The free-to-play model is the way of the future
Mark Mapoles, Contributor
Anyone who pays attention to gaming-related news has probably heard of the new game Apex Legends. It’s a battle royale game made by Respawn Entertainment and it has the same business model as Fortnite – free-to-play with purchasable cosmetics. It has been dominating Twitch since it launched Feb. 4 and still remains the most viewed game this week. In the last week, people have spent 41,375,837 hours watching Apex, which is more than double that of Fortnite at 18,012,161 hours. For comparison, the other top game on Twitch, League of Legends, had 23,482,325 hours watched. All three of these games have the same thing in common – they are free to play and make money through their in-game store where people can buy cosmetics to make their character look pretty. Instead of selling a game for $60 upfront, game developers should try out the same business model these successful games use because it’s better for both the consumer and the developer.
From a developer’s point of view, it might seem like a smarter decision to sell games for an upfront cost instead of going the free-to-play route – however, there are many reasons why that might not be the smartest choice. Releasing a game as free to play means that there will be a bigger market for the game than if it were released with a price tag on it. With a bigger market, there is potential for bigger profit. As reported by Business of Apps, close to 70 per cent of Fortnite players spent money on the game and the average amount was $85. This shows that players who enjoy playing a game become invested in it and won’t mind spending more money on it than a normal game costs. Also, if the game is a failure upon release, then having the game be free-to-play won’t cause as much backlash and negative publicity for the developer. EA faced a great deal of backlash when they released their game Star Wars Battlefront 2 back in November 2017. As stated by CNBC, EA’s stock went down 8.5 per cent and they lost over $3.1 billion in shareholder value, because not only was the game expensive to begin with, but it also had a pay-to-play model, where users had to pay for certain upgrades to be able to play at the same level as other players. If the game had been released as free to play, consumers wouldn’t have been as upset with EA since they wouldn’t have felt lied to. Sometimes bad publicity is really just bad publicity and there isn’t anything to gain from it.
From a consumer’s point of view, it is a win-win situation for games being released as free to play. Being able to try out a new game when it’s released and not having to spend money is awesome. You can try out games you never would have thought of playing and see whether you like it or not. If you don’t like the game after playing it for a while, you won’t feel like you wasted your money. The best part of free-to-play games is that you can get your friends to play with you. It can be harder to get friends to play the same game when they have to spend $60 on the game. Playing with friends is one of the best parts of gaming, it can help you find joy in the little things in life – like getting a win in Apex Legends with your brother even though you both have no idea what you’re doing.
With three out of four of the most popular online games being free to play, it seems like a no-brainer to adapt to this business model. It is definitely a risky decision to make since developers are scared of not making money, but it seems like a risk worth taking when it comes to overall consumer satisfaction.