Microsoft, Sony 'heavily' investing in free-to-play for next-gen, says Epic

Epic Games vice president Mark Rein says next-gen platforms will "fully" embrace new business models.

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Microsoft and Sony are "heavily" investing in free-to-play business models for their next-generation platforms, Epic Games vice president Mark Rein asserted today.

As reported by Joystiq, the executive said today during a roundtable discussion at the Game Horizon conference that both platform holders see the opportunity in such models for the PlayStation 4 and next Xbox.

"The next-gen consoles are going to be fully embracing the free-to-play and these [In-App Purchase-type] business models," Rein said. "So in case you don't know that I'm putting that out there. Sony and Microsoft are both going heavily in that area."

Xbox Live's first free-to-play game Happy Wars launched in October and has attracted 2 million players. It is the first free game on Xbox Live, but it won't be the last.

Signal Studios' third-person role-playing game Ascend: New Gods will also be available through the platform for free when it launches in "several months."

As for Sony, the PlayStation maker announced in March that free-to-play shooter Blacklight: Retribution is coming to the PlayStation 4. It is the first game from Sony's Pub Fund for the PS4.

Not all in the industry are bullish on free-to-play. During a post-earnings financial call last night, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said the Call of Duty company is not expecting to see a significant shift in the way it monetizes its console business.

"And then with respect to new business models, I can't comment specifically on the next-generation consoles. But our general view is we approach new business models skeptically," Kotick said (via Seeking Alpha). "And we take our time. And we look for those that will turn out to be something that is sustainable for a long term."

"I think we're seeing there are a lot of exciting new ways to allow customers to pay for their experiences, there are a lot of new ways for us to monetize our content," he added. "But I can't say that you're going to see any dramatic shifts in the way that we monetize on the console."

Assassin's Creed and Far Cry publisher Ubisoft believes free-to-play business models, as well as microtransactions, are essential to the future of AAA games.

Discussion

387 comments
YukoAsho
YukoAsho

Didn't Epic get taken over by a Chinese investment firm, with a ton of the actual creative talent leaving?

DevilD2005
DevilD2005

im not sure what heavily ivesting in free to play will do for the industry, and while nothing wrong with playin a god game for free, most free to play games lack that certain quality and cheapen the experience with microtransaction, especially if its an MMO.

moshel_007
moshel_007

I think the worst could be paying the full price for a game ($60) and half way through it tells you to buy something to unlock something/to move forward in the game.........that I believe is something that is not acceptable....But I do see games moving towards it.

bobdimstar
bobdimstar

difficulty level starts at extremely madly hard!pay $10 to downgrade difficulty level up to maximum of 7 times!

rising_k
rising_k

So unlocking contents in gaming is officially a scam now? Why does greed had to be all over the industry this gen? Dammit where's a time machine when you need one, I want to return to the 90s when videogames are fun, unique, and complete.

SmartAlec711
SmartAlec711

Sadly most of the time the only way to actually do well in Free to Play games is to pay... I really hope this isn't the case because I much rather would have games where everyone is on equal footing.

speedracer3190
speedracer3190

Free to Play models are designed to take hundreds of dollars away from you over the course of one year. As a consumer I do not like this model at all. For businesses it is fantastic!

It is more like Pay to Win rather than free to play.

emerin76
emerin76

Wasn't crimson alliance like that?  pay to unlock characters(classes)?  I don't mind that model. Paying for extra dungeons/levels/areas doesn't bother me. 
What might irk some people would be paying to unlock Player vs Player, especially if they're already paying (xbox gold) to play online vs other people.

Some my screem "GREED"..well duh.  Humans are greedy.  Businesses are greedy, and most importantly shareholders are greedy....time to become a shareholder I suppose.

Vodoo
Vodoo

Some of these F2P games are designed to milk hundreds of dollars from players over a period of time instead of the usual $60 upfront fee. I bet that's what they're going for because they're greedy.

Mr_Mark_Legion
Mr_Mark_Legion

so i looked up a lot of free to play denfinitions. if they are right, im ok with free to play. since they only make their money from ads and microtransactions that are 100% not needed to experience and enjoy and finish 100% of the complete game. anything different than this and they need to rename it from free to play.

anonymousicko
anonymousicko

If this is going to be their main focus, I think I'll stop gaming on consoles for the next-gen. Except for THAT one console I suppose?

