This Week In The Business: Rage Against Free-To-Play

This Week In The Business: Rage Against Free-To-Play

"It's always struck me as a little odd how resentful players are in the F2P business model about paying a couple dollars when they don't think twice about paying $US50 for the same amount of fun or gameplay time." — Veteran designer Steve Meretzky, talking about the evolution of free-to-play games.

Elsewhere in the business of video games this past week ...

QUOTE | "As game designers, we're running bad code on people's brains and trying to figure out where the bugs are and how it all works." — Spry Fox's Dan Cook, talking about the difficulties of game design.

QUOTE | "You can do a tremendous amount of damage to your brand, your company, and the industry at that point." — Microsoft's Kevin Perry, talking about the consequences of shutting down a game service improperly.

QUOTE | "Anybody in high tech or in content that sees Amazon jump into their bread and butter market and isn't concerned... should have their head examined." - IDC analyst Lewis Ward, talking along with other analysts about what the Amazon Fire TV console might mean to the game industry.

QUOTE | "For us, games are not simply an 'added bonus' — they're the whole point." — Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman, responding to analysts who think Amazon's Fire TV will hurt Ouya.

QUOTE | "Instead of being impulsive, they were long-term thinkers, cool-headed, methodical, and they really supported the game." — Ubisoft research scientist Nick Yee, talking abouthow heavy spenders on free-to-play games are not impulsive.

QUOTE | "It seems like the ultimate fair and honest model." — Epic's Tim Sweeney, describing why the company switched from its previous up-front fee for Unreal Engine 4 to a $US19-a-month subscription plus five per cent royalty.

STAT | 108,000 — Number of Twitch broadcasts streamed by Xbox One owners in the first week the feature was available; by mid-March Xbox One users made up 22 per cent of Twitch broadcasters.

QUOTE | "You shouldn't be afraid to cancel a game if you know in your heart or you see the figures and you have to cancel it." — Torsten Reil, CEO of Natural Motion, talking about how they have cancelled games in all stages of development.

QUOTE | "Free-to-play isn't going anywhere, but there are a lot of features of free-to-play that will go away." — CEO Teemu Huuhtanen of Next Games, talking about leaving Rovio and trying to evolve the F2P business model with his next game.

STAT | 25 million — Number of registered users of Crytek's Warface free-to-play shooter; the game first launched in April 2012 in Russia, and is now in North America, Europe, Turkey, Korea and Brazil, with China coming this year.

Image by Shutterstock


    Cancelled at all stages of development?

    If you cancelled at a Release Candidate, you're a tool. You might as well throw money into a fire.

      Just what I was thinking.

      Last edited 06/04/14 12:19 pm

      I think that it's not necessarily a bad idea to cancel a finished game if it's a steaming pile. Think about say Aliens: CM. Horribad. Would whatever money they get back after publishing have been worth the PR disaster that makes people not want to touch another game from them?

        Daikatana (not sure in spelling, I think that's how you say it though) comes to mind.

        A bad game doesn't necessarily mean PR disaster. It could turn out positive if you handle it correctly. If you price the game appropriately, people probably won't care. You won't make your development cost back, but it's better than throwing your hands up and accepting the entire loss.

        The days of digital distribution make it so much easier to handle the release of a bad game. At the very least you'll make a name for yourself. After that you just need a few people to give decent reviews of your next, potentially not shit game.

          Yeah I just read up on Daikatana... they shut down a studio because of that game.

          I think this is more and more correct. It's just good management. I'd like to give two more examples; Resident Evil 1.5 and Nintendo.

          RE 1.5 was apparently cancelled after significant development, and the successful RE2 was made instead. I liked 1-3 and CV, haven't played 4(which ppl say was good), and 5 onwards a lot of ppl say is quite bad. Without 1.5 dying, we may not have the good games of RE2 onwards... but it's something low key and you may not realize that bad games need to die so that good games can live. Really a focus on quality over money is a good thing!

          Nintendo... not any particular games really, but the Wii U. Now the Wii U isn't "bad", but it's also not "good". Imagine if you had someone in management who had the balls to say "we need to revise this and maybe even cancel it!". We may have had a superior version today.

    They really don't get it, do they? It's not about paying $2, or $5 or even $10. It's about how the game is set to encourage those transactions repeatedly, so people can inadvertently spend hundreds of dollars. Moreover, it motivates a game design in which willingness to part with one's money replaces or equates skill, time and/or effort.

