on my blog (didn't want to post a 1000-word comment here!). Check it out if you're interested: [link url=""]warrenspector.wordpress.com[/link]

Posted:7 months ago

#4
I saw democracy leave the building when the bean counters saw the $$ of the eastern success, and they seek to transplant such "modern evils" upon the rest of the world. yes its evil. pure and simple :)

Posted:7 months ago

#5

Jay Bedeau Producer, RIE STUDIOS LTD

6 8 1.3
I disagree that we're saying F2P is intrinsically democratic. So long as there is constant customer feedback throughout development which is taken into account, the game development process will be highly democratic.

I don't think there is a strong enough argument to suggest that consumers want microtransactions either, hence I am not convinced that it will be the dominant model of the future (an unpopular opinion I know). I do however feel that customers are more diligent about which games they will play and dislike upfront costs (Buy 2 Play) erect a barrier to entry.

Do we have successful F2P games? Absolutely. However, to continue the TV analogy, imagine viewers of Game of Thrones were given 70% of each episode and a microtransaction was required to deliver the remaining 30%. I don't think that would be as popular as paying a subscription (e.g. Netflix, Spotify, PlayStation Now, etc) for access to all episodes in order to deliver revenue. I predict instant cloud access to games can and will deliver the solution customers want, changing the notion of F2P to subscription advocates in a short space of time. I also predict the adoption of "pay per view" style packages, where the value-add is the ability to play a game in the quickly after release whereas economy customers will have to wait. Now consider how democratic this is for publishers, consumers and platform holders.

We see tens if not hundreds of millions of views of music videos on YouTube and both Spotify and iTunes are still making money, isn't this indicative of the concept that customers are willing to spend after getting a good understanding of what the product is.

This is the case with games, I agree with the concept that popular titles will prevail and unpopular games will fall but I cannot see how democratically this is any different to building games using any other business model. I believe that the games industry is embracing a fundamentally flawed business model where success is the exception not the rule. Rather than thousands of titles competing at a zero-dollar price point on the same stores, we ought to have a Spotify for games and give customers all you can eat access in exchange for a premium subscription.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jay Bedeau on 6th March 2014 6:28pm

Posted:7 months ago

#6

Jay Bedeau Producer, RIE STUDIOS LTD

6 8 1.3
Games will actually become shorter and cost less to produce. AAA will exist but just as the film industry is not just Hollywood, the indie movement will run on into the future. The reason for this is instant cloud access, this technology will shift from F2P per title to subscription .

Posted:7 months ago

#7

Felix Leyendecker Senior 3D Artist, Crytek

182 202 1.1
@Warren:
I totally agree with what you define as good and bad f2p. However, all the things that you listed as acceptable come with a spending cap. You pay for content, then stop paying until you get new content. This is evidently not a viable strategy in a hyper-competitive marketplace where f2p is a necessity, as in mobile.
On PC, you can pull it off. Let's hope it stays that way.

Posted:7 months ago

#8

Felix Leyendecker Senior 3D Artist, Crytek

182 202 1.1
Jay, that's a pretty bold prediction. I think movie comparisons don't hold water. Even the lowest-budget movie has real actors you can relate to, getting to the same point in CG is much harder and costlier.

Posted:7 months ago

#9

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
Popular Comment
oh, look, another pro article of a f2p scam studio... tell you what (i probably should not write this): i am working as a game designer in a big f2p company too and i know that everything we are doing there (and in all the other f2p companies i worked before too) is just milking players with cheesy psychological tricks and i am getting realy sick of reading every day another article about praises of this glorious business model, the next messihas, blablabla.

f2p is a scam and stands contradictional to a high quality in the game experience. if a game designer states different, then he has either no clue about game design (and i met a lot of these one trick ponies; often in leading positions), or he is lying. this business model is used because you can generate high profit rates with low risk/costs if you know what you are doing. thats it. no other benefits. especially not for the players. the more a player knows about games and their quallity, the more he avoids these games. thats why f2p is booming on the mobile market and why its hard to get it running on the pc client-game market.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 6th March 2014 9:12pm

Posted:7 months ago

#10

James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.biz

247 387 1.6
I'm not the biggest fan of F2P, but to say there's no benefit to players is off base. I've NEVER paid a cent for in-app purchases and I've played games like Real Racing 3 for free. I didn't get the best cars, but I got to play, for free. No one twisted my arm to make a purchase, and I didn't. Seems like a benefit to me.

