The free-to-play business model is one of the best examples of democracy in gaming because if players don’t like what they’re getting, they’ll walk away, never spending a dime. That’s according to Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley, who gave us his thoughts about the controversial business model.
“We believe very strongly in this idea that if you open it up so that anybody can play it, it is the most powerful form of democracy in gaming that there is,” Smedley told GameSpot about the free-to-play business model. “Because they can vote with their feet and they don’t have to pay us a dime. So it really keeps you on top of your game.”
Though platform holders like Microsoft and Sony do offer some free-to-play games on their consoles, the PC and mobile markets undoubtedly host more free-to-play games. Why hasn’t free-to-play become more commonplace on consoles? “I don’t quite know the answer to that. And I hope it takes them a really long time to figure out,” Smedley joked.
While some in the industry have suggested that the free-to-play model will one day take over traditional business models, Smedley isn’t in that camp. “The reason that I don’t think that’s going to be the case is because you’re seeing games evolve very strongly into a games as a service model. ”
Games as a service is the phrase used to describe the way in which many games today, even traditional $60 disc-based games, live on well beyond their initial release dates through digital expansions. For instance, Electronic Arts is still releasing new content for Battlefield 4 (released in November 2013), and Rockstar Games isn’t anywhere near finished supporting Grand Theft Auto V, which was released in September 2013.
“I think it’s just going to be all about taking time to see the market develop. I don’t think [free-to-play] will ever completely replace it at all,” Smedley said.
Sony has a significant free-to-play game portfolio for PC and PlayStation consoles, the most recent of which is open-world zombie game H1Z1.