Imagine a stripped down Skyrim being made available free-to-play. In order to build your brick and mortar F2P title into the experience you might have in a run-through of Skyrim, you'll have to invest around $60. Want a diverse second playthough? You might have to spend more. This is the future business model envisioned by ngmoco general manager Ben Cousins.
Cousins, attending the Free-2-Play Summit in London, sees the current free-to-play model as version 2.0. There are areas of profitability still to be explored:
"I am totally 100 per cent confident - I will bet large amounts of money - that we will have, in the next few years, a free-to-play equivalent of Skyrim. A game like Skyrim, where you accrue skills and equipment over time, that you can play for hundreds of hours, is actually one of the easiest games to develop for a free-to-play model. That would be a big hit."
Changing the F2P model to adapt to the larger market may seem like how this adaptation begins, but as it progresses Ben sees the market going the other way. Eventually, Ben sees most games being released free-to-play.
"In the future I believe free-to-play will be the way that nearly everyone plays games, it will be nearly every genre, and it will be nearly every platform."
While it's hard to argue this strategy would be less profitable than current business models, at what point would the artistic merit of games be sacrificed? Or have we already crossed that threshold?
Gamers as a whole still show hesitation towards the growth of DLC and microtransactions. Given the success of League of Legends and the excitement surround betas for Dota 2 and Tribes: Ascend, you have to wonder though. Multiplayer and social free-to-play games are inarguably great business models, and create some amazing games, but how can you sell a single player title without making it appear incomplete?