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Is the UK market wary of free-to-play?

FREE-TO-PLAY is a growing phenomenon around the world. Yet at Gamescom in August, two major freemium specialists told MCV that the UK has been slower to adopt free-to-play games in comparison to the rest of Europe.

But can this really be true? UK studio Jagex is one of the pioneers of the business model, while other local giants such as Natural Motion and Mind Candy have achieved global success. So we posed the question to a panel of UK free-to-play experts at GamesBrief, to find out.

HARRY HOLMWOOD, CEO, MarvelousAQL Europe There’s no doubt that UK has lagged behind F2P

markets like Japan, Korea and Germany, but one look at the top grossing games on the UK App Store confirms that F2P is here, and is here in a big way. F2P happened quicker in Germany, I suspect, because of the relative strength of PC as a games platform there, and the popularity of games which lend themselves well to F2P mechanics – whereas we have typically been more console-centric. Retail’s still going to be around for a while – the current-gen consoles

22 November 2nd 2012

are still pretty healthy and people want software for them. If they’re still around in five years, I suspect they’ll be limited to selling hardware, points cards and accessories – and hopefully making a decent business out of that.

LANCE PRIEBE Founder, RocketSnail Games

Our second largest market outside of the

United States for Club Penguinis the UK. I am baffled how many developers continue to ignore the fact that in less than five years, the 150 million Club Penguinplayers become teenagers. Not to mention Moshi Monsters. An entire generation of players expect their games to be free with regular, weekly content updates.


I think that for some reason there is still a feeling amongst some

people in the UK industry that free-to-play means lower quality games which are just ripping off users. I don’t see that this is as widespread elsewhere, for example in the rest of Europe. That may be because we do still have a lot of

Two prominent free-to-play developers told MCV that the UK freemium market is not growing as fast as the rest of the world. Is this true? And if so why? Nicholas Lovell asked experts in the industry

retail and areas such as browser games aren’t as prolific amongst our developers as they are amongst our European counterparts. It’s changing, though, and the most successful developers have already realised the potential and are producing great free-to-play games and have been doing so for as long as other countries. We just need to get over this strange attitude that still exists as an industry.

FELICITY FOXX HERST Product Manager, Gree That the UK is the third largest mobile market – after the US and

Japan – and that the ratio of F2P to paid products on the iOS UK Top Grossing charts is identical to those other countries would indicate that the UK market, at least, has embraced free-to-play.

I’ve noticed some hesitance of developers in this country to embrace the model as strongly as the market has. I’m afraid my only evidence is anecdotal, but I’ve worked in North America and Japan and you simply do not get the same hand-wringing discussions about the ethics of in- app purchases anywhere outside of the UK.

Maybe it’s the result of an

industry still heavily invested in retail, or moving into F2P later on in the curve – straight from console versus entering the space via Facebook or feature phones – or perhaps even a lack of faith in F2P content, which is common from hardcore gamers who maybe don’t respect that there is a different type of user enjoying and willing to pay for a casual-social experience. Regardless, it’s an interesting space to be in, and if all this concern about predatory game mechanics results in better game design, then hurrah.


There is no UK equivalent to Gree or Bigpoint, and there’s more

pontificating about games as an artform in the UK. Brits also rely on an established PC development process: lots of UK indies think they know what PC gaming is and what it should be – get on Steam etc. By contrast, we are currently talking to another party about the international marketing of one of our browser titles, where they tell us that the UK performs poorly for browser F2P on a global stage.

 Pic © John McMurdo

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