King Games: Free-to-Play is the Future of Gaming

Candy Crush Saga

Those Candy Crush folks believe that the future of gaming lies in micro-transactions.

Speaking with the folks over at IGN, King Games Guru (…) Tommy Palm says that the free-to-play model and micro-transactions (as practised in their insanely popular game Candy Crush) is the wave of the future and that more game developers should look into it if they want to survive.

“The micro-transaction is so strong and it’s definitely a much better model,” said Palm. “I think all companies have to transition over to that. If you talk to many hardcore gamers, they’re not happy about it right now, but if you asked them about the long term, ‘Do you want to continue playing your favourite game for years to come?’ And the answer will be yes.”

But then there’s the question of the micro-transactions. People don’t want to throw money at some add-on to their game for kicks and giggles. Palm warns that developers have to be careful with that.

“I think for companies it is very important to find a good balance. Free-to-play games are difficult to do, and you really need to be good at making it feel balanced to the gamers. So it’s not too greedy.”

Palm points to King’s very own Candy Crush as an example of free-to-play with balance; saying that many of those who’ve reached the final level of the game (hell, I didn’t know Candy Crush had a final level) didn’t pay one red cent for power-ups and the like. In other words, they weren’t forced to pay anything in order to enjoy their experience.

He also gave a nod to Blizzard’s Hearthstone. “It’s a great example of a F2P game that is made really well, it’s well balanced, and I don’t think many people are complaining about that business model,” he said. “It’s easy to see if there’s concept that is close to your heart. It works out really well.”

Ya know… I occasionally go back to play old games in my collection that are 20+ years old. Hell, I play games for my Retro Reviews over at Future Retro Gamer. These games, to me, are fun as is without the need to have micro-transactions. So the insinuation Palm made about micro-transactions are needed in order for people to continue to enjoy games for years to come doesn’t really sit well with me.

As for “balance”… well, I think what Palm said can apply to all games, not just those free-to-play. All the DLC developers are hoping people to purchase can get pretty crazy (particularly for games with online multiplayer). You’re not forced to buy anything, of course, but just like the power-ups you can purchase in games like Candy Crush, they’ll help your game quite a bit, and can possibly give players the illusion they they need them in order to play.

So is free-to-play and micro-transactions the future of gaming? There’s no question that free-to-play games are gaining ground, especially with the more casual audience. Killer Instinct for Xbox One seems to be doing well for those wanting a next-gen fighting game experience. But can such a model sustain game devs in the long run? Can the bigger studios afford to release their bigger games for free; giving players the option to purchase a bunch of add-ons in the hopes that they’ll break even and eventually make a profit? And can they really do this without games turning into more of a “play-to-play”, where people feel that they have to buy something in order to stand a chance during online play? With the right implementation, anything’s possible, I guess, but I think until more big devs are willing to take that chance with their games, it’s hard to say for sure if this can catch on to all aspects of the gaming world.

What do you guys think? Are free-to-play and micro-transaction the wave of the future? Share your thoughts in the Comments Section!

  • Fingers crossed that no one outside King really believes that. GTA 5 didn’t even need the promise of dlc to lure in players, granted it’s GTA, but that should be a push across the industry to make a better product first instead of chopping what little they do make into pieces hidden behind a paywall.

    • ‘Tis quite the radical thought, to be sure. It’s hard to say whether the “free-to-play” model will work for the industry at large (just because some games seem to be having success with it, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll work for everyone). Again, the only way to know is if (and that’s a BIG if) more devs are even willing to change over to that model and tweak it to fit their needs *shrugs*