Ubisoft suggests F2P will drive next-gen console race

Free-to-play could be the go-to business model for next generation console software on PS4, Next Xbox and Wii U.

That’s the impression given by Ubisoft in its post financials conference call.

A surprising amount of focus was put on the next-generation consoles in the presentation.

It’s interesting to think that publishers may be the ones to force platform holder’s hands this time. Traditionally publishers have been hesitant about the transition to a new wave of machines and, specifically, all the costs associated with that.

But with the console market in free-fall we’re witnessing an unprecedented turning of the tide – now publishers are the ones who want fresh hardware, and their enthusiasm might be the final push needed to finally get Sony and Microsoft to play their secretive decks.

Ubisoft management suggested that next-gen development is now well underway at the company. Indeed, seven launch tiles are planned for Wii U – and so far dev costs on each have been roughly in line with Xbox 360 and PS3 costs. That will be as big a relief as anything.

As well as noting the next-gen’s power increase, Ubisoft also revealed that the internet and connected services will be a bigger feature than ever. The company also noted that both full game digital downloads and – maybe more surprisingly – free-to-play titles will form a central focus of the generation ahead.

Traditional retail and distribution methods will not die out, however, but merely be supplemented by these new options.

We believe that F2P versions of Wii-U titles are in UbiSoft’s plans for the coming year,” Baird Equity Research’s Colin Sebastian noted. It appears that new consoles from Microsoft and Sony will also allow more integration of item-based transactions within games, including a free-to-play option similar to the model used in social and mobile games.

UbiSoft expects this to drive better monetization than what is commonly available in the current generation. We believe the F2P model on consoles, as part of a broad multi-platform strategy (phones, tablets, connected TVs) could drive a higher level of profitability per franchise.

In addition, developers of Facebook and Mobile/Tablet games may discover a new platform opportunity for their titles in the next console generation.”

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