‘The first and most important thing is having a fun game.’
It’s sad that this needs to be said at all, but that was one of the first thing Digital Extremes and Zombie Games said when talking about free to play games on the PlayStation 4- that the most necessary element to success is having a fun game at its core.
It’s perhaps indicative of the state of the free to play industry, and the abusive practices that it employs that reduce games to little more than cynical carrot on a stick scams, that this was one of the insights that came from the developers’ panel on free to play titles on consoles in general, but the PlayStation 4 in particular, at GDC.
“There’s always the criticism about free-to-play that it’s so analytics and data-driven,” Digital Extremes’ James Schmalz said. “That you don’t need a fun game, you just need to look at the analytics. One thing that strikes me about consoles free-to-play is it’s definitely much more fun-driven. You have to have a fun game that keeps the player in and have just enough coaxing to get some money.
“We have 80 percent of our players who never pay, but we want them there. We want that community. They’re part of the community and we want to keep them happy.”
“It’s frustrating when you hear the stigma attached to free-to-play because I think it can be done very right,” said Sony Online Entertainment’s SVP of global marketing and sales Lauren Naviaux. “We look at virtual items as what enhances the game’s experience, what’s going to add tangible value instead of friction points.”
“I feel like there will be a point where games will come our premium and turn free-to-play or turn on microtransactions,” Zombie Studios’ Jared Gerritzen said. “And it can be a very bad thing. Free-to-play is great, but it can go down a very dark road.”
These three would know what they are talking about- they have released some of the best, most well balanced free to play titles on the PlayStation 4- Warframe, Blacklight Retribution, and Planetside 2.