Free-to-play PC revenue doubles in five years to $22 billion though in-game monetisation

New data from analytics firm SuperData shows that, despite the outcry, gamers are generating double the revenue they did in 2012 in the free-to-play PC market
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We've gone on about this for a couple of weeks now, probably longer. But regardless of the discussions at hand, there is one thing that isn't in any doubt – microtransactions are making money.

Following the recent Star Wars Battlefront 2 issues over in-game purchases and the legality of loot boxes, gamers are dipping into their pockets more than they ever have before. That's according to new information from analytics firm SuperData.

The data shows that the free-to-play market for PC gamers has risen to $22 billion this year compared to $11 billion in 2012, a figure that has been steadily rising over those five years. While the talk is very much looking at the discourse generated by EAs recent release, the message is that service-based monetisation is growing, and is currently over double the value of additional content sales as DLC packs and add-ons.

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The free-to-play PC market, which features such popular titles as Dota 2, League of Legends, World of Tanks and Hearthstone, has seen the largest growth in the industry. "By shifting to games as a service, large triple-A publishers hypothesize that future game monetisation may eventually do away with $60 full-game products in favour of product ecosystems, where players pay for subscriptions services to access base games and further monetise through in-game purchases for the content they enjoy playing," said the post from SuperData.

"Publishers are willing to sacrifice the full-game box price because they believe that subscription services can increase player retention and spending by effectively exposing players to other games within a publisher’s portfolio that they would otherwise ignore in today’s market due to the existence of an upfront price tag for games."

Many of these successful service-based games, as SuperData puts them, offer in-game transactions for cosmetic items and skins as opposed to game perks that can potentially unbalance a multiplayer environment. The games themselves also are balanced so that purchasing additional content is not linked to the progression of the game, which has been the criticism of EAs recent releases.


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PC free-to-play's billions

Develop analyses the key data and asks the business model’s biggest advocates about the future of free on desktops