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


  • 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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Avatar image for jako998

Hopefully Microsoft takes notes from this and make F2P game F2P and not require you to have Gold membership. Plus I hope they get rid of their Paywall. it needs to go.

Avatar image for blackace

<< LINK REMOVED >> They need to get rid of their paywall for F2P games and subscription apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, UFC, Redbook, etc... Those shouldn't be part of XBL Gold. They dod have f2P games like Happy Wars, Ascend: Hand of Kul & Spartacus. More free MMO games are coming as well.

Avatar image for kargion

Love f2p when its not pay to win. Look at things like PS2 and dota2. Games play great, and are balanced with out you putting in a dime.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

As long as F2P means things like Warframe of Path of Exile (PC, but works as example) then bring em on!

Just keep the casual rubish "Zinga Style" in FB, where it belongs.

Avatar image for ahmazinskm

I've played Warframe for over 200 hours. That's more than most games I had to pay for. It's had a couple of significant updates, with editional warframes and weapons and accessories. So I had no problem, supporting the developer with my hard earned cash, that I would have gladly paid to own it in the first place. Warframe, in my eyes has done F2P right. You don't have to pay to progress through the game. If you never buy a single platinum pack, you progress, just like everyone else, from playing.

It's funny how people act as if grinding through the game, to progress through a game, is a bad thing. That's what gaming is all about. Playing a game to progress, get better.

Avatar image for Xx_DemonSoul_xX

Who is the moron spending money on these mediocre games? Smart people play free and just grind. These games are usually the same boring, no story multiplayer first person shooter, tank driver, etc.. with different backgrounds and weapons. Some are set in the future, some in the past. Most, not all, but most F2P games are unfinished messes with cookie cutter content from poor devs looking to cash in on the formula where you either grind or you pay. Sometimes it is balanced, most often it is not and favors the payer. And why shouldn't it? The goal is to make money not entertain you. The problem with this model is you never get very many great games or SP experiences. You also reduce gaming to the old arcade days where every continue, every item, every collectable costs another quarter in the machine. Arcades worked because we didn't have the ability to bring the technology in the home. But now we next gen consoles and high powered PCs. We don't need to nickel and dime everyone. F2P is a never ending cash cow. You never pay for a finished product but instead constantly spend. One dev in favor of F2P called it Free to Invest. That speaks volumes.

Sadly... stupid people will continue to spend money on this crap.

Avatar image for Aaronp2k

<< LINK REMOVED >> "These games are usually the same boring, no story multiplayer first person shooter".

Sounds a lot like titan fall, and you have to pay full price for that game. in other words, there are worse things out there than free to play.

Avatar image for kargion

<< LINK REMOVED >> Just because a game is f2p doesn't make it crap. I have played worse 60 dollar games that have 5 packs of dlc.

Avatar image for hitomo

downfall of the industry ... f2p = grind / no ideas / only Money draining / its virtual crack

warframe is an never finished prototype game that is now sold in uber expensive chunks to junks

(yes, I played it for quit a time)

nothing, NOTHING beats traditionally developed full Price games

just when succeeded in achieving a Status of cultural relevance and creative importance,

they through this all away by turning the whole Industry into a Casino Business

its over .... greedy bastards

Avatar image for Aaronp2k

@hitomo I agree. But you do still get some gems in the f2p industry that you can play for free and never feel like you aren't getting the full gaming experience. Take planetside 2 for example, you can buy weapons with real money to get a bit of a head start or you can just earn it yourself by taking part in the huge multiplayer. And buying those weapons won't make you any more significant to your faction, because it is all about teamwork and not individual gun runners racking up kills (unlike cod).

also dc universe online is a very good free to play title, there are certain things you cannot unlock but you can just pay monthly (and at a cheaper price than most p2p mmo's) if you want that stuff. It is also one of the best mmo's I have played since its much more unique than your typical fantasy style mmorpg game (wow, ff online etc).

Path of exile doesn't need describing, one of the best f2p games ever made period.

I don't think f2p is a lost cause, I think developers just need to start following the standards which have been set by good f2p games like the games I mentioned previously. You hit the nail on the head with war frame, it is so repetitive. None of the maps look very unique, just the same place as before but different layout. Not many different enemy types, just the whole game seems rushed imo. And to buy all the content for the game it costs a SHIT LOAD of money. I would steer clear of war frame, although the survival mode is quite fun with friends so could try that out since its free anyway.

Avatar image for spikepigeo

<< LINK REMOVED >> Couldn't agree more. F2P is the bane of the industry. But I'd like to think that there's a legitimate place for AAA games that have gone the crowd-funding route, like Star Citizen and Kingdom Come.

Avatar image for simon1812

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> as long as it keeps working (thxs to the players) publishers will keep doing it, in the meanwhile all the "masterfully crafted" complaining in the world will be worth crap the second publishers take a look at the digits at the end of the year.

Avatar image for kargion

@hitomo PS2, still one of the best f2p shooters I have ever played....It stands up to any 60 box sale game.

Avatar image for Xx_DemonSoul_xX

<< LINK REMOVED >> Well said!

Avatar image for anshanlord

No I don't......

