Is Free-to-play Gaming Here-to-stay?
With mobile gaming becoming a household staple for those seeking entertainment, free-to-play games have quickly dominated the charts on download stores for smartphones and tablet devices.
It’s not only the development of mobile-first gaming that has changed the gaming industry. Digital convergence as a whole – with 24/7 connectivity – combined with a desire for social interaction has seen free-to-play gaming meet a demand that game developers and publishers didn’t believe existed.
Technology is becoming cheaper than ever to create and this is undoubtedly levelling the playing field between fully-fledged development studios and independents. In fact, independent studios that are capable of bridging the gap between game design and operating games as a service (GaaS) are far better placed than any larger studio to succeed in this space.
Author, Will Luton recently published a book titled Free-to-Play: Making Money From Games You Give Away, which covers all of the topics that games developers have to think about today when designing and releasing new free-to-play game titles. Today, in order to thrive in this marketplace, developers need to be able to utilise data to drive engagement, retain players and generate all-important revenue. Luton recognizes that free-to-play is not just a fad, it’s a legitimate business model designed to provide a level of service and gaming that players will naturally desire and subsequently be willing to pay for in the future.
Many of the biggest MMORPG games available to play online for free in 2017, such as RuneScape, allow their members to pay a fee to gain access to even larger open world maps and a plethora of additional skills, quests and activities. The game’s Cambridge-based developers Jagex must surely be doing something right as they have got this game into the Guinness Book of Records, with their 220 million-plus player accounts averaging a whopping 36.9 hours of gaming time – equating to almost a typical 9-to-5 working week.
In terms of GaaS as a whole, another industry benefitting from this trend is the iGaming sector. The global online gambling market is expected to push the $60bn mark by the turn of the next decade and that’s due in no small part to the engaging online casino experience afforded to customers.
Online casinos are increasingly adopting the same approach to browser-based casino games as those MMO gaming developers. Free casino spins and practice games are offered to new customers, often without Canada-based customers having to even deposit a cent of their own money. This way, casino brands seek to entice their players in with their engaging, state-of-the-art casino games developed by pioneering companies such as Microgaming, NetEnt and Playtech and featuring the stunning 3D visuals and high-definition audio that one would expect from a MMORPG or even a console game.
Source: Rickie Meeuwsen via Twitter
Aside from hooking them in with industry leading casino technology, such as live dealer streaming at roulette and blackjack tables, the free practice games give new customers the chance to learn how to play without any risk. The casinos will know that there will always be a certain percentage of new customers that simply want to play for free, but there are enough players willing to bet with their own money to make the venture worthwhile.
Whichever way you look at it, the free-to-play gaming market is maturing nicely, giving gamers the ability to decide whether they like a particular game before getting investing time and money into it. As for developers, the pressure is most definitely on!