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SOE's Smedley: Free-to-play “an art, not a science”

Planetside 2 is the real beginning of SOE's free-to-play future

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) president John Smedley has told Polygon that creating a strong free-to-play title like the recently-launched Planetside 2 is “an art, not a science.” Planetside 2 is the first of SOE's titles that was planned as a free-to-play game, unlike previous MMOs that launched with a subscription fee and switched to a free-to-play model.

"Most of us play games non-stop, and most of the games I play now are free-to-play; Dota 2, League of Legends, our stuff. It's sort of a gut feeling. I'd say it's more of an art, not a science. Zynga likes to pretend it's a science, but it's more of an art,” said Smedley.

"We deliberately made the game, the core game, so that without paying us a dime is fun and free. We wanted to do right by the players. Our thought was if we make a fun game and put cool stuff in it to buy, the ones who really like the game will buy it."

SOE noted that the game currently has 1.6 million registered users and 250,000 daily users. The publisher is also working on Everquest Next, the follow-up to the MMORPG that built Sony Online.

"We're building a sandbox and giving players the tools to help shape the world that they're in. That's the direction we're going we're going in with EverQuest Next; trying to make a world that players create while being a living, breathing world around them. It's not just a prop for them to walk around in, which is really what all of today's MMOs are. Their worlds are nothing more than a movie set,” Smedley said.

"What we're doing [with emergent gameplay] is so radically new that we're not really talking about it," said Smedley. "What I will say is that what we're looking at is ways of making players part of the world itself. You'll understand it when you see it. We're almost at the point where we want to show the world."

Smedley recently chatted with GamesIndustry International as well, noting how it's been "really, really hard" to make MMOs on consoles, but that next-gen should help address that problem.

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Mike Williams avatar
Mike Williams: M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.
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