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Microsoft readying free-to-play framework - report

Platform allegedly speaking to developers to secure games

A report has claimed that Microsoft is preparing to allow free-to-play games to come to the Xbox LIVE service, incorporating microtransactions funded by Microsoft Points.

The Develop report cites anonymous sources, and claims that the publisher is already speaking to developers in an attempt to secure free-to-play titles for the service.

Both in-game purchases and upgrade models are believed to be on their way, despite LIVE's many years as a closed system - a policy which has so far meant that no MMO or free-to-play games have been supported by Microsoft's online facility. A change to that policy may be welcomed by gamers, but the effects of a free-to-play presence on XBLA's economy are uncertain.

Currently, developers are unable to set their own price brackets for Microsoft Points, instead having to choose from pre-establish bands. Whilst a continuation of that scheme is a possibility, developers would surely embrace more flexibility to the system.

The story follows several developments in the past few weeks which could have influenced a decision, including Sony securing CCP's Dust 514 as a PSN exclusive, partly due to it's more open platform but largely because of the option to make the game free-to-play.

The announcement of Kinect-enabled NUads earlier this week also offers Microsoft a tempting new revenue stream, which could potentially be used to support free-to-play titles.

Just last night, Valve announced that 92 per cent Metacritic rated shooter Team Fortress 2 would become free-to-play after four years on the market as a traditional retail product. That game is already available on Xbox 360 via the Orange box.

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Dan Pearson

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