Posted:7 months ago

#11

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
rr3 is a poor excuse of a racing game. it tries to nickel and dime you to death with forced waittime mechanics and an extremly painful game progression pace and shows you constantly what you cannot have because the success in the gameworld is directly connected to your willingness to open your wallet. this is like getting beaten to pulb by the rich kids so they allow you to keep staying on their playground. if you call this a benefit, than you should visit a psychologist who can help you with your f2p stockholm syndrome. :-)

Posted:7 months ago

#12

James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.biz

247 387 1.6
Haha. Well, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. I didn't pay for anything in RR3 so I'm happy with what I got for the price. And if I want a great racing experience I'll go play Forza 5.

Posted:7 months ago

#13

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,182 972 0.8


I find it quite ignorant for people to tell others they must not like F2P for any reason. Asides from my personal game experiences, I've worked with many titles where people have got serious enjoyment out of these games, paying or non-paying.

It does make for a democratic choice in this sense. The games aren't reaching into any individuals pocket, you have a choice about what you do with your money and what you play.

Posted:7 months ago

#14

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,182 972 0.8
ofc you have the choice. noone is denying that. the trick wouldn't work if you wouldn't get to choose. in fact lots of very tricky mechanics are based on creating the illusion of having a choice.
Nonsense.

If you choose to play a game and also choose not to pay for it, there is no illusion. You are not paying money for your experience.
and for the people you worked together with who really really enjoyed all this "non-paying" stuff...
For a start, I wasn't talking about staff I as talking about millions of active players who get involved in their on-line communities,, experiencing different things and taking part in events, whether they choose to pay or not.
let me share more honesty: i met a lot of game designers and producers over the years - not a single one of them would have stayed on a f2p title if he would get the chance to work on a real game. none of them would have sayed it open, but all of them sayed it.
In this situation, your honesty about your personal experience is just that. I know plenty of people who like working on free to play games and I know plenty of people who like working on games that are not free to play. Working with AAA title isn't necessarily a better experience. A lot of designers and producers want creative freedom or at the the ability to work on something they're passionate about.
what are your game experiences when you started in this industry? or have you just been thinking about steady pay checks? i once heard bruce shelley saying that he doesn't care about all these things because he gets paid well. if this is what the games industry is about for you, then you are maybe right. everything is awesome as long as the money flows.
Each to their own. My choices in the games industry have favoured passion over pay, so I'm afraid I don't sympathise with him.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 6th March 2014 10:41pm

Posted:7 months ago

#15

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

889 1,324 1.5
let me share more honesty: i met a lot of game designers and producers over the years - not a single one of them would have stayed on a f2p title if he would get the chance to work on a real game
We've made several prepaid games and one semi-f2p game in the past.

However, I've just written this blatant f2P game by myself in a handful of weeks: Jungle Coin Falls

And I loved every second of it. I am making another right now and am dreading having to go back to the drudge work of long projects. If these make enough money to cover the wage bill, I will be doing this for a long time. And if Kabam want to buy it, I'm all ears.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 6th March 2014 10:46pm

Posted:7 months ago

#16
I believe that in this article there's a misconception between F2P and Casual Gaming, because there are plenty of games that have the F2P model and also have AAA development budgets and quality (Warframe, Blacklight Retribution to name a few).

It's true that the F2P model is going to grow bigger and become one of the domintant ways of monetization, but it's not going to be the "arcade-killer" the consoles were once, simply because the Indie movement is getting bigger and stronger (also the Indie movement growth is far more recent that the F2P boom) and I don't recall a lot of Indie Devs going to the F2P model, or even the Kickstarter projects aren't going to that model.

I see this time as the time of diversity and a time where "everyone" is a gamer (call it hardcore, casual, etc) and there are a lot of ways to get to certain group... But the only sure thing to succeed is MAKING A GOOD GAME

Posted:7 months ago

#17

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

889 1,324 1.5
Having just posted about my coin falls game, I do have to wonder what people like Sam and other hyperbolic "hate it on sight" people must think to those who play the real, mechanical penny falls machines and the like at a funfair?

Whilst my F2P game gives you free coins daily, the real mechanical machines don't give you anything at all. Nor can you possibly win from them - they're actually "Pay to lose" and everyone knows it.

So is this psychological manipulation with skinner box reinforcement over people who know no better, or just a bit of fun for very little money? Is everyone that touches these machines a mental case, as spending money is obviously a very very stupid thing to do?

