Ubisoft: free-to-play, microtransactions essential to future of AAA games

Jade Raymond says there is now an "expectation" that gamers should be able to try for free and buy only what they want; about 10 AAA games per year can still be viable.

Free-to-play business models and microtransactions are essential to the future of AAA games, Ubisoft Toronto manager Jade Raymond told The Guardian in an interview published today. She said this is a natural evolution of gamer habits and that developers like Ubisoft need to find out how to keep these ideas in mind when creating new games.

"Absolutely. We can't help it," Raymond said. "The audience for games is becoming broader and even core gamers who are used to buying games in boxes, are spending more of their time on mobile. So whether it's long-term gamers or the new generation who started out by playing free games on the web or mobile, we have a whole bunch of people who've been trained to think differently about the way they spend money on games."

Raymond said players today expect to be able to try before they buy and spend money only on what they want to. If developers like Ubisoft can't figure out how to produce AAA game experiences with this in mind, these gamers will look for their entertainment elsewhere, she argued.

"There's an expectation to be able to try for free, and only spend money if they want to. We have to figure out how to make that type of thing work with console games as well," she said.

Raymond still does believe that blockbuster AAA titles can coexist with free-to-play and microtransaction-based games, but the market can only sustain about 10 of these big-budget games per year, she argued.

"Well, I think there's still room for really great triple A games that can, despite the budget, retain the classic model of expecting people to pay in one big chunk. There's still room for that," Raymond said. "But the big publishers have to be honest with themselves--there's only room for let's say 10 successful titles a year on those sorts of budgets. So you have to go all-in on those; you have to be sure you'll have a hit, and when you make it you have to invest everything to make sure it's amazing."

Raymond and Ubisoft Toronto are currently working on Splinter Cell: Blacklist, due out for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on August 20.

Written By

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

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Discussion

572 comments
shawnAU
shawnAU

I might add to the cynicism by saying microtransactions are a failed marketing concept that doesn't respect the product your selling.

Sefrix
Sefrix moderator

Isn't that what a Demo is? You try it for free, and if you like the game and want to play it you pay for it.

Or does she mean "We've found a way to get people to spend even more than $60 on our games." I think they should sell the next Assassin Creed game on the TV. Call now and it can be yours! Just 4 easy payments of $29.95! 

indzman
indzman

jade needs to get laid

chechak7
chechak7

omg Jade Raymond  is back .... assassins root legends ....love here 

Drkr_Zen
Drkr_Zen

Only things I got from this article are Ubisoft is getting dumber by the day and Jade Raymond is pretty hot. 

ampiva
ampiva

What a bunch of idiots. They deserve to fail.

jark888
jark888

We'll tell you what's essential to the future of game!!!

Munstable
Munstable

I would prefer episodic content than microtransactions bullshit.

Succumbus
Succumbus

Didn't even look at this title of this article. Wowzers what a babe.

St0Ne4Ge
St0Ne4Ge

Hate cash shops, you can pay ten times the asking price for a normal game and still not get everything, or you can spend your whole life grinding out the game and not get anything close to all of the content. I don't spend anything on free-to-play games because so far none of them have offered any value for money and they take all of the progression out of the game, you don't earn new weapons or whatever, you just pay for them. Then the developers spend all of their time making crap to sell in the cash shop instead of making meaningful content like maps, modes and features.

I'll never get into the free-to-play with a cash shop model, doesn't matter how much they tell us we need it. I bet it's much more profitable though, a lot of people out there with a lot more money than sense, once you see them drop hundreds on little virtual items, only a fool would let them go all-in for £60.

rad8045
rad8045

Fact is casual games are out selling hardcore games one houndred times fold, being that game devs are out to make lots of money which way do you think they will go ? The western world is only about one thing these days making profits and selling to the masses.

vackillers
vackillers

Another terrible idea coming out of the gaming industry... I swear its like these people have absolutely no clue how to make games anymore... its fucking pathetic...Grow some brains, gets some balls, and release QUALITY games and you'll never have an issue like companies have with sale numbers. Ubisoft is already in financial trouble and if they were to go down this road with most of their games, and using that god awefull UPlay, then they are seriously going to fade away in 3 years.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZxXEidtxHk&feature=player_embedded#at=1951[/youtube]

coop36
coop36

Or they could just be crazy and i dunno.. have a decent demo lol? Thanks for another reason to not be optimistic about gaming/Ubisofts bleak future jade. They thought always online DRM was "the future" too lol.

