Will you be spending money on games that used to be free? A writer on GigaOm states that Free-To-Play games have had their day. How does that affect gamers and the companies designing games? I talked to two experts, Denny Thorley, GM of Wargaming West and Andrew Schneider, CEO of LiveGamer about the shift in gaming.
Schnieder: For core gamers, free-to-play experiences need to be done right; game balance must be preserved, especially for online games where the outcome is centered on skill, not money. League of Legends – one of the most popular games in the world – is a great example of this. They offer free-to-play monetization centers around purchasing specialized champions rather than in-battle power-ups that could sway the outcome of the session.
Thorley: Companies that deliver challenging MMO games with high production values and long lasting entertainment value for free will survive. Those that keep investing in games with updates and new features to keep our players engaged and coming back for more fun. Some of players invest their time, and some invest their time and their money. Wargaming coined the phrase Free-to-Win and have minimized the ability for players to use gold/cash to purchase items in the game that clearly give them a competitive advantage. These items must be earned through experience on the battlefield in World of Tanks or in air combat with World of Warplanes.
Several social games are jumping to consoles. Do you predict that’s where the industry is headed?
Schnieder: There is a real focused and dedicated effort from both Microsoft and Sony to reach independent developers. There are however a couple of mitigating factors that impede the kind of explosive growth of social games and apps that we saw on Facebook and mobile, namely the cost of developer kits and the relatively slow approval process to onboard games to the XBOX One and PS4.
Generally, I believe the U.S. market for core games will continue to be concentrated around top console franchises from the big publishers and the business model will be pay-to-play plus microtransactions. The social games market will continue to grow on the mobile platform and developers will be focused on Android and iOS.
What are some of the challenges to jumping platforms?
Thorley: Companies should understand right away the need to address the control scheme, the UI and carefully address all the expectations that an Xbox player has for games on the 360. For instance, for the Xbox 360 edition (released February 12), we didn’t have to allow for any minimum or maximum performance specs for the PC, we could wring every ounce of performance out of the Xbox 360 and actually enhance some of the tank tread physics, animation and graphical presentation of the tanks for the Xbox Edition of the game.
The team at Microsoft also worked closely with us to efficiently work within the constraints of their certification process and procedures. In the end, the game player is going to get a great game that was a result of a cross company, global team working on these challenges together.
What are some of the drawbacks at being at the forefront of industry change?
Thorley: When you are at the forefront of industry change you can’t hire experts that have solved these same problems before. These drawbacks are also the most exciting opportunities and why Wargaming has attracted such a wealth of talent. But managing the economy, the game analytics and streamlining global deployment are allowing us to create all new processes and solve problems that have not necessarily been solved in the traditional game business before.