Games companies are too emotionally attached to old business models, says Wargaming.net CEO Victor Kislyi.
Speaking at GDC Europe, the head of the World of Tanks developer claimed that mixing subscription, free-to-play, and one-off transactions are too confusing for customers.
Not only this, but the clunky implementation of these options only draws attention to the fact that these games were never meant for the free-to-play system.
"Games go free-to-play every other day," said Kislyi, as reported by Games Industry International.
"Big or medium sized companies owning existing IPs or existing subscription games, they naturally think to add some virtual items shops or do some monetisation and it will be free to play, right? Some could pull it off but really very few. Subscription is a subscription concept, it was designed as a subscription game and you cannot change that into free-to-play overnight."
Competion has led many MMO developers to add free-to-play options to their games, but this has caused several problems.
Last year, CCP introduced virtual goods to EVE Online, leading to large numbers of players leaving the game in protest, and a public relations fiasco after the leak of an internal memo that suggested the company was missing a major opportunity by not cashing in on microtransaction opportunities.
But still, many companies see free-to-play as a solution to lagging subscriptions, and Star Wars: The Old Republic is the latest to join the wave of developers implementing a mixed system.
"Hybrid, again, [developers] are so emotionally attached to the old days of retail and the box, which is a guaranteed revenue on day one," explained Kislyi.
"They think to themselves ‘we do free-to-play, we do virtual items to sell, but let’s keep the box or keep the subscription.’ This is how they talk. This is wrong."
These remarks come from the head of a company that has made a massive success of its free-to-play franchise, and World of Tanks alone boasts over 35 million registrations.
"The essential problem of the box is that as soon as you have a fixed price point you cannot overcome that," continued the CEO.
"When you set up any price there are only a certain amount of people who are ready to pay this price. It’s a very narrow corridor."
For Kislyi, this amounts to building a barrier between consumers and your game.
"The people who are not willing to pay $60 or $10 a month for subscription or 99 cents per mobile app, you lose them," he said.
"They don’t enter, ever. They never have a chance to look at your game, to enjoy it for a day or a week. The set price does not cater to those who are willing to pay less, but interestingly you also reject those that are willing to pay more. There are people who would pay for a box of Starcraft for $300 but you’ve lost them."
The advantage of free-to-play is that by removing this barrier of entry, your audience is automatically widened, and even if only a small fraction pay, it’s still going to be a good harvest for any developer.
"With free-to-play you can have your game in front of dozens of millions of people and then it’s up to them if they want to pay. A small percentage of millions is still golden," said Kislyi.
"There’s no hybrid, there’s no subscription-plus. There are exceptions but in general only 100 percent mobile will rule the world."