PopCap CEO defends free-to-play

Dave Roberts acknowledges that business model "can be flawed," but doesn't think users will have issues with Plants vs. Zombies 2.

PopCap CEO Dave Roberts has spoken out to defend the free-to-play business model employed in his studio's latest game Plants vs. Zombies 2.

Speaking with Geekwire, Roberts said he does not agree with the notion that free-to-play games are inherently out to take advantage of gamers. Instead, he said the free-to-play model allows games to reach more people.

"We've gotten a lot of flak in the games industry for going free-to-play," Roberts said. "Everyone is: 'free-to-play is so evil.' But, part of it is, look, we can now talk to a million people in a day or two million people in a day or five million people, or whatever it is going to end up with today. That's a huge deal. People forget that freemium can really be a great thing because we are really showing a lot of people the game, and they are excited about it."

Roberts acknowledged that, like any other business model, the free-to-play business "can be flawed, or it can be great." The difference lies in execution, he said.

"With PVZ, we have a pretty important brand here and we are trying to protect it," Roberts said. "Even the old game, the PVZ game, here years later, has millions of active daily users. It is a game that people love to play over and over."

Ultimately, Roberts said Plants vs. Zombies 2 uses its free-to-play model in a way that "preserves what we believe is the great game experience and customer experience."

It's not only PopCap that believes in the free-to-play model. Roberts pointed out that paid games are not often found near the top of the highest-grossing charts on iTunes or Google Play.

"That's the sad truth," Roberts said. "People have decided that free-to-play is a better way for them to monetize. And some of the purists would argue that the industry has made them do that."

Plants vs. Zombies 2 launched for iOS yesterday in North America after a soft launch in Australia and New Zealand last month. The game will be available for additional platforms later.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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191 comments
swampkid84
swampkid84

Lol this is unreal. All the people bashing the sequel are doing 1 of 2 things:


1) Either you just suck at the game and can't progress, mistakenly thinking you HAVE to pay for upgrades, which you absolutely, positively DO NOT. I've almost beat the game and haven't had to pay a single cent or farm AT ALL. The truth is, it IS more difficult than the 1st game, which I actually like cuz the 1st one, although it was fun, was a little too easy. CHALLENGE YOURSELVES! THINK!


2) You're just ridiculing another free-to-play game cuz u can't control your own urges to pay for upgrades, even though this one does NOT by ANY means shove them down your throat like most other games.


I fucking love this game and happen to think it's a step up from the first cuz it's more challenging and has several different dimensions to the game that the old one didn't while maintaining the original game's feel and fun factor. All the haters need to chill the f*** out and work those brain muscles. You're probably the same ppl who think you need to pay real money to progress in Candy Crush lol

DWalker131
DWalker131

isn't "Gunbound" Free to Play ?, that game is alright isn't it ?, i think it had an option to turn turn off all the crazy mods people purchased, that worked didn't it ?

BarkingSpider81
BarkingSpider81

Just enjoy the game. It's fun as hell. There's my opinion, so I'm going to have 50 people telling me I'm right, and 50 people telling me to burn in hell.

alucardswrath
alucardswrath

Damn.  The gaming industry and their games just have no souls in them anymore. They claim they work endless hours, starve, nearly died, some had to cut one of their ears off, even more got divorced because of their hard hours worked............And they come up with games.....like this...

lonesamurai1
lonesamurai1

The free-to-play model allows games to reach more people. Yeah reach more people and steal their money. Boy i was really looking forward to playing that on PC to, but now i really don't think i will. That is why no one ever listens to EA when they speak, because all they care about is nickle and diming customers. They say things like we have to do a better job and gain the customers trust. They will never change. They have taken an interesting looking game and instantly turned it into free to play trash. Next gen gamers beware don't believe EA and Dice about Battlefield 1080p 60fps it's lip service.

pupp3t_mast3r
pupp3t_mast3r

It's not so much that free to play models are inherently bad but its more that so many games that incorporate them do so in a way to bleed their users dry.

Plants vs Zombies 2 sadly sticks to the majority given that every piece of additional content requires either a cash out or a couple of hours of farming (of completely varying difficulty). I played the original for weeks on end and kept coming back for more. I played the sequel for about 3-4 hours and haven't touched it since.

So good work, you've reach a whole lot more people but just alienated your original fan-base, and not to mention this is one gamer who wouldn't be going back to the Plants vs Zombie franchise anytime soon. Hope that put you on top of the highest grossing charts on iTunes and Google Play.

