John Smedley, the head of Sony Online Entertainment, believes that the free-to-play game model lack of reliance on marketing for sales means it relies on the experience to sell than anything else.
The Sony executive has publically stated that he believes that the publisher is at the forefront of bringing the freemium business model to the mainstream with titles such as DC Universe Online and the upcoming Dust 514.
With Ubisoft, EA and CryTek all working on bringing new titles to establish their presence in the freemium market with titles such as Ghost Recon Online and Battlefront, the race is on to see which publisher can take the lead, in a manner of speaking.
However, Smedley believes that the word ‘free’ may cause a few consumers to hesitate at the beginning as they will not be used to market where, on average, a game costs around $40.
He said, “I admit there was a mindset where when you use the word ‘free’ people pause, ’Wait a minute, what do you mean by free?’”
However, Smedley believes that the next step is convincing consumers that freemium actually comes with quality and value and that there are titles that will are pricing this is the case.
He said, “But even then people want to see the results. With DC Universe Online the split that we’re seeing ended the debate right there.”
According to him freemium will bring back the best bits in the gaming industry as it will encourage the games to be more pure than they have become in recent years. He said, “Free-to-play is the ultimate expression of a free market in video gaming,” before continuing, “It’s completely about quality, there’s no purer way to see whether you have a good game or not than by saying ‘this is free, do you want to play it?’”
Smedley concluded, “I would argue that free-to-play is much more pure than regular games because with those marketing can determine who picks up the game.”
The future of freemium gaming will be shaped in the coming months as the publishers and developers behind the games will work out the kinks and smoothen out the process.
CCP, the developer of EVE Online and the upcoming DUST 514, is hoping to bring their title to the forefront on the PlayStation 3 by pricing their in-game premium content as low as possible. According the developer a full load out including weapons and armour will cost as little as 24 cents and it is a model they hope will keep the barrier to entry for online purchases to a minimum.
Activision has also jumped onto the freemium train as they announced Call of Duty Online earlier on and one can expect many more titles to be announced in the coming days.