Freemium will become the dominant force throughout the global games industry, leading experts claim.
Digital specialists at EA and BBC have both told MCV that free is the price that consumers want to buy their games. And that the model – which is currently popular online and on mobile – could even come to the console space.
“The future is not about one-time payments, the future is about freemium,” says EA Interactive senior VP Nick Earl. “A decent number of people convert to paying and they may not pay a lot but most of them actually pay more than you’d think.
“I don’t know if freemium gets to console but I do know that humans like free stuff. I also know humans who will pay for something if they’ve tried it out and they like it.
“I’ve wondered if freemium expands beyond the tablet, Facebook and smartphones, and out into consoles? I don’t think it’s impossible for that to happen.”
BBC Worldwide’s EVP of digital entertainment and games Robert Nashak added: “It turns out free is the price point people want to pay for games. What’s beautiful about it is the fermium model really favours quality games because everyone gets to try before they buy and I think it’s going to lead overall to better quality, because if you’re not hooking people in you can’t monetise. I think freemium changes the landscape and raises the quality bar in a good way.”
Developers share the view that the rise of freemium will result in better video games. And the studio boss at EA’s BioWare Mythic says that rental firms like Blockbuster is partly responsible for the rise of free-to-play.
“I’m a big believer in free,” says Eugene Evans. “For me that really did start when I saw the retailer Blockbuster started renting out games. I’m convinced that probably put some studios out of business.
“There was a lot of people that complained about game rentals at the time, but they were often the people whose product was just bad. There was this new era where people could play before they paid. Even though I was in the business, I thought it was great; I would go and rent ten games in a night and give them all a try, to separate the junk from the good games.
“Think about what that did for the quality of the games. When you hear about – for example – how much it costs to import games in Brazil, no wonder free-to-play has become so big. It really has democratised the price of gaming. Consumers can now vote with their wallet.
“If they like it, they can spend on it. If they don’t like it, us developers didn’t do a good enough job making the game.”