What Sam and others need to do is lighten up a bit and see the joy in stuff a bit more. This constant yorping about "things should be my way" is just flat boring now. Get over it.

Posted:7 months ago

#18

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
so you basically copied a japaneese gambling machine and think its an awesome video game experience for people who love games. right?

maybe thats the best example for what f2p is: gambling instead of gaming.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 6th March 2014 11:46pm

Posted:7 months ago

#19

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

889 1,324 1.5
I think it's an honest bit of fun that I enjoyed developing. With a bit of luck a lot of people will get some joy out of playing it, some of whom will even give me money.

You are the one looking for something more sinister and/or deeper in meaning.

When you go off on this rubbish, all I'm hearing is this: "I'm a games designer. So if it don't fit my ultra-narrow definition of what's fun, then it's not a game and people are not allowed to enjoy it."
so you basically copied a japaneese gambling machine and think its an awesome video game experience for people who love games. right?
Wrong as usual. Here's a very public post I made at Touch Arcade about it:: Click Me

Or if you want the money shot without the link:
It's slap bang in the zone that everyone loves to hate, but needs must and I don't expect many here to play it one way or another.
But I'm not sure what point you're making with that anyway. Surely it's not that I should be targetting the same people as you?

EDIT: I think you're thinking of "Pachinko". Unlike Pachinko, you can't gamble on a penny falls machine simply because they never give a win - they're much bigger money hogs if you don't "get it".

EDIT2: Not surprised you deleted most of that previous post there. So mine too.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 7th March 2014 12:00am

Posted:7 months ago

#20

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
if you take it that way... fun is just a bio-chemical reaction which can be triggered by the right use of stimuli. so the borders of what is fun are very wide. for some its fun to push a needle in their arm and get high.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 7th March 2014 12:15am

Posted:7 months ago

#21

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Is it really the case that, "many mature adults are finding less and less time to play the long, epic console or PC titles"?

Or is it just that the market has expanded massively, and the majority of new gamers don't have the inclination to do this (and never did)?

There's no question in my mind that, as gaming platforms have spread, the number of people paying to play games has increased enormously. Most of these players are casual, and F2P is one of the most effective ways to get a foothold in to that market. I'm really curious as to how the amount of spending in the core gamer sub-market, where F2P isn't as necessary or useful - and is often even harmful - has changed over the last ten years, and what fraction of the whole gaming market's spending is done by that core gamer market.

As well as F2P, we're seeing other, quite different, techniques, such as Kickstarter funding, start grow as well. For a lot of the many tens (or even hundreds) of millions of us who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars per year on gaming, that may turn out to be far more important and influential than F2P.

Posted:7 months ago

#22

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

889 1,324 1.5
if you take it that way... fun is just a bio-chemical reaction which can be triggered by the right use of stimuli. so the borders of what is fun are very wide. for some its fun to push a needle in their arm and get high.
Ok fella, you win. There's just no arguing with logic like that. I'm off to make more crack.

Posted:7 months ago

#23

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

889 1,324 1.5
and what fraction of the whole gaming market's spending is done by that core gamer market
Very bloody little. I posted some figures in a previous outing of this conversation that are very hard to argue with. At least in mobile, "core" gamers do exist, but there's not enough of them to allow developing large games and make a profit unless you're very lucky. Even most big name licenses usually bomb after a month or so.

People generally want casual distractions and without having to pay upfront. Mobile developers hoping to survive need to supply to that addcted idiotic market who don't know what they want or go bust. Sorry, a Samism crept in there. I was of course referring to intelligent people able to make a free choice. Or you can go for the option to trick the children of stupid parents out of thousands - that's always a win. *sigh*

Posted:7 months ago

#24

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

820 653 0.8
F2P does no necessarily mean "casual", there is a misconception there indeed. Most of F2P certainly are either focused to casual gamers or as a service that is intended to work for the long run. Still some tittle there like "DOTA2", "LOL", "TF2" or "Path of Exile" are clearly hardcore games

So far Path of Exile is a game that really sucked me in, although so far it's only one since I'm still missing a F2P that will give me a story-drive experience. Something like "The Wolf Among Us", so maybe we'll see that at some point.

Meanwhile it would be wonderful if could keep debating about F2P model without having professional from the industry throwing trash talk at each others when they don't agree about something. Are we on kindergarten or inside the games industry? Seriously people.