64-bit
64-bit

Nintendo here I come.

LiquidGold
LiquidGold

Guess this will give EPIC the excuse to charge even more for their overly priced DLC. Like their Gear Of War DLC 5600ms points lol. Thats some serious points  needed. 2 words. F**k OFF

mediarays
mediarays

War Thunder is a nice free to play game

d3nR
d3nR

Did they take their model of drug dealers?  Try for free but pay if you get hooked? Lol

JBo796
JBo796

Fine...I'll fully embrace free to play on one condition.  I'm not paying $50.00 for XBox Live + $60.00 for a new game and then not be able to play the multiplayer portion, because I am constricted by microtransactions.  If I buy the game up front, let me play it!  I'm looking at you Mass Effect 3, with your crappy 'random' loot that takes ages to unlock anything.  

Seriously, if any of you want a clear picture of how free to play will be on next-gen consoles...Mass Effect 3 is a perfect model for it.

Munstable
Munstable

I have nothing against it, but "Free to Play" games are usually mindless time killers that will have you play and play like a zombie to make in game money and then missing the free time to have done anything more purposeful in your life.

So it's not "FREE". It costs "TIME"- something which I find a whole lot more valuable than "MONEY".

I've walked that path before and not about to return to it.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

i dont like microtransactions so free to play doesnt interest me any....only one exception for me is swtor....

lifegee13
lifegee13

I hope PlayStation 4 gets Hawken, that game is to good to only be on PC. If they don't Xbox will.

ramey2049
ramey2049

Anybody remember Lumines for XBLA? Once you bought the game you then had to buy the vs. computer pack just to play against A.I. then they only gave you half the missions and half the puzzles and you had to buy the rest on separate packs, that's not including all the skins and songs on DLC. That's our future people, half ass games that will cost you way more then AAA titles by the time you're done. 

Mr_Mark_Legion
Mr_Mark_Legion

i love free to play. this generation has been this way for me.

X-RS
X-RS

Kotick.

-__-

CCGR_Pheonix
CCGR_Pheonix

So far, Valve is the only company who has consistently done free to play well, and they haven't even touched it on consoles. I don't know if they will.

hadlee73
hadlee73

I don't think people should get *too* worked up. I'd imagine F2P will be concentrated mostly on the non-AAA titles. I'm not really a fan of it either but I'll give it a chance if it means the gaming industry will stop falling apart at the seams financially.

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

Not only do f2p games cause greedy nickle and dime business models, it also eliminates any hope for a good story, the games last longer because they cost less to make and maintaining them is low cost so they can milk it to the last drop so no hope for a new game, and the most obvious pay to win gameplay.

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

@DevilD2005 It will give an alternative for people who may want to try an MMO but not want to commit to an annual fee. Something they can approach and walk away from if they find it's not their cup of tea. I think subscription-based MMOs frighten off a lot of potential customers by requiring a fiscal commitment upfront. Not everyone has the time to devote to playing an MMO so that money is being wasted if you're not playing the game often. But if it's free you instantly open up your game to potential long-term customers.

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

@moshel_007 I don't see games trending in that direction, but I do see games catering more to the instant gratification crowd who, rather than take the time to grind and unlock items, they can just plop down a few bucks and get those same items now. That seems to be the prevalent model and motivation for micro-transactions at this point in time.

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

@rising_k That's debatable whether it's a "scam" or not. Technically it's not a scam since no one is being harmed or getting ripped off unfairly if they pay money in a micro-transaction. The people who opt to pay are receiving something for their money; they're not being duped and receiving nothing as they would if they were being scammed. 

It's more about do you have the patience to keep playing to unlock items for free, or do you want instant gratification by paying and unlocking it now?

blkgto
blkgto

@rising_k Because it's about money.  There would be no incentive for people to produce anything otherwise.  Nobody wants to toil away for hours and hours over years and years to simply hand you something you can entertain yourself with, without any type of compensation.  


And games were expensive in the 90's too.  People always forget to factor in the inflation. 

