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.

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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.

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