Cousins says free-to-play criticisms are unfair

DICE, Sony and Lionhead veteran Ben Cousins has launched a spirited attack of what he argues is the wrongly maligned free-to-play sector.

Writing on Polygon, he argues that far from acting in the interests of consumers, critics are instead merely acting to defend their own positions in the increasingly threatened traditional games space.

The attacks and criticism of free-to-play mechanics are often unfair and selective, and leave questionable but traditional business practices alone,” he said. This is snobbery; evidence that the old guard is scared of where the industry is headed.

Free-to-play is now by far the world’s biggest games business model by participation, and within a few years it’s going to be the biggest by sales. For someone looking to preserve the industry as it was pre-2007, these are scary times.”

Free-to-play is as shocking to reporters, developers and commentators who came into the industry before the turn of the century as the telephone was to telegraph operators.”

Going on to reference that fact that only a tiny portion of free-to-play gamers ever spend any cash (just 2.2 per cent according to a report today) and that 70 per cent of those who completed Candy Crush Saga never spent a penny, he argues that traditional games are more guilty of baiting gamers than free-to-play titles.

A free-to-play game can be played extensively before you even make a purchase, which is more than can be said for traditional games,” he added. Publishers often ask the press to hold reviews until the game has been released; the publisher is often trying to sell the game before poor reviews hit.

Publishers routinely offer exclusive in-game content for digital pre-orders. Digital copies won’t sell out, but the push remains to lock in consumer money before independent reviews hit. Get the player invested and spending before the game is released with the promise of ‘rare’ or ‘exclusive’ items. Free-to-play games successfully avoid the bait and switch trap. You get to try the game, and invest more of your time or money if you enjoy the experience. Traditional games don’t give you that luxury.”

Free-to-play games are often played by children, the middle-aged, women and people in distant countries like Russia and Korea. There is a bit of snobbery and gate-keeping at play here, as the old guard is defensive about sharing their hobby with games they don’t understand and gamers they don’t recognize.”

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