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Bigpoint: "Subscription games will come back in some form"

"The future won't just default to free to play" - Guild

Bigpoint chairman Simon Guild has argued that the future of online games does not lie purely in free to play.

"We like free to play but we kind of think subscription will come back in some form," he claimed in a panel at Evolve In London yesterday.

"We didn't like the idea of subscription as a barrier, but....we think subscriptions will come back in a strange and unusual way – other ways of payment, all we're trying to do is reduce the barriers for people to buy our stuff.

"We also stopped doing [in-game] advertising, and now we're thinking of coming back to it. We had a company that pitched us $200 CPM - so we're thinking a lot harder about that.

"We actually think the future will be a bigger mix of all of these things and it won't just default to free to play. "

Guild also offered some predictions on the likely hardware trends of tomorrow, following a question on whether he leaned more towards connected TVs or portable devices. " Do I have to make a choice? I think I would go for portable devices myself. The portable device is something we're interested in - while there's been a huge move towards free, everything's becoming more portable as well and I think that may change some of the interface."

Tablets were especially exciting, he felt. "Someone at Intel told me netbook sales have fallen off a cliff, the interest is gone. Also, non-iPad tablets are being sent back to the manufacturer because they're not selling."

"The behavioural thing [is] these things lying around someone's house and picking it up at any time. It's a different experience than sitting on your crappy sofa in front of your crappy TV or crappy PC.

"It's going to be huge, and it will change the way that people will interact with stuff."

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Latest comments (8)

Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 10 years ago
Personally I'm still not with subscribtion but I think the idea of paying for premium content is better.
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Wolfgang Stindl International Business Development Manager, Billing Partner10 years ago
I think subscription is defintely something for the hardcore gamers who are put off by having their immersive experience torpedoed by some "real-world recognisable adverts"
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Mark Faulkner Game Manager, Market Spring Pad Ltd10 years ago
Subscription has never gone away (how does Blizzard make its money?). Its just diminished in overall impact as alternative business models have been devised.

Mr Guild is correct in that the various payment models available have to be used appropriately and (ideally) in combination, depending on the nature of the product you're selling. Offer the user as many ways as possible for them to fund your content and let them make up their mind about how they want to pay.
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Graeme Foote Lead Writer, Lupiesoft10 years ago
I'm not against subscriptions in principle, I just think it has to be balanced with making it open to all kinds of users. So I feel that compulsory subscriptions are a serious no-no. For example, on one site I frequent, you can pay for a subscription which gives you in-game currency plus an additional number of bonuses (Including more currency) which comes out being worth a lot more than buying piecemeal. The benefits of that is that you can choose not to subscribe and buy as/if you need, but if you want to then you can and get rewarded for it. It's win-win for the developer. I don't have numbers, but if I was a betting man I would wager that this model makes more money than enforced subscription (With the notable exception of World of Warcraft).

On the other hand, the danger of having two tiers of content is game balance and also ill feeling amongst players. It's been done to death in other articles, but the fact of the matter is that the moment you have two tiers, you're going to upset someone and possibly unbalance the game where those who pay have massive advantage over those who cannot/will not.. Personally I resent being forced to pay for the privilege of playing a game I had to buy in the first place. I do not, however, resent being asked to donate or pay for some items to support a game or website I enjoy visiting. In fact, I usually end up spending more than I normally would... Though that's perhaps my own stupidity.

In-game advertising could even work if it's not too crass... Even adverts playing over loading screens doesn't seem that bad to me -- although the setting of the game would perhaps dictate a large part of that. If it was in lieu of subscriptions I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing so long as it isn't detrimental to the game.

I do not think free-to-play is the be all and end all like Mr Guild says and a combination of payment methods is important. However, I feel strongly there should always be the option to not pay. Perhaps that is in contradiction to what he just said, but like I said at the beginning -- enforced subscription (No matter how you do it) just doesn't seem to be working for games outside of the monolithic WoW.
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Alex Loffstadt Community Manager, Outso Ltd10 years ago
Have to say that subscription has never gone away.
With the growth of F2P games we've seen an increase in "Lifetime" and "Premium" memberships rushing through.

For players not wishing to plumb for the Lifetime $150 one off payments a regular premium membership is often a nice balance. Subscription is still there, it's just one of a battery of payment options and the name tag has changed.
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If I'm getting a beter gameplay with subscription I'm happy to pay. The recent free to play games seem to evolve around the same game and business mechanic forever.
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Mike Clegg Marketing/Design 10 years ago
I agree with Kingman. Pay extra for extra. Otherwise free-to-play. I know paying subs can work for many companies but that tends to be part and parcel of a specific company ethos.
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Brian Lewis Operations Manager, PlayNext10 years ago
F2P with a subscription option is still the largest offering in the western market. People seem to conveniently forget this. (Runescape, Club Penguin, and many more)
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