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

@SmartAlec711 From my limited experience, those who pay up initially do have an advantage over someone who doesn't. But over time that advantage becomes less and less because the person going the free route will eventually gain access to those same items; it'll just take them longer to do so.

MikeLirette
MikeLirette

@Vodoo What about a free to play model like League of Legends? You can get EVERYTHING, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING in the game for free, BUT if you want to, you could drop $10 to get something you want NOW. It gives a person choice. If you want to spend money to get stuff faster, go ahead, if you don't, you can get it just by playing the game, and no one has any more advantage over you. :) It's perfect.

Aletunda
Aletunda

@Mr_Mark_Legion This is where I'm torn, yes if a game is absolutely free, I have no qualms with advertisement (because thats what funds the game essentially) however if I am paying for a service, or game, or microtransactions, it would frustrate me to see adverts, I despise xbox live, I am paying a premium service fee each year, and yet my dashboard still has advertisements on it, irrespective if it is just 1 add or 100 ads, there is no just reason to put them on my screen if I have forked out the $90AUD a year. 

kohle36
kohle36

@Mr_Mark_Legion They're looking to increase revenue from the move, so it means one of three things for game design:

1) Game content will be locked behind multiple successive paywalls. In single player, this may mean paying to unlock story / mission content, or it may be additional areas / sidequests added later (either way you will not be able to access 100% of the game without paying more than $60). In multiplayer, this usually means pay-tier equipment that is designed to break gameplay for non-paying customers

2) Game design will revolve around the exploitation of particular well documented mental illnesses, including gambling addiction and OCD (with completionist tendencies). Single-use items and 'booster packs', as well as slot-machine item acquisition and other gambling mechanics will feature heavily in the game. These will normally be supplemented by 'deals of the day', to make a player believe they are saving money through spending it


3) Your game world turns into a billboard


So, either you have to pay more overall in small increments to access a game's features and content; game design will revolve more around repetitive, addicting behaviours than things like 'fun'; or Commander Shepard will be eating Doritos in cutscenes and have a Coke logo shaved into his head, while the walls of the Normandy will all be plastered with images of this year's Ford Focus.

So yeah, there's really no way this results in a better experience for gamers.

kryotech
kryotech

@Mr_Mark_Legion If the games are designed well, some of them are designed (badly) in a way that gives people who do micro transactions an advantage.

voltronxd
voltronxd

@anonymousicko We......you?

Ovirew
Ovirew

@lifegee13 I'd really like to play that game, but can't on my old laptop.  I would like to see it come to console, even if it's multi-plat.

Keaze_
Keaze_

@X-RS Kotick doesn't need F2P.  He holds all the "weak parents" cards.  Parents won't put a 0.99$ Megasupersmash sword on their credit card.  They will put a 67$ rehashed generic shooter and " ?? $ " DLCs (never bought one).

Keaze_
Keaze_

@CCGR_Pheonix Valve makes money by respecting its customers and giving us no reason to not trust them (which is very rare nowadays).  If they start messing around, they know they will lose their fanbase.

Keaze_
Keaze_

@hadlee73 So what you're saying is that you will support the rise of the microtransactions model?  Good strategy.  Do you make the relation that if you support the F2P, AAA titles will disappear?

Keaze_
Keaze_

@MikeLirette @Vodoo But those small "somethings" are so cheap!  "I'll buy this... oh there's that also."  It's kind of like PSN and Xbox Live cards.  "This is 14,99$, I'll buy a 20$ card so I will have 5$ left.  Yay i have 5$ in my wallet!  Cool!  That game is 9.99$ its cheap! Wait I only have 5$.  Here, I'll buy another 20$ card.  Yay I have 15$ in my wallet!  Oh crap that game is 19.99.  Well, I'll buy a 50$ card so that next time I won't have to buy another card for a while."  And this goes on and on and on.  And It always appears cheap because you already have some money in your wallet (Money that you PAID FOR at first).

Mr_Mark_Legion
Mr_Mark_Legion

@kohle36 understood. i just hate how they call it f2p when it clearly needds a different name to reflect what it is they will be doing.

Aletunda
Aletunda

@Keaze_ @MikeLirette @Vodoo Yeah thats how they have designed it to work (especially with ms) but at the end of the day, it is your money, and you dont have to buy anything.