This guest post by free-to-play consultant Ethan Levy on Kotaku was interesting, but I’ve flip flopped on my feelings on it. I planned to first link to it pointing out some of Levy’s strong arguments, but at rereading it a few times he comes off harsh and defensive with his audience.
Levy makes a fair point about changing economics and tastes of the audience, and how a free-to-play model can lower the risks for developers:
On the development side, a free-to-play game lowers the risk involved in making a game. A developer is able to release a high quality game that represents a fraction of the total vision, and if players think it is fun and justify it by spending money, the developer can continue to improve the game for months or years on end.
But at the same time, there’s a “business first” tone in the article; a lack of financial support for traditional games forces studios to jump to free-to-play. But I think there is a lot of support for more traditional gaming, especially on mid budget indie releases. Furthermore, many genres of games, especially those with a longer, single player narrative (e.g. The Last of Us) just can’t adapt to free-to-play. We need a strong market for these games as well. If gaming markets sees dollars only around free-to-play, we could lose a lot of gaming diversity. We’re seeing these problems already seep heavily into EA’s latest game releases along with mobile gaming.