"Next generation of freemium games will be indistinguishable from AAA"

ngmoco's Ben Cousins describes the breadth and depth of the free-to-play future

Ben Cousins has had a busy month. As a veteran of free-to-play projects at Sony, EA and DICE, and now head of ngmoco's AAA mobile studio in Sweden, Cousins is well placed to comment on emerging platforms and business models, and in the last four weeks that's precisely what he has done.

He delivered one of the more rousing sessions at this year's GDC, arguing that console hardware is already on an inexorable path towards obsolescence. If you're trying to stir up the debate it's not a bad way to start, but, faced with another speaking engagement at London's inaugural Free-2-Play Summit, Cousins resisted the temptation to simply retread old ground.

"When you've had 140,000 views on SlideShare you think, 'maybe I need to back away from that subject,'" he says, but Cousins' new line of argument is every bit as provocative.

In an hour-long keynote address, Cousins dissected the origins of the free-to-play business model in the cafe-culture of South Korea and China, its explosion throughout the world following the rise of mobile and social gaming, and its future as the pricing strategy for games of all types, on all platforms. It is laden with the sort of bold statements that help journalists pay the bills, but every sound-bite is backed by data and detail.

Team Fortress 2 went free-to-play, it didn't upset anyone, and now Valve is making loads of money from it. I mean, everyone follows Valve

"If you look at [the growth of free-to-play in Asia] with the non-racist view of these people aren't special, they're not weird - they're just ahead, or they have a different infrastructure to us, and when we get that infrastructure we'll behave the same way - then it feels inevitable," he says. "And if you talk to an economist, he'll say it's obviously going to win."

Throughout his talk, and during the course of our conversation immediately after, it becomes clear that, to some extent, Cousins regards free-to-play as an economic imperative. As soon as one competitor in a specific field drops the price to zero, he argues, it becomes very difficult for others to continue charging. It happened to mobile games in the space of a few years, and the touch-paper that will spark the same transition in PC and, ultimately, console gaming has already been lit.

"I'm a massive fan of Valve's games, and when Valve went free-to-play with Team Fortress, for me that was like, 'Okay, that's the vindication,'" he says. "Valve doesn't do something unless it feels it can be tremendously successful. That was a big deal for me. It wasn't social games taking off or anything like that - if you're engaging a more casual audience, if it's free it's going to be more popular. But Team Fortress 2 went free-to-play, it didn't upset anyone, and now Valve is making loads of money from it. I mean, everyone follows Valve."

The focus here is the spread of free-to-play to core games. The idea that social networks, smartphones and MMOs will be dominated by free-to-play is now widely accepted, but the notion that AAA console and PC titles will also succumb is still met with resistance. During is talk, Cousins predicted that there would be an epic, lavish single-player RPG in the vein of Skyrim that implements the freemium model within a few years.

Such statements are impossible to substantiate, and so are open to criticism, but when questioned on the subject Cousins remains confident. Indeed, he believes that forthcoming games like CCP's Dust 514, Crytek's Warface and Blizzard's DoTA will prove that the sort of production values expected from pay-to-play console and PC games can be successful in freemium products.


"In every other platform - whether arcades, consoles or PCs - there's been a gradual increase in production values as everyone tries to get the next big hit," he says. "If you look at Zynga's games, FarmVille is very basic compared to something like CastleVille, so we're already seeing that transition over a couple of years.

"When you get companies making hundreds of millions of dollars from their games, they're going to invest that in their sequels. They need to maintain that position. Just look at Angry Birds Space; that cost a lot more money than Angry Birds - I'd bet five times as much - and that's because they had the money and they wanted to maintain that positions. That's how you end up in an arms race.

"I think it's inevitable. If that's where the money is then there will be intense competition from very big companies willing to make very big bets... The next generation of freemium PC games will be indistinguishable from AAA games."

Cousins readily admits that the transition to free-to-play will be more difficult on consoles, but the forces he described in his GDC talk are the very same ones that will force Sony and Microsoft to embrace new models. Regardless of how popular the next generation of consoles become, their manufacturers cannot ignore the reach of the more open platforms that have emerged in the last five years.