@Paul
"This constant yorping about "things should be my way" is just flat boring now. Get over it. "

You are doing the same thing there in this case, just saying.

EDIT:
@Paul
"At least in mobile, "core" gamers do exist, but there's not enough of them to allow developing large games and make a profit unless you're very lucky. Even most big name licenses usually bomb after a month or so."

True and there is where we have the vicious circle: Not enough hardcore players because little hardcore games are made because there are little hardcore players.
Hardcore F2P works on PC, but there you can do stuff like World of Tanks or PoE, in a phone you have the usual power/overheating limitations, pretty complicated to work with that I guess... But maybe at some point, currently I'm still waiting to see something that really calls my attention there.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Alfonso Sexto on 7th March 2014 8:07am

Posted:7 months ago

#25

Rolf Klischewski Founder & CEO, gameslocalization.com

43 117 2.7
Spot on, Warren, that's a statement suitable for framing!

Posted:7 months ago

#26

Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters

527 786 1.5
Good post Warren, although I wasn't sure why you have a problem with cosmetic items for sale. After all, your point seemed to be that the thing about power ups etc is when the game isn't possible without them, and they effectively force you to pay. But the cosmetic options are the exact opposite of that. You don't need them and can happily ignore them if you want. If people want to spend money on them, it's up to them but at least you have the choice.

Posted:7 months ago

#27

Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster

461 172 0.4
It's funny, because with this audience full of MDs, CEOs, and IT sector workers, I think many of them seem to forget what's going on outside your window. One of the main reasons F2P works, and the sole reason I've played so many, is because gamers often can't afford a new game, or can't rationalize the expense.





I can wholeheartedly live with that.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Ihegbu on 7th March 2014 6:18pm

Posted:7 months ago

#28

Tuomas Pirinen Head of Design, Remedy Entertainment

9 9 1.0
Broad generalizations are always dangerous. I have several friends who work on League of Legends, and I can tell you none of them want to leave Riot to work on non-F2P games. I also know plenty of developers who are content to work on Premium games. Industry has room for both.

Posted:7 months ago

#29

James Podesta Programmer

4 6 1.5
Industry will always have room for both because F2P only caters for long user retention models, and that doesn't suit all game designs.
I'm wondering though if all games will at least have to go with the "unlock full game" as IAP model (except on heavily marketted AAA titles) in future because people have too many pretty F2P games to toy with to bother spending $$ downloading something they haven't tried.

Posted:7 months ago

#30
it could be there are not enough genuinely good games to play that are not crowded out by F2P or casual :)

Posted:7 months ago

#31

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
if you take it that way... fun is just a bio-chemical reaction which can be triggered by the right use of stimuli. so the borders of what is fun are very wide. for some its fun to push a needle in their arm and get high.
Ok fella, you win. There's just no arguing with logic like that. I'm off to make more crack.
see? there is a point where you would draw the line. so even you wouldn't say "everything someone is willing to pay for is ethically ok, because the market demands it". you are not ok with selling crack. i am just drawing my line a bit earlier.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 7th March 2014 3:25pm

Posted:7 months ago

#32

Ivan McCloskey Co Founder, Team Aozora

6 19 3.2
Popular Comment
*checks* Andrew Sheppard's linkedin. He loves F2P but has never made a game in his life. He did however work at Goldman Sachs. I on the other hand have made games and dislike most F2P as manipulative and evil. HMMM.

Posted:7 months ago

#33

John Bye Senior Game Designer, Future Games of London

480 451 0.9
Samuel - "rr3 is a poor excuse of a racing game. it tries to nickel and dime you to death with forced waittime mechanics and an extremly painful game progression pace"
I played it for about 50 hours before spending any money on it, and the progression rate was just fine for me. If you expect to be able to sit down and play the game for hours at a time like Gran Turismo or Forza, I can see why you'd have a problem with it, but playing the game as it's intended, 5 or 10 minutes at a time a few times a day, it works just fine. I've hardly ever spent any hard currency on skipping waiting times, and now that I've got more cars I can quite happily play for half an hour or more at a time without running out of things to do.

