Is the future of videogames freemium?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

For as long as the games industry has existed it has been cash up front for a complete product, but is there another way? Harry Slater investigates.

A shift is happening in the way we pay for and consume games. For as long as the games industry has existed, it has followed the same model – cash up front for a complete product – but over the last couple of years that model has started to struggle, both in terms of revenue generated and the way gamers and developers perceive it.

Step forward free-to-play, a method of collecting revenue that’s based on microtransactions within the gaming experience, with no upfront outlay whatsoever. You download a game, play it for as long as you like for nothing at all, paying only for in-game items designed to expand and enhance your experience.

‘We truly believe that the free-to-play model is the fairest for developers and for gamers.’ says Peter Holzapfel of Crytek, a developer that’s one of the torchbearers for free-to-play. Crytek has made a commitment to the model, with CEO Cevat Yerli stating more than once that freemium is the only viable future for the gaming industry. A claim his company has backed up with the development of its first free-to-play game: Warface.

‘There’s no risk attachment [for the player]. They can try our game, so they’ve invested time into it, which is already a big investment with all the other products around,’ says Holzapfel. ‘If then we have a strong product, and people would like to play the game, to invest that time in it, it’s our belief that at some point they will say “OK, this is a good game, I want to spend money on it”. But the amount of money they have to spend, that’s something that they choose.’

Free-to-play games offer up possibilities that boxed products simply can’t. There’s more room for community interaction, for changes based on the ideas of the people who are actually playing the game on a regular basis. But there are irrational fears attached too, and that’s a problem, especially in Western markets and that’s an obstacle Crytek are having to confront.

‘Right now [the view of] free-to-play is that it’s low quality and it’s play to win, so those are the two things we’re fighting against,’ he continues. ‘Low quality – there I think we have a pedigree as a developer, and working with Trion, who also have a good reputation on the customer service side, we’ve pretty much covered that.’

When it comes to accusations that free-to-play games are play to win, Crytek have a clever solution: different purchasable products in different markets. So in the West, where the accusations are strongest, they’ve tailored a set of in-game purchases that make it clear you’re not paying to win, you’re paying to enhance a skill set that’s already there.

Of course, Warface isn’t the only upcoming free-to-play title that’s been lavished with triple-A polish. CCP’s Dust 514, which links together with the subscription-based space-faring MMO Eve Online, is set to bring the model to the PS3, and offers exciting possibilities for cross game play that couldn’t exist in a boxed product.

Then of course there’s the raft of MMOs that are already, or are in the process of, becoming free-to-play games, and app stores full of freemium titles for your smartphone and favourite social network – the likes of Farmville and the recently released SimCity Social leading the charge.

Free-to-play is creating a new language at the heart of videogame development, and forcing a change the likes of which the industry hasn’t seen. Whether you’re a naysayer or an ardent supporter of the new model, you’re going to have to give it a chance, because it looks like Cerat Yerli is right: the future is free-to-play.

By Harry Slater

Suggested Topics
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Website Editor

    £15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits