The past few years have continued to see a major shift in gaming, studios are moving away from the buy-to-play model and increasingly shifting towards the free-to-play model, using optional cosmetic purchases and micro-transactions as a way to fund future development. It is something that has been hugely successful for a number of titles, but something that isn’t all the way done, not yet at least.
Some genres will never really be able to make that switch, console games for example may not be able to thrive on a free-to-play model, on the other hand the mobile gaming market has been the big leader in this change for a huge number of different industries. Some rely on payments as part of the gameplay cycle like online casinos UK for example, these are hugely popular on mobile with a wide demographic but are quite different from games that use the free-to-play model. Games like Fortnite, for example, have always been free to players, but rely on cosmetic skin sales as a way to fund future development, a blueprint many others have used.
Whilst free-to-play has been widely successful, it is running into some small issues – players are becoming frustrated with the growing microtransaction market, feeling like these are being used as a crutch to keep incomplete games up or to fund development of games in the wrong direction. Many times in the past, questionable changes have been made to free-to-play games because of the generosity of players spending a large amount of money, only for it to come back negatively on those who are unable to spend.
Other ways of monetizing these sorts of games has come in the form of loot boxes or crates, games like Overwatch and Counter-Strike are particularly notable here, but as regulation looks to crack down on this practice and some countries even banning it entirely, it’s looking less likely that this will continue to be a widespread option well into the future.
The free-to-play approach will certainly be one that many game studios and developers continue to use moving forward, particularly in the online space on PC and on mobile. It is a fantastic way to get the game in the hands of the player and so long as the game is of a certain quality, microtransactions will continue to be the way forward for funding development further.
Unfortunately for console players, it doesn’t look like the free-to-play model will ever be something that’s really adopted, price tags on these games continue to rise as games are regularly approaching $100 today, and with deluxe editions, ultimate editions and more pushing that price tag even higher, it’s difficult to see many studios willing to drop that approach for the chance that F2P will work out for them.
With some big free-to-play releases lined up for the next couple of years, there will be some fantastic opportunities to try the latest games that these studios have lined up at no cost, and a chance to see how many of these same studios may look to adjust their microtransaction model to align better with what players have come to expect.