    It wouldn't be much of a problem if such mechanisms were kept to a subset of mobile games for bored people who want to prove who has the biggest wallet. The rage originates from the fact that those mechanisms are now starting to contaminate ALL videogames. It's really hard not to imagine a slippery slope if we don't speak out against it as loud as we can now.

      If free to play options are utilised to buy permanent benefits within the game (something like the coin counterfeiter in Jetpack Joyride), F2P really isn't that bad at all. But the problem is that 95% of F2P models want me to pay real money for temporary benefits. An extra life, or stronger missiles for one game, or more chances to play again without waiting in real time for my energy to replenish. That is the F2P that actively takes advantage of the player.

      Imagine, for example, if Oblivion had been Free To Play. I put over 600 hours into that game with my brothers, imagine if you needed to pay for temporary benefits (say fast travel, or replenishing mana without waiting). How much more than the $80 initial cost would I have spent on that game by that point? Hundreds of dollars easily, maybe thousands. That is the business model people are completely against.

      But the ultimate thing is we can't trust them. These are companies that force always online, tell us it isn't possible to give offline gameplay, and then go back on their word when people call them out on it. These are companies that deliberately reduce the likelihood of high level item and weapon drops to try and funnel players towards their auction houses to spend real money that keeps their profits growing.

      We as consumers have less and less reason to trust these people these days. And they want us to just blindly accept models like Free To Play that not only require our complete trust in a developer or publisher, but operate under the assumption that humans won't do what they will do when monetary gain is so intertwined with the product; the wrong thing.

        How 'bout throwing all that shit out the window and have a rental system that allows a person to rent games or movies, until the value of the full R.R.P. is reached. Then the item is owned by the user. Then essentially people would end up owning what they naturally enjoy.

        But if all you want to do is put your greedy hands in other peoples pockets it'll never happen.

        Last edited 06/04/14 2:32 pm

          "A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where the operator, an individual or organization, pays returns to its investors from new capital paid to the operators by new investors, rather than from profit earned by the operator. Operators of Ponzi schemes usually entice new investors by offering higher returns than other investments, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. The perpetuation of the high returns requires an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors to sustain the scheme."

            Sounds like capitalism and possibly our politicians.

      The problem many gamers see with free to play is you hit the pay wall, and it's not a one off $20 transaction it becomes $5 to build a town hall, $5 to build a Well, $5 to build a Farm. Essentially your stuck paying $5 foe every new thing all the time. Even Arcade games work out better value as everytime you play you get further, and you kind of know upfront how it works. Playing Initial D I know I only get 1 race for $2 but the game is upfront about that. The Free to Play model is that bit more insidious in that it's free to start but eventually you either need to quit or start playing.

      I guess that what annoys people the most it's not Free 2 Play, most Free 2 Play games you can not win or even be in the top of the field without a significant investment into the game that would far exceed paying for a full priced game and all it's DLC.

      I remember an Article about the guy who was top of the food chain in F2P game Clash of Clans. He had 3 iPads running the game 24/7 he was spending $500 a week on it. Even 5 WoW accounts aren't that expensive. (Multibot players).

      Imagine spending $500 a week on normal games. That's an XBone, Titanfall and all the DLC in 2 weeks, with change. Even if you purchased special editions. You'd stop buying games and be buying high end TV's and 7.2 Sound Systems. You can't spend $500 a week playing Titanfall, Once you got an XBone or a Uber PC all your left with is an Internet bill your going to pay monthly.

      $2000 a month, First month you can get a PS4, XBone, Wii U, Vita & 3DS. And at least 1 game on every system, but your going to need weeks to complete them because you need a damn good job to have $500 a week to throw at gaming.

    Well when F2P actually means an advertising platform disguised as a game, and only amounts to a ponzi scheme that is purposefully designed in a way to trick people out of their money... F2P is essentially a poker machine with a skinner-box overlay - though when you use a poker machine the person knows it is a poker machine.

    And thus why Free-to-Play is known as Free-to-Pay in the Real World.

    “Free-to-play isn’t going anywhere, but there are a lot of features of free-to-play that will go away.” — CEO Teemu Huuhtanen of Next Games, talking about leaving Rovio and trying to evolve the F2P business model with his next game.

    There already is a business model for games; Development - Publishing - Distribution. And it's worked for hundreds of years, or since the printing press was invented!

    I've been playing a lot of Neverwinter recently, and I have to say - I just don't feel like buying anything.

    I should be their best customer. I have heaps of disposable cash and I get obsessive about games. The problem is I suppose, that I just don't look at anything on their market as having any real value.

    I guess I'd rather spend the money on buying games off of Steam instead. It feels more like I know what I'm paying for??

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