Posted:7 months ago

#34

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
the question is" what is delivering the best game experience / what creates a better game flow"? you can play a race a day in retail raceing sims too, but the experience there is a lot more condensed to achieve the best possible game experience. in rr3 the design stops you, prevents you from having the best possible experience. if you are willing to take that as a trade for not paying money then thats your personal problem, but if we take an objective look at it, then we can see that it inflicts the game design on a negative way just to make room for the monetization.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 7th March 2014 6:55pm

Posted:7 months ago

#35

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

412 981 2.4
F2P is just a business model you would expect in this current MBA lead world economy. These suits are all about money extraction. They have brought this revenue/money extraction at all cost approach to many types of business. You see it everywhere. The old create a decent product , charge a fair price model it seems is for suckers. The suits are all about just nickeling and diming and bleeding customers in every possible way. It used to be you created something of value, then you figured out a way to charge for it. Now days it seems as if it;s the exact opposite. You create a money extraction scheme and then you just jam in any ol product you can into it.

Now Im not saying every maker of every F2P game is evil or anything like that, Im just saying that this climate that these suits have created of making "money extraction" the business model of the 21st century, has basically lead to this F2P model making its way into the gaming industry. I just find it sad that now so many find it necessary to "scheme" in order to just get paid.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 7th March 2014 8:15pm

Posted:7 months ago

#36

Marianne Monaghan Director of Project Management

3 13 4.3
Well shoot. I meant to edit my comment above, not delete it.
A lot of us in F2P are looking for ways to make great games within this business model. It's a little weird to see the term "evil" flung around. Definitely evil: genocide, slavery. Arguably evil: bigotry, poverty, violence. Possibly a blot on our entertainment experiences: lousy TV, F2P, or anything else I can choose to avoid if I don't like. I, too, dislike games that have no joy but lots of monetization hooks. That's why I want to make really good F2P games. OK, off my soapbox.

Posted:7 months ago

#37

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
...and what fraction of the whole gaming market's spending is done by that core gamer market
Very bloody little...[a]t least in mobile, "core" gamers do exist, but there's not enough of them to allow developing large games and make a profit unless you're very lucky....
Paul, my whole point is that the mobile market is not the whole games market and, in fact, when you look at it from the point of spending rather than simply number of players, may even be the smaller part of the games market.
People generally want casual distractions and without having to pay upfront
No, not all people. Otherwise there wouldn't be millions of people continuing to shell out $40-$60/copy for AAA games, even ones that are widly considered not to be great, such as Thief.

It's true, and not surprising, that there's a huge market for casual distractions on phones, and yes, more serious games do get lost in that vast pool. It's also true, and not surprising, that people aren't willing to pay a lot for a casual distraction, and a lot of these distractions are essentially fungible.

If you want to build a big game and sell it, we have platforms on which you can do that. Complaining that you can't do it on phones is just silly; what kills you there is not lack of an audience, but your own unwillingness to use the platform where your audience is.

Alfonso writes that the problem on mobile is that there are, "[n]ot enough hardcore players because little hardcore games are made because there are little hardcore players." I disagree. The vast majority of core gamers clearly have a mobile phone, and I'd bet that many of them have a tablet as well. The main issue in selling to them is the quality of the game, in particular, the controls, though also of course limitations on memory and CPU power.

Has anybody got an example of a game that they feel is worth $20 or more where the can say it's at least as good, if not better, to play on a phone (or even tablet) than it is or would be on a console or PC?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 8th March 2014 3:23am

Posted:7 months ago

#38

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Andrew writes,
One of the main reasons F2P works, and the sole reason I've played so many, is because gamers often can't afford a new game, or can't rationalize the expense.
That's only half the reason. The other half is that there are enough players out there willing to pay enough for the good F2P games that they can make enough money to exist, and even thrive.

My suspicion is that, at least in games which really are free to play in that they provide a good long-term experience for the non-paying players, the monitisation model is really just an effective form of differential pricing. You provide enough stuff to buy that the fairly wealthy players can spend many hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year on the game, and that brings your average income up to something reasonable.

I love World of Tanks, and spent around a thousand dollars on it in less than a year and a half. It was clever of them to capture half or more of my yearly gaming budget with a single game. But I don't love it ten times as much as I used to love Battlefield 3 (which I quit not due to the game, but due to EA's horrible sales and support policies), nor do I spend ten times as many hours per week playing WoT. Clearly EA is leaving money on the table there, because after I'd spent $200 or so on the game and all the expansions, there was nothing to left to buy.

If you can get yourself in a position like this, where you can extract a lot of money from those who have the capacity and inclination to pay a lot, you've got a way of making plenty of money that everybody's happy with. The problem is, of course, that only a small minority of game designs really support both being able to charge a little to a lot and be great to play if you pay nothing.