SauhlGood
SauhlGood

"preserves what we believe is the great game experience and customer experience."

-PopCap

if its pay to win, you can forget it.

commanderxp90
commanderxp90

I love that great video. I wish they should work on Plants vs Zombies movie.  I don't give a shit about the money and just love playing it as free game.

mischiefmeerkat
mischiefmeerkat

whatever happened to full, complete games, for one decent price..?

All this free to play, dlc, IAP stuff is just bait and switch sleazery and greedy nickel and diming.

We used to have timeless classics like Lunar, Xenogears, and  others. now we have half finished, forgettable, digital rentals.

CrackDima
CrackDima

stop saying "its all about money" It IS ALL About money!  Anyone who runs a successful business is concerned about money 1st.  You can get the game for FREE and play through it till you are bored...for FREE.  And there will be some who don't have a problem with throwing in $5 to get some more content.  Hell, even if you spend $30, you don't think that's worth 15+ hours of gameplay?  Most of you are trolls who just want to complain about things, yet you have no idea how the economy works.  The F2P model has been around for many years.  So if you are complaining about it today, you should also complain about cell phones charging extra per month for a smart phone.  Get with the times, and move on.  Ive finished the thread

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

the main reasons companies are going for free to play then to pay is for the kids.
it works like this...

- kid wants a game to play
- parent is happy to install a free to play game, costing nothing
- kid gets addicted to game
- kid wants in app purchases
- kid figures out what parents password is
- kid spends $300 on i app purchases.
- a single kid is worth 300 users when a normal app is $0.99

and i work in the game app industry!

advocacy
advocacy

Free-to-play is like cancer to gaming.

Daian
Daian

"It's not only PopCap that believes in the free-to-play model. Roberts pointed out that paid games are not often found near the top of the highest-grossing charts on iTunes or Google Play."

Well no shit Einstein, those are mobile platforms that non gamers usually play on, so of course most people don't pay up front to play on a phone.

berserker66666
berserker66666

If you still have any brain left (Get it? Brainnnnzz), you would stay away from this "Fee - To -Pay" nonsense. Never trust EA, or anyone under EA.

berserker66666
berserker66666

EA came, EA saw, EA destroyed Plants vs Zombies. FUCK U EA

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

Free-to-play usually = pay-to-win. How can you honestly expect any respectable gamer to be happy with that premise?

S0mEGuY12
S0mEGuY12

I was pretty delighted to hear that PvZ2 was free. Although I DO think that all the pay to win crap defeats the purpose of any challenge the game may provide. Why the hell would I spend like 4 bucks to unlock a powerup that I can just get normally by playing? Just consider these would be paywalls as making the game more challenging. I mean its not as if the game is unplayable or impossible without these pay to win features.

jrabbit99
jrabbit99

I had no clue its F2P! Best news I've heard all day!

TheCyborgNinja
TheCyborgNinja

If I can do everything the game offers without paying for it, I'm fine with the freemium model. Otherwise, just let me buy the game once and have everything.

MigGui
MigGui

free to play is the only way to go on mobile. it's surprisingly easier to make someone pay $5 to enjoy some benefits in a game they already play for free and enjoy than making them pay $1 to test the game.

and he is right when he says "it can be flawed, or it can be great, the difference lies in execution". shit is, pvz2 is on the flawed side. $20 to have all (6) plants you unlocked by playing in pvz, highly strategic useful plants everyone wanted at least to try. $14 for upgrades that scream "pay-to-win". and as much money as you want to spend on coins that can be obtained playing, and are used only as cheating interventions from above. all for a game that should cost $5 at most, for a full experience. it's sad.

i would love if they just made unlocking everything possible just by playing, and for the lazy bastards that couldn't wait, sold for real money the keys, early unlocking plants and upgrades... that's good use of f2p.

percech
percech

free-to-play games are only about taking advantage of consumers. It's all about money...just look at Marvel War of Heroes.

obsequies
obsequies

pvz2 is a bit more childish, obviously less original and has a few technical issues such as lazy stretching tactics for older idevice displays. It stretches to fit so it seems slightly blurry (16x9 - 16x10). Performance tweaking and proper aspect/resolution slops are not that surprising on android but in the ios world with such a large franchise its more concerning. The games not bad but with all these things put together it just makes the the whole ftp and EA mix seem very undesirable. Doesn't quite kill the classic but its definitely not the same.

epichotcheese
epichotcheese

Another soul claimed by the evil empire. One of the greatest casual game ruined with the absurd amount of in-app purchases and pay-to-win mode. I think I hate EA more than North Korea and the middle east combined.

jnco10999
jnco10999

Sounds like EA has a hand in what he says to the public. Like I've said time and time again, fuck EA.

telaros
telaros

Of COURSE you're going to reach more people if its FREE dumb ass. Casuals play a game for a few minutes to an hour and go on to the NEXT FREE game they can find that's better.

