A while ago, Jeff Minter spoke on Twitter about how the free-to-play invaded the mobile world, destroying all the creative drive that seemed to characterize him in his first years of life. Minter was, among others, one of the first historical developers to launch games for the iOS platforms, hoping that they would remain free from the constraints that oppress the traditional industry. In fact it was a small dream for independents: to have free (or semi-free) platforms on which to launch small works from which to draw sustenance, without risking failure for every flop and without having to compete on constant technological advancement. Of course, like all dreams, it quickly broke and the vultures soon took over, pushing for free access and effectively putting applications that cost a few euro cents out of the market.
Minter remembers with great clarity, and with the speech that is proper to him, when the mobile world was destroyed by free-to-play, which in fact limited in a few years the field of action of premium studios and more experimental, leaving them very little space. At first, however, there was no full realization of what was about to happen. Free-to-play was thought to be just a form of monetization yes rapacious, but that would never take root because it would have been rejected by the players.
“I still remember the disgust I felt when I first saw this stuff. I couldn’t know it was just the first glimpse of the absolute evil that was about to invade and destroy mobile gaming.”
“This shit would never have caught on if there was a floor cap on the price of games, say five pounds. If the developers could have had a near-decent return on paid apps, all the malevolent scamming of the free app-based model wouldn’t. it would emerge so quickly.“
“Sooner or later mobile games will no longer be made by human beings, but by artificial intelligences connected to analytics that will create increasingly efficient tools disguised as games, whose sole purpose will be to suck money from more easily duped consumers.”
The problem is that now the free-to-play virus has gone far beyond the mobile world, colonizing other gaming systems with immense successes such as those of Fortnite (the game that has produced the most revenues ever on PS4), Apex Legends o Call of Duty: Warzone, introducing its forms of monetization even in premium products such as FIFA or NBA 2K. Yet there seems to be no return for traditional industry.
Ubisoft recently stated that it will invest more in free-to-play games, while leaving the number of triple A’s launched each year unchanged. Many have breathed a sigh of relief, without however understanding a fundamental point: the reshaping of investments shows in a plastic way which sector a company places more confidence in to make profits, that is, what its future is in the medium term. If Ubisoft decides to increase investments in free-to-play and to leave the games unchanged premium tripla A, it means that according to its vertices, growth is in the former and not in the latter.
Moreover, it is not even true that there has not been a contraction: if a year I invest a total of 100 by dividing the sum equally into two sectors, then 50 and 50 (ours is a hypothetical example, mind you) and the next year I bring the total to 200 by continuing to invest 50 in one sector, but by increasing the investment in the other to 150, I am sending a very precise message and proportionately I have reduced the investment in the unchanged sector, even though I have not touched it, because not I bet on it. After all, there is also another big problem that derives from this choice: a sector in which there is no possibility of growth will have less room to experiment and will necessarily have to play it safe, if it does not want to see its own shrink even more. funds. Question: Which sector do you see most at risk with a similar picture?