Avatar image for ScottOakley

Path of the Exile was F2P and it had more then 100 hours of content, for free and got a 9 on Gamespot. Microtransactions are fine if they only concern cosmetics and extra's.

Avatar image for adambomb007

This is good news for all gamers. Hopefully the f2p trends continue.

Avatar image for deactivated-5ae060efb3bf6

And you get what you pay for.

Avatar image for kweeni

The only free to play game I play atm is Planetside 2. It's fun but I don't think I'll be buying anything, I'm just not a fan of microtransactions. I'm glad the game is not pay to win though and that you can unlock everything with in game credits(aside from skins and outfits).

Avatar image for nyran125tk

dont care. ......

sorry i just dont.

and call it what it is would be nice thx

Its Free To Pay..get it right. Im not against it being called free to play, but would you really give a sht if it was called Free To Pay?

I almost think Free To Pay sounds nicer. because you are Free To Pay, that sounds way better. It sounds more welcoming.

Avatar image for JuneauEu

For Free To Play, just look at League of Legends, fantastic ever growing game, patches and new releases are every few weeks. In store shop doesn't break the game (unless you count certain skins).

Brilliant model, invest more or less then you think it's worth

Avatar image for phbz

It´s free to play, but feel free to pay.

Avatar image for DEATH775

The only F2P game that I like is Tekken Revolution, but I never buy anything. Just don't let the game get to you. Because once your hooked then your going to be throwing away your money

Avatar image for YukoAsho

I have no personal desire to ever play an F2P after being bored to tears by so many, but why would I rant about it like so many here? I have too many full-featured games to play for that. That said, I find it odd that so many industry types are going ga-ga over a business model that demands that 3-15% of the user base prop the whole thing up...

Avatar image for tightwad34

Making money off free to play. That should tell you all you need to know about that misleading title.

Avatar image for Thuaxiz

While F2P games deserve their notorious reputation for being pay to win more often than not, there are some really good ones that can truly be played and enjoyed for free. ( TF2, Dota 2, Planetside, Warthunder etc.)

Avatar image for nbf4548

That all good and well assuming that the free to play games are well designed, and you don't have to worry about money and getting a good deal the whole time. Warframe was completely repetitive. How much can I play to never see that stupid vent animation again.

Avatar image for X-RS

meh Im honestly fed up with free to play multiplayer BS'ing

Avatar image for qtmew

<< LINK REMOVED >> Me too. They're everywhere alongside mobile ports on Steam. I'm looking at you specifically, Dues Ex: The Fall....... -_-

Avatar image for Vinnvn

Deep Down!

Avatar image for DeFiLeDTitan

I thought Dust 514 was just an awful game with a ton of potential. It had Halo: Big Lots edition written all over it. But I've been a steady player on DC Universe for about a year now. It is certainly not Pay to win

Avatar image for Pikdum

Can't wait for PlanetSide 2 and War Thunder to come to PS4. Those two are fine examples of great F2P games done right.

Avatar image for ethanm1834

I'm fine with free to play, but it's hard to do. The whole point is to make the player want to spend money. This devolves into paying for advantages to progress through the game and you come away with the pay to win feature.

I can play a F2P game just fine and have no desire to put down a single dollar. However, when done right you'll get people buying in. Games like LoL, have proven that it works just fine.

Avatar image for Alecmrhand

Not a fan of F2P. I did download both Warframe and Blacklight Retribution, but neither held my interest. DC Universe Online looks like it might be cool, but ive seen F2P destroy SWTOR so im not going anywhere near an MMO with that payment model.

Avatar image for sortajan

Once parents stop allowing their children to use their debit cards, F2P will die in under a year.

Avatar image for Ladiesman17

I'm playing Warframe on PC right now, it's good F2P IMO.

Avatar image for 1wikkid1

All F2P is booming, but I'd hesitate to call that business... the biggest reason it's booming is because it's free. I mean the article mentions things like ARPPU but doesn't actually provide any numbers... so for all it says it could mean that more people are playing, playing not buying.

F2P is a good concept in theory... TBH it's damm near perfect, in theory. It lets people preview the game without major restrictions before people decide to drop money on the game. Unfortunately F2P often turns into P2W which is a fail on all sides, nobody wins with P2W (people that pay may *think* they're winning, but they're just being suckered into spending their dough). After all I could go to an auction and buy an Olympic medal or an Oscar, but that don't mean that I actually won either.

We'll obviously be seeing more F2P coming, but the devs really need to take some time to think their F2P systems through. A well done F2P system should work in such a way that people who pay are playing the full extent of the product while those that are looking around are basically playing a demo. Gah, I can write so much more about this but it's really turning into an essay instead of a comment, so I'll end here.

Avatar image for bj91x

While I don't mind free-to-play games that are priced well (basically, free demo and regular price for the full game), I have yet to spend any money on any free-to-play game. I'm not sure why, but I think subconsciously, I just don't want to pay money on a game I'm already playing for free. No matter how reasonable the price is, I think it just feels like a rip off.

Avatar image for the22for4


Avatar image for rsj2

It's funny the director of the studio that made Blacklight: Retribution is cautioning F2P can "go down a very dark road"; I thought Blacklight was one of the greediest, most cynical F2P games I'd ever played.