The Future is Free – Polygon

http://www.polygon.com/2013/6/24/4452890/the-future-is-free-free-to-play-takes-center-stage-at-e3-2013

In this article a summary of what the major three console developers plans are with regards to free-to-play (F2P) is discussed with the overall theme being one of a new wave of F2P games coming on consoles. Of particular relevance to my recent work on F2P and pay-to-win (P2W) is the cultural divide in what constitutes ‘fair play’ that this article emphasises. Unlike Western markets where P2W games are increasingly scrutinised in Russia and China these models are still thriving as the creative designer of Planetside 2 explains:

‘Creative Director Matthew Higby said the difference between free-to-play and pay-to-win was as much a cultural difference as it was a platform difference. “Some people,” said Higby, “think that buying a gun that allows me to instantaneously kill somebody so long as I’m looking at them isn’t pay-to-win, because I still have to look at them. There’s all sorts of different opinions about that stuff. But for us, making a competitive title, we wanted to make sure that we were making something that felt fair, and it didn’t feel like the business model was exploitative. … But in China and in Russia, those kinda things aren’t as much of a concern. Those markets are very different.”‘

This article also attributes a major part of the F2P success and attention to the MOBA genre that is described as a an ‘addictive mashup’ of RPG and RTS genres, a description that devalues what MOBA games really embody. The article goes onto state that ‘many consumers, even hardcore PC gamers, are intimidated by the perceived complexity of the [MOBA] genre’ and that is why developers such as Zynga are seeking to attach themselves to new models of fair F2P.

A useful quote from a player of mobile F2P games is also worth mentioning due to it’s implicit reference to the ideas of the gift economy, ‘The main idea of free-to-play for me is … accessibility. Let’s remove all barriers. You don’t need to pay 50 or 60 bucks to get into the game. … Let people decide if they want to pay for it.’

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