SiLenTWarrior29
SiLenTWarrior29

Just give me 3 and a half minutes... maybe even 4. She be like F**K MICROTRANSACTIONS!!

toshineon
toshineon

I wonder if crap like this has anything to do with Game starting to sell retro games again? Anyways, I'm off to enjoy some PS2 and Xbox games... complete, without a trace of micro-transactions.

motorxd
motorxd

While I have not concerned myself with Ubisoft for years,  I'm still considering walking down  to throw eggs at their building, even if it is a waste of good protein.

ioshilee
ioshilee

The lemming horde of casual gamers and housewives is ruling the industry... "If developers like Ubisoft can't figure out how to produce AAA game experiences with this in mind, these gamers will look for their entertainment elsewhere". I say - good riddance! Core gamers want a solid, whole game, without hordes of ppl making it, but with great gameplay. Look at Wasteland 2 pre-alpha - it looks greater then those "AAA blockbusters" crap that they mass-produce these days...

DESTROYRS_F8
DESTROYRS_F8

Yeah, I wanted this nice gun in Gun Bros. from Glu, but the damned thing will cost me almost $1K!  yeah, micro transactions.  more like a ripoff than an overpriced DLC from Activision.

Rhizon15
Rhizon15

No no no no no no no no nooooo NOOOO.

Don't do this Ubi. I love having games that I can pay for only ONCE. If you add MP, ok, whatever. I might/might not play it. But adding micros does NOT compel me to automatically try something out that needs more cash out of my pocket.

Again, NOOOOOO.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

This article makes me sad.

I like you Ubisoft, but please don't go all EA/Activision on our ass :(

Brotelho
Brotelho

So instead of paying $60, you pay over $100 for "The full experience". Like I want my game console asking me if I want to buy the next level every time I beat a boss. I'd rather used games be banned than this crap.

megamanmatt450
megamanmatt450

Meh. TBH I think the recent rise in developers seeking funding through kickstart programs is a glimpse into the future. If you can cut out the middle men(aka. game producers) more money goes to the developer so they can maintain talent, create new technology, and find better more effective uses of current technology. I don't honestly see EA surviving another decade if that trend continues, The provide nothing and take far larger shares of the profit than they are deserving of. Just my two cents however.

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

Since there's always going to be a CoD, a Madden, a FIFA, an EA military shooter, and an Assassin's Creed each year, guess that means there's only room for 5 more "AAA" games per year.

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

Demos are nice, more developers should try that... Hell there's so many games that don't have demos and just lie to you in an advert instead... I don't tend to buy those games. Lets try having a demo of every game, let people play the first lvl or 20 minutes of a game before being asked to pay for it, is it really a suprise that people have gotten bored of spending money on a game just to find out it's shit?

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

I'd argue that the real problem is that AAA game budgets have gone beserk over the last gen and instead of finding ways to become more efficient while maintaining high quality people like Ms. Raymond and the fine folks over at EA keep spouting the same line of nonsense.

Without significant changes the current pay to win model won't work as a viable large scale business model. And developers or publishers who are betting their company that it is are not going to be in the core game business for much longer. Go ask Zynga how the casual pay to win business is going for them.

Edragonxx
Edragonxx

Jade Raymond and Ubisoft please go and F*** YOURSELF! This is BS! No core gamesr are interested about game with microtransactions. It's just stupid escuses from Ubisoft and EA to add microtransactions to game. We want old cool games without microtransactions. You guys ruined gaming last 5 years. You make every game multiplayer shooters! But what gamers really want? We want games like Fallout II, Jaggedl Alliances, Might and Magic 3, Dungeon keepers. Neverwinter Nights, Dune, C&C. WITHOUT MICROTRANSACTIONS! many gamers buy that stupid games with microtransactions because they are weak to make boicott for game developers who do it. But still there is many players who boycot today any game with microtransactions. Thats why your game selling numbers falling! And because you make all old cool games to multiplayer shooters is another reason why numbers falling! I myself is with them. I do not bought any games with microtransactions on console! And I never will. I sit withour games and read book but I am refusing to pay double! And look this year games list. 2013 is most horrible and boring year ever! Every year I buy 12-15 games per year. This year I bought none! And now when they say that Disney canceled Star Wars 1313 too. Then probably I buy this year only one game: Watch Dogs! But if they add there microtransactions too, then I buy 0 games this year!


rocketsatdawn
rocketsatdawn

Well I agree with the last statement. It generally has to be a decent game for someone to be willing to pay £40 for it, but still, making micro-transactions the norm will probably only lead onto bad things in the long run; More half assed, incomplete games and pay to keep playing templates. The last statement does kind of suggest that micro-transactions will allow big publishers to put less into a game. That doesn't seem like a good thing to me.

