PopCap: Free-To-Play Doesn't Have To Hurt

There's an air of scepticism that surrounds free-to-play games — can they possibly be any good if they're offered for free? Surely there must be a soulless, money-grabbing hook embedded into the game somewhere, right? According to PopCap's Giodano Contestabile, players need to dispel these preconceptions.

In his column over at EDGE, the Bejeweled franchise business director said that those who believe freemium games will "bring ruin on our beloved activity, replacing engaging gameplay with repetitive exploitative viral mechanics" were a vocal minority basing their opinions on the first wave of social network games.

"The first experiments in that sense could barely be defined 'games'," Contestabile said.

"[They] were simplistic 'applications' built by web developers with little or no exposure to game design, aiming to take advantage of the platform's viral features for rapid growth."

Contestabile says that things have changed.

"Many existing social games are shallow, and don't seem to have players' enjoyment as the foremost priority," he said.

"But many are, and every day we see new ones that, while not perfect, bring innovation and a sense of fun, and advance our overall understanding of a space that's still in a very early stage of development.

"Many compelling game experiences are emerging, developed by teams that understand not only the dynamics of social games, but also that the most important feature of any game is also the most difficult to pin down: fun."

He says that developers can benefit from the free-to-play model because it gives them the constant feedback which they can use to iterate and improve the game. Free-to-play doesn't have to be exploitative or poor in quality, Contestabile argues: "Make it fun, and people will come. Make it fun, and people will play. Make it fun, and people will want to pay."

What are your thoughts on free-to-play games? Do you think Contestabile is right and we're seeing a movement towards quality free-to-play games? Or are you not convinced? Let us know!



    I've played a few decent ones, like Backyard Monsters and Desktop Defender, but the ability to pay real money to get an edge ruins the entire thing afrerawhile. They reach a point where the only real way to progress is to spend tonnes of money...

    Free-to-play doesn't have to hurt, but it tends to bite.
    Most of the more enjoyable free-to-play games tend to come from games which could't make it with an up-front price or subscription service.
    While Contestible may have a point, for each quality free-to-play there are a dozen slap-dash cash-ins to bury it.

    Is there any way you could make a note at the top of articles that aren't actually written by the person that published them? Twice today i've read an entire article thinking it was written by Tracey, and then at the end discovered it was written by someone else on another site. You can imagine my horror on the PSV reader review when they posted a shot of the author (who I thought was Tracey) holding the PSV with massive hairy hands. For a moment I had to assume that Tracey had an enormous penis, because you know what they say about big hands :P

      Err.. it is mentioned at the top of the PSV review that it was written by Kotaku reader ben latimore. His name is even bolded. So!

        Not my fault... you must've..errr changed it! Yes, that's it, you changed it! I call shenanigans, shenanigans I tell you.

    I miss LoL, ever since SC2 came out LoL has been sorely neglected.

      My 2 favourite games at the moment! League of Legends and SC2.

    I've been playing the awesomeness that is Triple Town. Greatest F2P ever, so I gave them the $4.49 to help them fight their lawsuit thing. I didn't need to pay at all as it is kinda buggy still...

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