Why do some people say they hate free-to-play so much?

Former Battlefield developer Ben Cousins says when game mechanics are so closely aligned with financial activity, that can feel "kind of sacrilegious" to some developers.

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The free-to-play business model may be rising in popularity, but it's also attracted a healthy amount of skepticism, and in some cases, disdain. Why is that? According to former Electronic Arts developer Ben Cousins, who worked on the free-to-play Battlefield Heroes at Electronic Arts before leaving the company, some developers are wary to embrace the model because it challenges tradition.

"The mechanics themselves [of free-to-play games] sit right next to consumers' financial activity. For many developers that's kind of sacrilegious," Cousins told GamesIndustry International. "For them, it's not something they ever wanted to do. It's like commercialising a religion, or forcing people to put coins in a slot to see the Mona Lisa."

"For them that's an aesthetic judgement closely tied to how you define games," he added. "If you think of games as art, pure art, which a lot of designers do because they don't really take part in the commercial side of the process, then I think free-to-play can feel very sacrilegious in that sense."

But the real driving force behind the opposition to free-to-play, according to Cousins, is simply the popularity of such games. "The profile is rising and that's making them an easy target," Cousins said.

Free-to-play games are big business indeed. King's immensely popular Candy Crush Saga has 93 million daily players, and even big companies like EA (Real Racing, Star Wars: The Old Republic), Microsoft (Happy Wars, Warface), Sony (Warframe, Planetside 2), Activision (Call of Duty Online), and Valve (DOTA 2, Team Fortress 2) all have major free-to-play product portfolios.

The free-to-play model is only going to grow, and it will overtake all other categories in terms of revenue sometime in 2017, Cousins believes.

"My guess is that, around 2017, the global sales for free-to-play games will surpass all of the other models, that's hardware and software on console and traditional PC," Cousins said. "So that's coming."

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