In addition, consumers are moving away from "specialised electronic equipment" and towards "more general purpose devices." In that context, the true value of a console platform is not a box full of processors and wires, but the service the consumer receives when they turn it on. As free-to-play spreads from mobile and social to PC, from casual to core, and from multiplayer to single-player, gamers will increasingly expect a service like Xbox Live to offer the same. And Microsoft needs to build that into its next console from day one; retro-fitting such a bold strategy would be too difficult.

I think it's inevitable. If freemium is where the money is then there will be intense competition from very big companies willing to make very big bets

"What's the true value of an Xbox?" Cousins asks. "If you said to somebody, 'I'm going to throw your Xbox in the bin or I'm going to delete your Xbox Live account and all of your gamer points,' I think they'd be more upset about losing the service than the hardware. And I really hope that Microsoft understands that power and is able to execute on that idea."

But Cousins has no desire to frighten core gamers, not least because his roots are in that very culture. The shock of the new causes the core to recoil from these ideas, but he believes that free-to-play need not alter the sort of experiences available to them. When he looks to the future and sees a game like Skyrim waiting, with no money required to gain access, it should be a reassurance that the free-to-play future won't be a rolling landscape of asynchronous farms.

You will be able to shoot your arrows, cast your spells and slay your dragons. And if you don't care too much for smithing and alchemy, well, you'll be able to leave them on the shelf.

"I was a big arcade gamer, and I was aware that the console business and the console userbase was much bigger, because not everybody could get to an arcade," he recalls. "So I was a core gamer playing on the arcades and I moved my core gaming onto console and PC, but I was still the same consumer. I was probably spending 5 to 10 a week on arcade games, and that became a new game every month.

"Core consumers will continue to spend about the same amount and play for about the same number of hours - they'll just move from platform to platform. This is the important thing that core gamers need to understand when I say something like, 'mobile is going to kill consoles' - I just mean the companies and the platforms.

"But the gamers? There's too much money in these amazingly engaged, passionate young people for them not to be served by something."

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Latest comments (30)

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 7 years ago
This man talks very much sense.
App stores and piracy have driven the up front value of a game to zero. Which puts consoles in a cul-de-sac.
Zynga have developed highly sophisticated business models that work without an up front purchase. In fact they work better than an up front purchase. This has been very quickly and very widely adopted by many.
So the whole games industry has been thrown on its head.
Those still seeking to make a living from boxed product sold at retail are fighting a losing battle. The game is lost for them.
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Nick Parker Consultant 7 years ago
The future of gaming is service. For the console manufacturers, the nuts and bolts of the console itself becomes less important than the services they can deliver so don't expect a major step change in processing power from 'Orbis' or 'Durango'. For all other connected devices, smart TVs, set top boxes, PCs, tablets and mobile phones. these installed bases will dwarf lifetime sales of consoles and become the primary source of browser based and streamed games. Games become value added services to ISPs, networks and OS platforms but indigenous games publishers/developers will seek any consumer touch point and so be less focused on single routes to market.
The proliferation of connected devices tied in with an improving tool chain and greater bandwidth will result in triple A titles becoming available on browsers anytime and anywhere. This is not news and neither is it going to happen tomorrow. There are still interface issues to resolve for core gamers who enjoy the controller or keyboard/mouse experience. It is still too early to write off boxed product at retail, unless publishers want to turn their backs on at least 40% to 50% of the Western World market value for the foreseeable future. Give it 5 years before boxed product viability become completely unrealistic.
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GameViewPoint Game Developer 7 years ago
The freemium model is a mind shift for consumers and developers. For consumers they get the benefit of being able to be involved in the game and see how they like it before paying, but if they do like it they will probably end up paying much more than they would of otherwise. For developers it's getting over the hump of giving your hard work away for free, but with the caveat that you can make more in the long term. Freemium also encourages the absolute neccessity of building a community around your product much more so than pay up front, because it's all about keeping players engaged over the long term. Boxed retail is over, and has been for a while, and even though it's true to say that Zynga has done a very effective job of monetizing their particular kinds of games, I don't think anyone has monetized the games that appeal to the hard-core gamer as well yet. New hardware from Sony and Microsoft might well achieve that, not because it offers anything particular new from a hardware pespective but because the "ethos" of these new systems might be as has previously been said "gaming as a service".
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters7 years ago
I wish people would stop acting like they're doing the customers a favour with free-to-play. It's pure deception, plain and simple. Tricking people into not realising how much money they're spending, and harming the gameplay as a result. As a consumer, not a developer, I despise the idea of constantly being pestered for money as I'm trying to enjoy something. Give me the option to pay a lump sum at the start to unlock all content and make the in game begging disappear entirely, and I'd take that. Otherwise, get lost. It reminds me of the "bad old days" when games were designed for arcade machines to maximise people shovelling coins in just to keep playing.
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Dave says it true. Unless F2P is truly free without the window dressing, smoke and mirrors that tout it, its just a giant con. Thats not to say its not a legitamate form of business. Just that its not as transparent a process as it can be, and may lure the lesser informed (gullible perhaps) into its methods of payment which is not too far removed from farming.
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GameViewPoint Game Developer 7 years ago
In regards to what Dave said, well if you are despising playing a particular game because of all the in game "begging" then I would argue the IAP's have not been implemented very well :) You mention arcade machines and you are of course correct, but I can also remember paying for games that I've then played and discovered they were either full of bugs, or just not enjoyable, but by then it's too late I've paid. How many years has the game industry employed adverts that contain graphics that are not demonstrative of the actual in-game graphics just to get people to part with their money? So you can argue it both ways. I think the basic concept of being able to play the game before parting with money is a good one, and then the player has the choice whether or not to pay to improve their standing within the game, but I agree forcing the player to pay just to keep on playing the game at a basic level is not the way to go, and will just put off the hard-core gamer.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by GameViewPoint on 3rd April 2012 3:05pm

