The lights are on
The free-to-play model is gaining more traction as developers and publishers realize the increased potential for growth (and profits) that it offers. Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney is among the believers, as he told an audience at GDC Taipei.
"North American and European developers are far, far behind the state-of-the-art Asian business models," Sweeney said in his keynote. "We've been building these games like Gears of War where you go into the store and you buy a piece of plastic! You just buy this DVD. That is going to change rapidly."
Sweeney also believes that console manufacturers could warm to the possibility of a free-to-play model. Microsoft and Sony do allow publishers to supplement their games with microtransactions and DLC, but the console market hasn't embraced the model as much as we've seen in mobile and Facebook gaming or throughout Asia. It's certainly changing, but these seem to be more along the lines of experiments than a larger shift.
"I think the console business we see in the United States and Europe will be just another platform," he says. You should soon be able to ship a freemium game on PC, and on console, simultaneously. "That is a very realistic possibility."
Gears of War remains the studio's flagship series, but that doesn't mean that other Epic IP aren't carrying their own water. In fact, the opposite is true. "The most profitable game we've ever made, in terms of man years invested versus revenue, is actually Infinity Blade," Sweeney says. "It's more profitable than Gears of War."
Epic will continue to invest in mobile gaming, as platforms such as the iPad continue to mature. "[We've been] very, very surprised to see how fast smartphone and tablet devices are improving."
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