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XBOX AND PLAYSTATION GO FREE Can free games work on consoles?

As smartphone and PC becomes saturated with free-to-play games, developers and publishers are itching to try it on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But is there a market for it? And are Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft willing to embrace it? Christopher Dring investigates

IF YOU believe the boss of developer Crytek, then games consoles are facing a crisis. The firm’s CEO Cevat Yerli says that its three upcoming console titles – Homefront 2, Crysis 3and Ryse– will be its last £50 products. After then it’ll focus all its efforts on creating free-to-play games. And he is adamant that if Sony and Microsoft don’t adapt to this new business model, then the console market will die. “This will be the last console generation,” he tells MCV. “If consoles don’t join free-to- play gaming aggressively from now on, then it will be outpaced by PC and mobile. If they don’t adapt they are not going to survive.” Companies have tried to engage the platform holders in the past with its free titles. Cambridge- based Jagex has attempted to bring its free MMO RuneScapeto consoles, but has met resistance. “Free-to-play would have been huge on consoles if the console owners had embraced it,” says Jagex chief marketing officer David Solari. “It’s still likely free-to-play will be a big part of the console offering in the future but they will need to adapt and be willing to allow their users to play with players on other platforms which seems to be a step too far currently – this was certainly the case for us when we were talking to them about RuneScape.”


Sony and Microsoft are not oblivious to free-to-play. Microsoft has developed several freemium PC games, including Age of Empires Onlineand Microsoft Flight. And Sony’s PlayStation Home virtual world is built on that model. Only Nintendo has resisted the micro- transactions entirely – although the platform holder has developed free software in the past.

24 November 2nd 2012

CCP’s David Reid is bringing freemium title Dust 514 to PlayStation 3, which Crytek boss Cevat Yerli (inset) says could make Sony the No.1 platform holder

If Sony embraces free- to-play as a major way for PlayStation, that could be the key console. I’d love to see a generation that

supports free-to-play. Cevat Yerli, Crytek

Yet this is beginning to change this Christmas. Both Xbox and PlayStation are making more tentative steps into the free-to- play market. Xbox has launched F2P game Happy Wars(although it requires an Xbox Live subscription so partially misses the point). But the big one comes from Eve

Onlinedeveloper CCP, who are creating a free micro-transaction- based FPS called Dust 514for PS3. “Sony working with CCP and making that game is a great step forward, and they should be applauded,” adds Yerli.

“If Sony embraces free-to-play as a major way for PlayStation, that could be the key console. I would love to see a generation that supports free-to-play, because we will support it.”

DUST-TO-DUST David Reid is the chief marketing officer at CCP, and in many ways he is the ideal candidate to discuss

freemium on consoles. Not only does he have extensive free-to- play experience from his stints at Trion Worlds and NCsoft, he is also a former marketing executive from Xbox. “A lot of the big disruptions in our industry start on the PC,” observes Reid.

“It’s where online gaming began. It’s where genres like FPS were born. Clearly, it’s where the MMO was born. But over time some of these things get much bigger on the console and our belief has always been that free-to-play is going to be big on the console. We’re very pleased to be in a position to be first with a big triple- A game out there. We look at 2013 and expect there will be a lot more. It won’t be such a new idea next year.” Early signs suggest that Reid is correct. Shortly after we spoke to CCP, Sony announced that its SingStarseries will be adopting a freemium-style business model.

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