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"Boxed retail is over, and has been for a while"

Really? I could have swore a little game called Call Of Duty broke the $1 billion barrier not so long ago...

Freemium on AAA titles will only be accepted by the mass console market if there is an option to pay a set price, up front, to unlock everything. The model that exists on handhelds will not transfer over.
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Matthew Eakins Technical Lead, HB-Studios7 years ago
@GameViewPoint I'm about to blow your mind, you can often try out a game without purchasing it with these cutting edge things called "Demo's".

I don't deny that the F2P model has a place in the market but I'm skeptical of them making significant inroads in to the AAA game space. I don't think publishers are not going to want to put up a hundred million to make a game where they can't guarantee a return on their investment. Publishers are an incredibly conservative lot when it comes to giving out their 'hard earned' cash.

I suspect some are going to try, most are going to fail and a couple might even succeed. F2P is novel right now but once consumers start to realize they've been had I think the novelty will wear off.

It's a great model for low budget titles. AAA, not so much.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D7 years ago
The other problem is there are a lot of games people buy but don't finish. If they're freemium, they'll only buy the bits they play. And "that's okay, we'll make it so good they buy it all" doesn't work - there are ALWAYS people who don't finish games just because real life got in the way, it's nothing to do with those games not being good enough.
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GameViewPoint Game Developer 7 years ago
"Really? I could have swore a little game called Call Of Duty broke the $1 billion barrier not so long ago..."

I'm not sure that's a good example, firstly that is just 1 game, Skyrim also did well, but on that kind of scale as far as I know MW3 is in a league of it's own. 2nd is they have their own form of IAP's in the form of map packs etc, so this is a situation where the player is having to pay up front AND afterwards. 3rd who really buys those games for the single player experience? the popularity stems from it's online multiplayer modes and from the "service" that Activision provide to allow all of that to be enjoyed on a continual basis. 4th do you think that those games will have less IAP's moving forward or more?

@Mathew Eakens, Freemium is not about demo's, it's about engaging the player, it's about pulling them into the game world and hopefully if they like what they see spend money to enhance their stay there. A Demo can't do that, also equally demo's can be misleading to what the actual in-game experience is like.

Regarding the publishers comment, I agree to some extent but of course pushing millions into developing a AAA title, which you then try and sell through current retail methods is no guarantee you will get that investment back either. At least with a freemium model or a variation of that, you get people engaging with the product, a channel is open to have a conversation with those players and even adapt the game from their feedback. Definately currently the freemium model works better for some game types as apposed to others, but I suspect as games become completely social in their implementation more companies will want to have as small a barrier to entry as possible.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd7 years ago
I somewhat agree with Dave. I think F2P can actually be done well, however. League of Legends is a good example of a successful system that many players are enjoying without the service features harming the core experience or competitive nature. That said, there will always be games I want to just buy up front, and even worse than F2P is what I call Pay to Pay.

