German online publisher Gamigo has revealed that Black Prophecy, a game it plans to bring to market later this year, will have cost over €10 million to develop - a significant level of investment for a free-to-play title.
But while the game, set in a sci-fi universe, has been expensive to create, it's part of the company's overall portfolio of titles - including The Witcher: Versus and Fiesta Online Europe - and director of media partnerships Ralph Frefat believes that the because the publisher can look to the long-term, there's not the same pressure to recoup that investment right away as there is with traditional retail titles.
"It depends on several things - on the lifetime, the average revenue per user, on how many players you can get into the game that are playing actively and purchasing," he explained, speaking at the recent Gamelab conference in Spain.
"But compare it with retail - if you have a big game there, you have a time frame of let's say 8-10 weeks when the game is hot, before it drops. The lifecycle of a normal free-to-play online game is 3-5 years, so I don't care if it's not that successful in the first six months - it might be in the next four.
"If you summarise the revenues that we did with certain games, even if you just make €100,000 per month, add all that up over a lifetime and it's much more than some retail games make."
Frefat admitted that the free-to-play genre hadn't historically had the best of reputations, but games such as Black Prophecy would help to change that perception.
"Honestly, in the past it was true. If you look back four or five years there was a lack of quality," he said. "But if you look at the future, we've signed a space-opera game that has a development cost of €10 million, and the game looks like it should be published by Electronic Arts.
"This is the future of free-to-play - it doesn't mean that it's a cheap experience, just because it's free to the consumer. The game is the same kind of quality that you're used to getting at retail.
"I can tell you, we're not sure if we'll get that money back - but it helps us in terms of public awareness. The game looks so awesome that everybody is willing to report on it. It's called Black Prophecy, and it's out towards the end of this year."
The full interview with Ralph Frefat is available now.