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Consoles missing out on free-to-play boom

Hi-Rez Studios concentrates on open PC platform for Tribes: Ascend

As the free-to-play movement continues to grow on mobile and PC, console formats slow to adapt to freemium are missing out on the increasingly popular - and lucrative - business model.

Another studio embracing the PC space is Hi-Rez Studios, creators of Global Agenda and owners of the popular multiplayer licence Tribes. Tribes: Ascend was original announced as a PC and Xbox Live Arcade game, but co-founder Todd Harris recently told GamesIndustry.biz that all effort is being placed on the more open PC platform.

"Our first initial focus is the PC as far as what we're developing on, testing on, and as far as availability we're focused first on the PC. Because that's where people associate the franchise, that was its home. And because we do want to be able to deliver updates for it… we think that's the strongest platform for it right now," he said in an interview published today.

A platform that lets the developer update the game frequently will continue to win out

Todd Harris, Hi-Rez Studios

Harris isn't completely dismissive of free-to-play on consoles, acknowledging Sony's efforts with Free Realms and DC Universe Online, but in the free-to-play space the business model has clearly evolved and outdated home hardware.

"I think that is possible, and yes we'd like to see [free-to-play] expand. It's not quite as far along as obviously the PC, so we continue to look at the PC as our focus in the short term."

"Until the console allows for faster, more frequent updates and alternate business models then it's less of a sweet spot for us than PC," he added.

Last week, research and analysis firm Games Investor Consulting told the audience at GameHorizon that it didn't expect free-to-play to make any significant impact on home consoles in the short term.

But Harris is still holding out hope, adding: "I do think it's realistic in this generation. There have been rumours of free-to-play on the Xbox - which I don’t know anything more about than you do - but it feels like there’s no reason that faster updates and specifically free-to-play models or alternate pricing models, those should be able to be developed on this generation consoles, and those things would be very interesting to us."

But in the meantime - and after considerable success with Global Agenda as a free-to-play business - Hi-Rez is sticking to the PC.

"I think a platform that lets the developer update the game frequently will continue to win out. The PC and the mobile platforms are very strong in that regard and we’d like to see the consoles move in that direction also."

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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