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Free-to-play is "new frontier" of Western game development

Former Activision VP Robin Kaminsky says f2p is industry's biggest challenge

Former Activision vice president Robin Kaminsky believes that free-to-play games are now "the most interesting and challenging development environment" for industry professionals.

In an op-ed article for IndustryGamers, Kaminsky addresses the perception that the people working in free-to-play are "not as talented" as their peers working on pay-to-play PC and console games.

"The assumption is that it's easy - even uninteresting - to develop free-to-play games. In my opinion, that's simply untrue. Making a successful, inventive and exciting free-to-play game is the most interesting and challenging development environment available to programmers, designers, and artists today."

Kaminsky asserts that, in traditional game development, the "primary (and perhaps only) objective" of all content is to get the consumer to buy the game.

"[Developers] don't need to care how often you play, whether you play all parts of the game or, at its heart, if you even play the game at all. The sale's been made."

"Publishers can even market their way to success on a traditional but lower quality console and PC game, because in that market you simply have to acquire purchasers upfront. A free-to-play developer does not have that luxury."

According to Kaminsky, the challenge for free-to-play developers is more daunting. For their products to be successful, they have to create "an intense emotional response" within the player, while also juggling the responsibilities of allowing constant communication, adding monetisation options, and making the game compelling for "huge hours of play."

"I believe free-to-play is the new frontier of western game development... In free-to-play games, people are the game. Not the graphics, not the game mechanics, not the AI or scripting, but real, living, breathing people. The games must be designed to drive the consumer to engage with the game and ideally with one another... The more engagement, the better the results."

"This is more than entertainment; the best games become an intrinsic part of the players' psyche. Great, sticky, free-to-play games are not time fillers. These games have meaning to the players who feel compelled to play and succeed in the game world."

Robin Kaminsky worked at Activision from 2005 to 2008. She joined the board at cloud-based streaming service Gaikai in July.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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