Thinking about it, this is why I quit Candy Crush Saga. The game model doesn't suit F2P at all, since they needed to convince me to pay not by providing something extra, but by turning off the game after level 30 unless I coughed up money. Now, if they're selling it as a pay-per-installment game with the first installment being a free demo, I'm fine with that. I can look at the price and decide whether it's worth it to buy the next bit of entertainment, and whether I might want to buy the whole thing. But because it's "F2P," my suspicions are raised, and I've no idea how they might try to "monitize" me next. So I bailed, because it didn't seem safe to invest.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 8th March 2014 3:49am

Posted:7 months ago

#39

Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer

38 77 2.0
Yeh, the Democracy of the elite... where the high-spenders are catered even at expense of game balance and the rest of the playerbase is "cannon fodder for the high spenders" not really worth listening to.

---

For the record, the F2P model is not necessarily bad per se. I've seen games where this works very well and the game remains solid (making revenue but with non-spenders still being very much competitive even against high-spenders).
F2P becomes misleading and "evil" when it crosses the P2W line and players are pressured to part money if they want to achieve anything worthwhile (which is like saying: hey, the game is free to play, but if you don't pay you won't actually get to really play it).

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 9th March 2014 10:47pm

Posted:7 months ago

#40

Alan Resnin Journalist

19 15 0.8
I dont care what they call it. That business model produces bad games. Period.

Posted:7 months ago

#41

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

889 1,324 1.5
All models produce bad games, actual period. Or are you saying that every single F2P game is bad?

Posted:7 months ago

#42

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
All models produce bad games, actual period. Or are you saying that every single F2P game is bad?
there are few exceptions. like 3-4 among ten thousands of them. this model is a pure scam and has nothing to do with real games. f2p games are just monetization plattforms to scam the last coin out their users by exploiting weaknesses of the human behavior and perception.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 9th March 2014 2:07am

Posted:7 months ago

#43

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
this model is a pure scam and has nothing to do with real games.
It sounds to me as if you're falling in to the same trap here as anybody who think about business first and games second. Try instead starting with the game you'd like to build, and move on to the business model after that.

F2P has as much to do with "real games" as any other potential model for making enough money to let you build your game and continue building other games.

Posted:7 months ago

#44

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

889 1,324 1.5
No, prepaid games are bad. They're not "real games" but interactive cut scenes with weak stories being knocked out for $60 just because too many people need a wage from them.

See, it's easy isn't it?

Posted:7 months ago

#45

Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

449 423 0.9
Yeh, the Democracy of the elite... where the high-spenders are catered even at expense of game balance and the rest of the playerbase is "cannon fodder for the high spenders" not really worth listening to.
You make a very important point. The whales who fund f2p are actually the minority of users, thus meaning that f2p is not democratic but instead controlled entirely by the big spenders!

That being said it's all about quality of discussion here. We still have a LOT of work to do if we are to engage in productive dialogue here.

F2p is no doubt an important business model, and analytics are vital to identifying user behaviour. We just don't need SIDES, otherwise this site is no more industry than my nephew's facebook wall.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 9th March 2014 11:22am

Posted:7 months ago

#46

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
It sounds to me as if you're falling in to the same trap here as anybody who think about business first and games second. Try instead starting with the game you'd like to build, and move on to the business model after that.
that sounds realy nice. but the reality as a designer is, that the greedy f2p companies dont care at all about the games, but only for the moneyflow. as a designer i cannot make any decissions like that. i just get asked "how do we increase the arpu this sprint? what is planned for the conversion rate and what retention features are planned?" its all about milking players and creating games with the low possible risk, no innovation, only proven mechanics, no experiments and low costs. its basically the same what the whole economy today is about - the business has to grow at all costs. everyone knows that it will fail at some point but till then everyone continues to dig their graves. its like selling these shady real estate fond-packs which started the last economic crisis. just in a smaller way. but im sure at some point it will collapse. lots of companies are just trying to grow by this way to sell their shitty bussiness to some idiotic investors who have no clue about how stupid this business model really is.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 9th March 2014 9:23pm

Posted:7 months ago

#47

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Samuel: I understand that there are bad companies out there that don't care about games, and produce pretty horrible products because of that. But that's a bad company, not a bad monetization model.

We have living proof, with great games such as World of Tanks, that the F2P model doesn't stop you from producing good games. You can choose to continue believe that it's impossible to make a good F2P game, but you're just hurting yourself, both by missing the chance to play some good games and by having a tool missing from your toolbox when you make games.

