The Rebirth of Consoles: The Age of F2P
By. M. Hauschel
“Consoles, I believe, are dead,” said Firefall developer and former World of Warcraft lead, Mark Kern, CEO of Red 5 Studios. Kern is certain F2P titles are the future of gaming and will replace the current business model. Are consoles dead? Not yet, but in order for consoles to complete with F2P titles, that have been available on PCs for years, they will need to create their own titles without the price tag. It’s no surprise that is the direction many console-based developers are heading towards.
Ubisoft, in a post financials conference call, suggests that plans for next-gen development are well on their way. Seven titles are planned for Wii U, and the company also noted that full game digital downloads and F2P titles will be the central focus of the next generation.
The quiet unveiling of Xbox 360’s first F2P title at E3 gives more precedence to the F2P titles heading towards consoles. Ascend: New Gods, from Toy Soldiers developer Signal Studios, is developing a thirdperson, fantasy action-RPG due in 2013. It has promised persistent asynchronous multiplayer across Xbox 360 and Windows Phone.
The leader of the pack by miles is Playstation. PS3 with their upcoming title Defiance will be the world’s first persistent online world shooter. Instead of a co-op with 4-8 players, Defiance supports thousands of players in a never-ending battle. Not only is Defiance a game, but also it will have a TV series on the Syfy. The game and show work together, as they change and evolve creating a unique gaming and viewing experience.
Fans of Eve Online can look forward to CCP Games’ upcoming MMOFPS F2P title for the PS3, Dust 514. This will be the company’s first F2P title and first console title. Taking place in the same universe as Eve Online, players will combat on the various planets found in Eve Online. Each planet will feature a unique map each divided into large districts. Players must fight to control districts that hold resources and installations.
While console publishers have been slow to the game of F2P, developing studios have been pushing the boundaries. Crytek is turning itself into a F2P only studio. Not only will all future games be F2P, but they will also be triple-A games, with estimated development budgets of $10 million to $30 million. After completing its current contracts for traditional boxed products, such as Crysis 3, Homefront 2 and Ryse, all Crytek games will be free to play, CEO Cevat Yerli told.
“I think this is a new breed of games that has to happen to change the landscape, and be the most user-friendly business model.” Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli. “We see the future of consoles as free-to-play – ideally focused on free-to-play. That’s what I want to see in the future. But unfortunately not everybody shares this vision due to many other reasons.”
Gaming giant, EA, has embraced the market change to F2P as well.
“I think there’s an inevitability that happens five years from now, 10 years from now, that, let’s call it the client, to use the term, [is free.] It is no different than… it’s free to me to walk into The Gap in my local shopping mall. They don’t charge me to walk in there. I can walk into The Gap, enjoy the music, look at the jeans and what have you, but if I want to buy something I have to pay for it.”-Peter Moore, COO of Electronic Arts
While the criticism of cash shop systems and DLCs will be a constant debated issue among gamers. It will really boil down to how each company will handle their system. Yerli had a few words for premium services and DLC, and really shines hope on the future of cash shops.
“If you look at what kind of games are done in the packaged goods market, with DLCs and premium services and whatnot, it’s literally milking the customers to death,” Yerli said.
With development studios focusing on F2P titles and publishers giving credence to the F2P business model, this a new era of gaming, and it will be exciting to see how it plays out.