I believe EA is pioneering this idea single-handedly. The idea is that you buy a game at full price, but then immediately must buy a bunch of other crap to actually get the full game, followed by massive amounts of experience-essential DLC to finish the story you already paid full price for. Looking at you, Mass Effect 3.
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Jed Ashforth Senior Game Designer, Immersive Technology Group, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe7 years ago
Agree with Dave, and with Fran here.

It's analagous to buying a TV series for me - I can buy piecemeal episodes on iTunes (F2P) and end up paying an awful lot for the whole series. I can buy the whole series at a discount as a digital download (and that's an option F2P might go to as an 'up-front, all-in' payment @ some future point).

But a sector of customers in this scenario will wait and buy the DVD boxset when it's discounted. And there's also value derived from being able to lend or sell that boxed copy. All of this is directly analagous to F2P and Boxed games.

Boxed games are designed predominantly around entertaining, not upselling. This is another element that affects the back-end value to some customers significantly.

All of which means we're talking about different types of product, and one can't replace the other. Sure they're both games, but this goes beyond identical product with different payment methods.

There's room for both models, there always will be. Popularity might shift from one to another over time. F2P may be far more popular in 3 years than boxed product has ever been.

But let's not forget how many players bought a console to get away from the Arcade model of pumping-in micropayments to play. Being able to play bigger games and not be nickle-and-dimed for their entertainment was a big draw. F2P is very similar to a model that was once king, but was trumped by the new value and design paradigms that consoles brought to the table. It'd be naive to think the old ways will win out again. But I can definitely see them co-existing, because F2P has a lot to offer too.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jed Ashforth on 3rd April 2012 5:59pm

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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 7 years ago
"Indistinguishable" excepting of course that you won't be able to play the game through from beginning to end without being nagged by the game to upgrade something for money - completely destroying the fourth wall.

Imagine a movie where you get halfway through, then the movie stops and nags you to buy something for the film to finish.
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GameViewPoint Game Developer 7 years ago
@Tim Carter, not sure that's a good analogy, does the content of a film (or novel) change once you have paid and started to watch/read? Although if you want to use the film analogy a better example would be if you started to watch a film for free, and then halfway through, the film makers come to you and ask how you want the film to end? or do you want the explosions to be bigger? they offer you these options but they come at a price, if you say no, then you just carry on watching the film for free (There probably wouldn't be those annoying ads at the start either). Equally you wouldn't of wasted money on a film you didn't like.

I think for some kinds of games (basically single player) pay up front can work well, but going forward most games will be social experiences, and therefore will be probably best seen as it's been said as a "service" which is being supplied to the player and enables the game to change over time.
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Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games7 years ago
Regarding mobile specifically, I wonder what would happen if Apple and Android started placing freemium games (free to pay as I call sometimes jokingly) as its own category instead of sharing space with the Free apps.

For consumer transparency and browsing it would be great. For the developers and apple % cuts, who knows?
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Tyler Moore Game Designer & Unity Developer 7 years ago
I despise the idea of constantly being pestered for money as I'm trying to enjoy something.
This exactly, consumers are going to wake up and become frustrated with constantly being sold at. When I play a game, I do it to escape reality and be free from being "sold at". I would rather pay a $100 up front than $50 over microtransactions for the same experience.

When I buy a game, I'm buying 5-20 hours of peace. If it costs an extra $50, I'll swallow it and make sure I buy a game with lots of content.
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Manoel Balbino Programmer, Playlore7 years ago
Strangely, I cannot find myself as engaged with free games as I do with the ones I paid for. I usually plan my gaming purchases well ahead of time. This is not possible with freemium: I have no idea how much money I'll have to spend on the game to enjoy it. It also bothers me that my in-game experience might dependent on how much I spend on it.

Also, these games are often massive time sinks. I like playing games and being done with them, with a few exceptions.

It's interesting that the reason arcades eventually "died" was because you could get a much better deal by buying the home console version of the game, which you could play as much as you wanted without buying quarters. I wonder if the industry will cycle back one day.
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James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada7 years ago
Boxed games aren't going away, but neither is F2P.

F2P and one-time-purchase can co-exist, in much the way people here have alluded to. MMOs have been doing it for a while, with my favourite example being LOTRO. You could pay a monthly fee and have access to everything, or you could play for free, and buy access to just the stuff you wanted. Also of importance, if you paid monthly, you could then pay -more- for additional stuff, so they didn't cap their possible revenue from a single player. As an anecdote, I myself played LOTRO and DDO, paying monthly and then some - I was probably spending $20-25/month. I'm playing Star Wars these days, and they've capped the amount of money I can give them at my monthly fee, which I think is unfortunate for them -and- me, as a user.

Other companies are using the F2P model very well - Valve and Riot are obvious examples, but there are plenty more indies that are growing into bigger studios on the success of their F2P games.

@Nicholas, ME3 isn't a particularly good example of your point - there's only 1 DLC pack out, and it's what came with the CE edition.
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Matthew Eakins Technical Lead, HB-Studios7 years ago
@Robert Mac-Donald "Free to Pay" +1 :)
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Alex Byrom Studying Multiplayer Online games design, Staffordshire University7 years ago
I addition myself included people like physical copies, i like looking up at my shelf and seeing all the ps1, ps2, ps3 and 3ds games all in a line, i also get annoyed when the download price for a game is at least 1/3 more then a hard copy. I maybe swayed to buying a digital copy if it was cheaper because on the whole it's an inferior product. I'm yet to play a freemuim game that got me hooked.
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters7 years ago
@Tim Carter - I guess if you make a movie analogy, not paying wouldn't stop you from getting to the end of the film, but it might start inserting deliberately boring scenes of characters sat around reading the newspaper for half an hour or going to the loo that you can skip if you pay money. Or maybe the free version of a horror film cuts out the scary ambient soundtrack and replaces it with the Benny Hill theme.

I don't even know why TF2 is a supposed good example. The game had already been around for years before going F2P. The game has a ton of content that was funded by actual sales of the game, so by the time it went F2P everyone who was going to buy it already had, so it was an obvious choice to extract more money from the regular players. But if I remember correctly, the in game store was there before the game itself was free. Making it free was just a response to them already having made their money from sales.
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To me, the solution for current AAA games seems obvious: do both. Develop the full game, and release it as a boxed title for $30-$50 ... and release a super-cutdown, free to play version, filled with advertising for the full version, and with incremental purchases which enable something close to the full experience.

Everyone keeps talking about Valve, MW3, etc ... but for me the real benchmark will be Nintendo. They have been dead-set against dropping game prices for years (they always feared this day would come), and I'm waiting to see if first they release something "new" for free (with DLC/in-game purchasing), and second - if they ever embrace the mobile population.

And personally, I agree completely with most of the posters here: I spent around a year playing Edgeworld (Kabam), only to realise it was a huge waste of time, extremely unenjoyable, unrewarding ... and generally a REALLY bad game. It took a while to quit (mainly due to the community), but I have been super-glad ever since I did... and been playing AAA games since. The fun is now back.
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Gregore Candalez Journalist and Account Manager, FD Com.7 years ago
I strongly disagree with him.
Asian games were always F2P due to cultural facets, not because they were ahead of us. It was the business and design model asians were used to. There's a game in China called 'The Legend of Three Kingdoms" which is Freemium and has over 200 million active users - who buy regularly off the shop. It obviously doesn't mean that every game should transit to a F2P format.

As I am quite sure games such as Lord of the Rings online, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, DC Universe Online and dozens of others didn't go F2P because they are 'ahead in the future'. It's simply because they couldn't compete with other better games available in the market. I believe it's that simple. You can't charge 20 dollars a month when there's an outstanding game around the corner that charges 15. And the 15-dollar one won't go Free just because the 20-dollar one HAD to go free. Offer, demand and quality. Standard Economics.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.7 years ago
Micheal, I too played Edgeworld for a few months and found they employed a Pay 2 Win model. And many of those people were paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars to dominate.

Gregore, spot on.
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They'll still be pretty distinguishable for a while. The production values of games from existing F2P developers will reach that of current AAA titles. You wont find much of a difference there.

The difference will be in the mechanics. Some non-F2P games already have some of the mechanics that are almost always present in F2P games (I want to say always, but I don't want to generalize - if someone knows of a F2P game that isn't a horrible Skinner's Box, please contact me and let me know what it is so I can research it!). I'm sure there are going to be some developers that don't understand what makes these games successful that will try to do F2P for games that the F2P model doesn't work with (not without modification anyway), and they're going to flop. The current F2P developers will probably increase production values, and the current AAA title developers will probably try F2P games as they come to understand the model. Those will be the games that are "indistinguishable" from each other, in the same way that Halo is indistinguishable from CoD from Battlefield from even Madden.
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The important thing when discussing business is when conversation reaches that "show me the money" point.