If you want to cash in on the "You liked the last one? Cool we got a Free-to-Pay sequel right up your other alley!" then that's fine. Don't mean you got to make excuses for just wanting to cash in on the accidental buys and children clicking on shit they shouldn't be clicking and raking up huge debts. (seriously parents, try keeping your kids away from your stuff if you're not gonna supervise them.)


Just don't take too long to release a PC version with all the stuff those ADHD cheap skates may or may not actually pay for. But yeah, stop trying to defend Freemium like its an end all solution that 'makes sense'. Its bullshit corporate cashcowing that want bigger numbers and short term fixes.

Reality is that EA and others like you have just been destroying the gaming community with your whoring and greed of taxing gamers and selling shit back to them they already bought in the excuse of DLC and shady Season Passes.


Next Gen is going to fail simply because everyone forgot why fucking gaming was ever even became a thing you greedy corporate scumbags!

waggs
waggs

A single player puzzle game does not make the transition to a free-to-play business model without some serious sacrifices.  Namely, a free-to-play business model forces designers to either 1. Remove content and put it behind a pay-wall.  2. Remove playability and put it behind a pay wall. 3. Remove balance and put overpowered pay-to-win items behind a pay-wall.  4. Cosmetic fluff behind a pay-wall.



hinzkunz
hinzkunz

If all these guys who offer FTP-Games are such fucking saints, who just want to give the customer the best possible experience for as little cost as possbile, why don't they offer the game in 2 versions.

FTP where you have to shell out for all the extras and ...

a 20,-- $ to 60,-- $ version (depending on the game) where everything is included in the game and you do not even have the option to buy further stuff?

No? Oh, who would have thought. So in fact they do not do it for the good of the customer, but because they are money-grubbers who want to squeeze the customer for as much of their money as possible. Plain and simple.

picho86
picho86

So sad that a good developer had to sign away his freedom, like many others before him to EA.

I doubt he really believes in what he said. Whatever are his beliefs, he says here what he has to say. It might sound a bit extreme, but that's the state of the industry right now. Huge publishers but small developers and abuse them to death.

Mr_Big_Boss
Mr_Big_Boss

Remember folks, this guy gets his paycheck from EA now.

swampkid84
swampkid84

@BarkingSpider81 Exactly. The haters just want to be able to breeze through the game. If not, they tell themselves, "UGH! It's the upgrades! They're the only way!" lol. They can't fathom that maybe just MAYBE…they just suck at the game? Cuz my gf already beat it with 0 cents paid and no farming. And I'm almost through myself. Ppl are always gonna find a way to complain about something…even when it's a fun a** game that's MEANT to be fun. They can't just sit down, play the darn game, and say no thanks and hit the X button any time it asks u to pay, which this game hardly EVER does anyway. Ridiculous

MJ-X
MJ-X

@TheLightElf Not really, micro transactions in a game as massive as GTAV can you imagine the amount of content that will be ripped out? from clothes to haircuts to cars and areas along with enhanced abilities.

i preer a one time purchase with all that, thats why i avoid F2p games and go after ones that have a price tag.

swampkid84
swampkid84

@pupp3t_mast3r Wrong. No money and no farming required whatsoever. So "bleed their users dry" makes no sense. They offer those monetary upgrades to ppl who THINK it's the only way, so they WILLINGLY on their OWN accord pay to continue playing a game they enjoy (or else why would they pay?)

Seymour47
Seymour47

@mischiefmeerkat Only the indie developers make those anymore. That's why I spend most of my money there now.

NettoSaito
NettoSaito

@advocacy So you're saying you'd rather pay $15 a month to play a MMORPG that could be free to play, with an item mall to buy extras that aren't required?

lunarsword
lunarsword

@TheCyborgNinja typically, F2P games will allow you to get everything through just playing, but you will spend ludicrous amounts of time to get them.  usually about 5x the time necessary.  it works by making the player feel rushed, frustrated, or bored of the repetition to get them to just open their wallets to ease the pain.  it literally is just like being a drug dealer, taking more of your money to ease off your withdrawal symptoms.  if i see a game on iTunes as Free, i immediately ignore it.

