The Beginning of Free-to-Play Gaming on Consoles?

Well this could be cool: with next week’s PlayStation Network update PS3 owners will be able to download and play KillZone 3’s multiplayer for free up to a certain level, after which they’ll have to buy a $15 unlock.  I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds like a possible beginning for free-to-play gaming on consoles.

I have yet to even touch an F2P game, partly because I don’t believe in buying gameplay advantages with real money, and partly because I haven’t seen one in a genre I really care about.  I see the appeal though.  The model basically removes all barriers to entry for anyone who might be interested in a game – probably the best way to let someone “rent” or “demo” an online component.

What we’re gonna see with KillZone is the simplest method – a one-time paywall, and if it get’s successful I could see it happening in the future for Twisted Metal or something.  I think Microsoft could do some pretty cool things with this model for Halo or Gears.  It just depends on how they do it and whether they’ll ever try this with a brand new game.

I think that soon enough, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are going to have to accept some form of the F2P model on their platforms.  It’s growing too much to be ignored.  We already know there will be a Wii-U version of Ghost Recon Online.  I know F2P is a bit controversial among traditional gamers, but I think it or similar models could have some neat implications if applied correctly to consoles.

Recently GameSpot released a video revealing some details about the upcoming PSN/XBLA version of Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, stating that it will have over 10,000 pieces of cosmetic DLC.  Imagine if the base game was free (hopefully with all characters) but you could buy stages and costumes.  I could honestly see myself playing an F2P fighting game if a competent one showed up.

I already plan on checking out that mech game Hawken when it comes out.  I also understand that DOTA 2 will be F2P and a lot of my friends have been playing the beta.  If Diablo III turns out to be F2P I could see that catching my interest as well.

A big part of the resistance to F2P is probably due to the traditional feeling that a game is a product that one buys for a set price.  I’m starting to think that the people who enjoy F2P games probably don’t see them as such, but rather hosted virtual worlds that they can’t own, but they can buy content for.  Maybe that doesn’t quite work out when you consider the value proposition of that versus simply getting all that content for $60, plus having the fun of unlocking it.

Either way, I don’t think we can deny that digital distribution has changed the dynamics of gaming on PCs, and it seems like the same will soon happen on consoles.

BULLETS:

  • Huh. The first Shin Megami Tensei game is out on iOS.  It’s still Japanese-only of course (even though they bothered to write an English description for the game, maybe they care that much about import gamers), is $14, and is based on the 2003 GBA port.
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