Molyneux: Free-to-play must be part of original design

Industry veteran says free-to-play business model "can't just be crammed in" six months after launch.


Former Fable designer and Microsoft manager Peter Molyneux believes free-to-play games should be developed with the business model in mind from the onset.

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Speaking during the F2P Summit conference in London today, as reported by The Guardian, Molyneux said it is unwise to introduce free-to-play features after launch.

"You can't introduce free-to-play mechanics to a title six months after it's released," he said. "It's got to be part of the design. It can't just be crammed in there later on."

BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic launched in December 2011 as a subscription-based game before going free-to-play less than a year later. Since the switch, more than two million new players have registered.

Lord of the Rings Online introduced a free-to-play option during September 2011, more than three years after the game originally launched. This business model switch led to monthly revenue increasing three times over.

Regarding the form and approach for console games and free-to-play experiences, Molyneux said the former is a one-time deal, while the latter is an ongoing production, similar to TV.

"If you think of console games as the equivalent of films--you go to the cinema, you watch it, consume it, you're done with it--that's what I think console games are like," Molyneux said.

"I think free-to-play games are more like TV series. You watch a TV series for half an hour or 40 minutes, wait for a period of time, then watch another one," he added. "That's more like what free-to-play is."

The developer is wary of potential downsides for free-to-play games, criticizing some developers of "trying to squeeze more money out of consumers" through in-app purchases.

Molyneux and his new independent studio 22Cans are currently working on the Kickstarter-funded Godus, a free-to-play "reinvention" of the god game genre. The game is currently in development for PC and Mac, as well as iOS and Android devices.

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