The free-to-play business model has started picking up a considerable amount of steam lately as developers are preparing to put their most popular franchises in that market. Microsoft’s Xbox Live has been a “closed garden” of sorts where developers are forced to adhere to the model that Microsoft established. However, it looks like a philosophical shift is taking place at the hardware/software/internet giant. It is reported that Microsoft has started reaching out to developers to explore the possibility of implementing the business model into Xbox Live. The free-to-play approach has publishers monetizing in-game content or premium upgrades while gamers are free to play the main game at no cost.
Microsoft is exploring ways to charge Microsoft Points for in-game content while opening up games for everyone. The social games phenomenon has displayed impressive staying power with backing from major publishers like EA and Ubisoft. However, the appeal has been lost on “core” gamers since the start of the trend focused on games like Farmville, which gamers bemoaned for not being possessing a hardcore appeal.
However, the appeal is changing since EA announced development for Battlefield Play-4-Free, and valve revealed that the popular multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2 will be free to play. The latter news came as a bit of a bombshell last night due to its relatively abrupt nature. It was speculated for some time that Valve would adopt the business model for TF2, but its adoption came much sooner than analysts anticipated.
Developers are increasingly finding the appeal of the free-to-play model, even bypassing releases on the Xbox 360 due to its closed business model. Final Fantasy XIV Online creator and director, Hiromichi Tanaka told Eurogamer last year that he declined a release on Xbox Live because of Microsoft’s philosophy. The same scenario goes for Developer, CCP and their upcoming Playstation 3 exclusive MMO shooter, Dust 514. The developer told Eurogamer this month at E3 that it went with Sony because “at least they have policies that allow us to build the game we want.”