F2P exists in several forms ranging from real F2P games (like Angry Birds and lots of Android/iOS stuff) to "demos". But the real stuff is understanding what is "free". A completely free to play game means that developers will work for free. Not many people work for free so, most F2P games bring adware and other so much unwanted "wares" to your life, including ways to hack your contact lists in Facebook and similar social networks generating a shadow revenue to shadowy people. Then there are the "drug dealer's F2P": try it for free but be ready to be quartered and dimmed all over the way for the rest of your gaming experience. Finally there are the "demos".

Top games demand lots of money for their development. Take for instance a game like Uncharted or Assassins Creed or Final Fantasy or Batman or... They require several thousands of man/hours in several fields of knowledge (designers, graphic artists, voice artists, musicians, programmers, motion capture professionals, etc) for their development. Development requires lots of amazing hardware and installations (studios, etc). Deployment demands lots of specialized services that range from market research to marketing, PR, etc.

Before talking about F2P, people should start to tell how, in heavens, make a top game viable as F2P. O... and please just don't come with the DLC stuff discourse because DLC is hurting industry in unprecedented level (yeah, it generates immediate income but public is getting really upset about it).

I feel that many people would like to go back to Pacman or Space Invaders time. Games for unbrained people. That's more or less what Angry Birds franchise is: silly games to be played while going to work or getting home in a crowded bus/subway train/tram. It is enough for a fraction of the market but any generalization is dumb. People want sophisticated games.

That brings other question touched by the author: consoles are dying. Hell, I have heard it somewhere else... thousands of times...

Quality games demand uniformity and stability. There are no ways of achieving any of these in the portable universe. Ok, you can have Android all around but... what Android? 2.x? 3.x? 4.x? And in which hardware platform (RAM size, processor, GPU, screen size and resolution, touch resistive or capacitive, how accelerometers behave, how are the cameras, etc). People who were involved in software development for mobile phones understand how is complicated and expensive to have applications running flawless cross platforms. Again, talking about PCs, quality games demand configurations which prices go well ahead of what people will expend in a console (or even purchasing ALL available consoles). Thus, there are no substitutes for consoles at present or foreseeable future.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd7 years ago
@ James it's DLC with an essential and completely integrated character, with dialog that was recorded throughout the development process before finally being removed (or "reserved" if you want to sound nice) for the special edition buyers. An edition which was grossly under-produced, forcing most buyers to pay $10 to get this character (who again had very important dialog and interaction) on top of the $60 buy-in.

This is on top of a massive amount of announced DLC, including DLC packed in with many outside products and ending DLC, which will most likely be charging players to get a real ending to the game instead of the plothole riddled mess that was actually present (unless you follow the indoctrination theory, in which case it wasn't full of plotholes, just grossly incomplete). Mass Effect 3, while a briliant game in many respects, has been disastrous for EA's and Bioware's company image and the perception of how they treat their consumers.
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Mike F Student, Arizona State University7 years ago
@ Fran Mulhern I completely agree. I'm also with Dave that I'd love to have an unlock price that doesn't bother me with in-game purchases anymore.. Possibly following the Expansion Pack route that includes all the new content to the player once a year or so.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mike F on 4th April 2012 7:28pm

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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters7 years ago
The thing that bothers me most about F2P as a consumer is that there's no upper limit on the amount of money to spend on it. I want to know exactly what I'm getting into before I pay. If there were some guarantee that there was a finite number of things I could buy in the game and even if I went mad and bought everything, I'd still have paid roughly the same as buying the whole game under the traditional model, it'd be fine. But no way does any F2P developer think like that. They want people to lose track, to keep on buying, especially if it's something that gets "used up" and they have to buy the same thing multiple times. It's on the rise now but it makes me wonder how many times the average person can get burned by a game before they just decide to stay away from games altogether.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.7 years ago
Another factor that many are not considering is the idea that F2P gamers tend to get locked into that one game they play. Either due to the financial commitment or community commitment. Now that's great for that developer but the rest of the industry suffers. The typical package game consumer will play several games at a time or at least in near succession which benefits the whole of the industry better.
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