YaelleG
YaelleG

@jnco10999 hey I was wondering - is it that the PVZ franchise is now owned by Popcap and Popcap is owned by EA?  I wasn't aware that the piece of shit company EA was involved in all this.  
What a shame. 
Would anybody like to take a trip with me to their HQ to throw dog feces at the building?  Find me on Facebook and...ok maybe I had better not say that.

ree264
ree264

@telaros Thank you... you actually have a point, all ive seen is people asskissing this game. I HATE F2P games, they encourage you to pay for crap that breaks the game for everyone else, and your paying for more than the game is!

TheLightElf
TheLightElf

@MJ-X @TheLightElf You could purchase other cars that you wouldn't normally be able to buy in-game, as well as other stuff like perks, clothing, even cheats.

pupp3t_mast3r
pupp3t_mast3r

@swampkid84 @pupp3t_mast3r Ok let me start with "No and no farming required whatsoever". My whole argument should be taken in context with the original Plants vs Zombies game, the one released before PopCap was bought out by EA.


With the original you had access to all the levels for a fixed price and the game actually introduced you to a well developed difficulty curve. Eased into various unique game mechanics and took it's time with letting you figure out your own strategies but gradually showing you each plant's strength and weaknesses.


Plants vs Zombies 2 does none of that, the difficulty curve is completely erratic unless you pay for all the levels. If you don't wish to pay you have to "farm" your stars by repeating levels you've already completed. Initially the difficulty increases with each completion seem a bit steep but fair. But if you kept with the game the difficulty jumps become erratic with some levels being outright impossible with the limitations the game forces on you, meaning you have to use the new "god power" mechanics to even the odds. This throws out the difficulty curve, and by making you play levels that increasingly decrease your ability to strategize and try out your own tactics it forces you into fixed solutions for every level.


Plants vs Zombies 2 pays homage to the original only in the sense that it's under the skin of "Plants vs Zombies". The game looks the same but at it's core plays very differently. The tweaks made to the games mechanics rather than improving the overall experience only serve to undermine it with this sequel. And it's clear to see why, rather than offering customers a means of just paying once for a game they opted towards having the potential to charging them as many as times as possible. Before going ballistic note that I used the word "potential".


I should also point you towards another tower defense game that has micro-transactions and a fixed price which I absolutely adore and would gladly pay even $20 for the next iteration in their IP. Kindom Rush.

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

@picho86 @cousinmerl problem is that i'm more annoyed with apple for making a paid app chart system where the base sales price is $0.99 if you sell any high people wont buy it and it wont be seen in the chart..
Not in the charts wont be sold, make nothing!

People are actually damaging developers as much as we're trying to sting them! Plus piracy is rampant and by having in-app purchases part of free to play it forces uses to use legal purchases in order unlock items.
you can hack these of course but you have to go through allot of hoops to understand how. far easier to pay the 0.99 cents.

in reality we expect our apps to sell for around $5 - $10 but people just aren't willing to spend that. so we need to sell to the cheats to get our money back. its hard work and we don't all make millions some of make negative thousands!

picho86
picho86

@NettoSaito @advocacy How about neither?

I haven't seen an interesting MMO yet. But, if I were to play one, a fee is reasonable if they keep updating, and free to play only works if the market only offers cosmetic upgrades.

swampkid84
swampkid84

@pupp3t_mast3r @swampkid84 And I forgot to mention at the beginning of that last post, neither of us have had to replay an old level to farm and progress in the game. Not even once.

picho86
picho86

@cousinmerl Only that's not the case. The problem with free to play is that the game is designed with how to squeeze the most money out of customers in mind. It trumps everything else.

The game doesn't have to be fun, only addictive, and in order to satisfy the addiction, the customer has to pay more and more.

Candy Crush right now is a horrible example. You can play for free, only that if you want to play for more than a few minutes a day, you have to either pay or to get other people hooked.


cousinmerl
cousinmerl

also the kids reference is more of a extreme one.

personally I'd pref kids just to spend $1 to $5 and then we'll be happy.

lunarsword
lunarsword

@picho86 @NettoSaito @advocacy I would prefer going back to Ultima Online before playing any of the newer MMO trash.  $10 a month (when I played anyway) for a complete, fun, and engrossing online game experience.