Posted:7 months ago

#48

Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer

38 77 2.0
That being said it's all about quality of discussion here. We still have a LOT of work to do if we are to engage in productive dialogue here.
You're right. My comment was a bit snarky. However this was directed the whole F2P = Democracy, which is just absolute nonsense. Not towards the F2P model itself.

---

F2P and microtransaction, as a business model, is actually very valid. It is unfortunate that it's a business model that works well even with poor quality games. There's many that abuse of it by delivering a cheap clone of a game that has proved to be addictive and then hook in players into spending and spending even more. The scenario described by Samuel is very much true, especially on the F2P scene for mobile and handheld platforms.
But this is the companies not caring for quality. It'd be a mistake to discredit the model as a whole, even if a freakload of games that use it are awful crap.

As I mentioned before, I draw the line on Pay 2 Win. This is where the business model actually hurts the game.
In the ABC of game design, the game needs to provide some kind of challenge. So, when you can just toss some cash at the game and the final boss of a level will kill himself for your convenience, that cheapens the game experience.
It gets even worse when the game is competitive. Then, it's like legitimating cheating. So... meh...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 9th March 2014 11:19pm

Posted:7 months ago

#49
My comments have to be from personal experience with only a handful of exceptions (like guildwars 1 and 2 and a few others(yes WoT etc)) every free to play game I have ever played has cost me significantly more to play then traditional model and overall been less fun as a result, to the point where unless a subscription option is offered (like say planetside 2 and others), I wont even play them anymore, ironically I played one of the 1st free to play games, a web game, from 2001+, rather then offer individual prices for upgrades it had high prices for permanent upgrades, first upgrade around $50, you'd end up spending anywhere between 200-600 (usd) depending on what you want to do in the game for a top tier char, however, once done you never had to pay a cent more.

Now whilst I feel its prices were very high in that game tbh for what was on offer, its certainly a far better version of f2p then some of the more modern f2p games, which attempt to eek the minimum amount of fun you can get away with for free, and encourage players in a blatant way to pay up to $200-600+ usd a month plus to play seriously with everyone else being vastly inferior and having far less to do or boring grinding otherwise, to be honest, I really dont like the way the market has evoloved to be such high prices that only a small percentage of the playerbase actually affords and pays money to the game, its not good for the majority of the games players, as they basically waste portions of theiir life grinding due to deliberate game design to provide players a reason for some to pay huge amounts to avoid, the morality is iffy at best.

The rich ones get blatantly ripped off, and sure they can afford it, but lets face it they take it out the their ever increasing pay share, which usually comes from everyone else's increasingly diminishing pay share, its also a system of diminishing returns, even rich people dont like being ripped off, and less and less will be willing to do so as time goes on, specially after their first game endearment rubs off after a few years they'll be less likely to even try other offerings, not to mention it only takes a couple of companies to offer a better value for money in a good enough quality offering to strip all the others of their income long term.

Sure there are exceptions and some companies have made it work for both them and their customers, but far to many titles as of yet fail to achieve the correct balance, which damages public perception of the model, and threatens future titles even of high quality to be dismissed out of hand as a result, I would have to say the model is far from mature at this juncture, despite the fact its been around a fair few years now.

Put simply whilst the model has potential in theory and in exceptional cases, the average profit loving businessman lacks the moral fortitude to resist the temptation of setting the fun vs monetization design scale to skew towards the side of the latter at the expense of the former, a line once crossed that becomes ever easier to continue crossing in perpetuity, put simply it fails to take human nature into account, in this case greed, indeed when it comes to free to play games much as in everything else, it seems as with most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Alexander McConnell on 10th March 2014 1:23am

Posted:7 months ago

#50

Iain Stanford Experienced Software Engineer, Tinderstone

33 126 3.8
The least "democratic" development experience I've ever had was working on F2P titles.

My job was to just "copy". Copy, copy, copy.

If I had any idea, or creative input, I had to validate it by showing it working elsewhere (therefore....copy).

Posted:7 months ago

#51

Richard Westmoreland Game Desginer, Exient Ltd

138 90 0.7
Is a game democratic when only 1-3% of your users are willing to give you money, and those users give you a disproportionate amount of money? What sort of democratic country would allow the richest 1% to buy policies and dictate the economy? Oh wait....

Posted:7 months ago

#52

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