Love it or hate it, PlayStation's free-to-play business is booming

Revenues up 50 percent year-over-year, company says today during Game Developers Conference.

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The free-to-play business at PlayStation is booming. Today during a Game Developers Conference presentation, Sony revealed a handful of statistics that the company says speaks to the "huge potential" of free-to-play on PlayStation.

Across PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, free-to-play revenues are up 50 percent year-over-year, Sony said. The company did not, however, disclose specific revenue figures.

There are currently around a dozen free-to-play titles available today across PS3 and PS4, Sony said. Some of the big ones are Blacklight: Retribution, Warframe, and DC Universe Online. Sony is also working on PS4 versions of Planetside 2 and EverQuest Next.

Here are some other statistics Sony revealed today during the presentation.

PlayStation 3:

  • ARPPU (average revenue per paying user) comparable to PC ranges
  • Consumers use PlayStation 3 more hours/week than any other console
  • Most engaged consumers who spend the most money

PlayStation 4:

  • ARPPU skewing higher than PlayStation 3
  • Over 90 percent of PS4s connected to the Internet
  • Over 80 percent of users have downloaded digital content

All:

  • Free-to-play revenue up 50 percent year-over-year
  • Conversion rates (from free to paying) vary from 3-15 percent
  • Average play sessions upwards of 90 minutes

PlayStation's free-to-play business hasn't been without its struggles, however. Speaking during the panel today, Zombie Studios (Blacklight: Retribution) studio director Jared Gerritzen said he's been frustrated by how long Sony's certification process takes for game updates. This is especially pressing, he said, because free-to-play games need to release new content regularly to keep players engaged.

PlayStation free-to-play manager Sarah Thomson said Sony is aware of developers' concerns surrounding patch certification turnarounds and pledged that Sony will get quicker going forward.

Gerritzen also warned of the doubled-edged sword of microtransactions. He said this business model can be problematic if developers don't design with the consumer in mind.

"Free-to-play can go down a very dark road," Gerritzen said.

Do you play free-to-play games? Let us know in the comments below.

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