Anyway, the argument about trialing the game first is complete rubbish. You can already try games for free, it's called a demo and it means that you wont have to download an entire game to decide whether you want to put money into it or not.

Blazvatan
Blazvatan

I believe the only Free-To-Play game I actually enjoyed and actually got the model right was Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). What they did right was make everything that you could buy with real money, possible to be unlocked in the game without spending a single dime. I unlocked many different regions and features just by playing the game like anyone else would. I highly enjoyed the experience! They even had sales that drastically reduced the prices on expensive quest areas and allowed you to further enjoy the game. You can argue how fun LOTRO actually is, but you can't beat how they ran their Free-To-Play model. You could tell that they were not just in it for the money, but that really enjoyed their own game and the community.

-ArchAngeL-777-
-ArchAngeL-777-

I dont have a problem with FTP.  Would you rather pay $60, then another $50 or so for premium memberships?  That's what's going on now.   FTP games actually get great support because they do make the money necessary to keep upgrading the game.  DCUO is a perfect example on PS3.  Nothing second rate about it.  Even HOME is making a ton of money and adding spaces, games, etc. all the time.

Goddammitj
Goddammitj

Decent demo. Done.



But they cant make as much money this way. Its no secret that business is ultimately driven by greed.

koospetoors
koospetoors

Oh please, its only viable because it allows companies to even further nickle and dime players into oblivion (like those rip-off $5 DLC packs aren't enough).

*sigh* I can already see myself telling my grandchildren how in the old days we actually got full games by paying only once as they come asking for my credit card details so they can buy ammo on Battlefield 27.

SauhlGood
SauhlGood

bs this is all about using the microtransaction model to make more money and a cheaper product overall, but the sheep in the market have shown these companies that they will hand over their money for very very low expectations

Valen_Ca
Valen_Ca

"There's an expectation to be able to try for free, and only spend money if they want to".

You know I am sure that this has been mentioned may times before but honestly I remember them doing stuff like this years ago, they were called free, playable demos released around the same time as the game, people got to play the game for free and paid for it if they liked it. 

Master_cheat001
Master_cheat001

I can't complete Dead Space 3 without DLC or MicTrans, please help!!!

.... Said none ever!!!! So please stop bitching about producer being greedy. You pay your money, not anyone else.

muzza93
muzza93

so Gamings funeral will be held on June 10 2017 hope to see you all there.        PS. entry $10, eulogy $20, sign up to Funeral Elite only $60 a month 

Virtual_Erkan
Virtual_Erkan

f**k gaming industry! I want games, not silly micro transacted f2ps! F2Ps suck! I miss those good old days in PS2 era. No DLCs, microtransactions etc. RIP video gaming.

coop36
coop36

@vackillers Fantastic mini-documentary. Ive had similar thoughts lately, but he presents a much more thorough and coherent case. .

quakke
quakke

@Spartan_418
@ "Since there's always going to be a CoD."

I've come to a conclusion that this whole casual "gaming" is just a huge fad that will eventually pass like every other fad. There eventually is going to be something that outperforms videogaming for the casual mass. See GoGo's and yojo's. No more those in the public eye.

quakke
quakke

@Edragonxx  

Agreed. 

Talk about how EA has failed. Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (2010) was supposed to be tribute/going back to roots release and instead it's a total casual's paradise. Every road is straight forward without turns (wtf), braking is ridiciously handholded and talk about NFS not having MANUAL TRANSMISSION.

ShimmeringSword
ShimmeringSword

@-ArchAngeL-777- Why must "over priced" and "over priced" be the only two options? Remember when we used to buy a game once, for a normal price, and that was it? They even gave us DLC grade content for free in regular patches.

DESTROYRS_F8
DESTROYRS_F8

@koospetoors wish you could tell me where I could get $5 DLC packs because the $15 DLC packs I'm getting feel like fraud.

Blazvatan
Blazvatan

@Master_cheat001 I understand what you are saying, but the general argument is against the principle of adding in micro-transactions and creating free-to-play games. Obviously, we don't need to buy all of these extra purchases to beat the game, but they never should of existed in the first place. As consumers we should expect to get a full game if we pay a full price. To clarify, I am not against DLC that comes out after the full game is finished. It is rather nice to play a whole new section of a favorite game, but I am against a company attempting to get more money out of me for a stripped down game. To reiterate what many others have said, "We speak with our wallets." Let's not tell these companies that we want to continue down this path by spending money on their games.