Free-to-play games doing great, Zynga tarnishing the model’s image, believes SOE president

Sunday, December 30th, 2012 8:32:04 by

Reputation of free-to-play games tarnished due to the social game maker’s mishandling of model, believes company’s president John Smedley.

Free-to-play gaming has been growing in popular in recent years, with more and more publishers developing interest in the model and reaping the benefits that it offers.

During a recent interview with PC Gamer, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) president John Smedley acknowledged the positive reaction of gamers to free-to-play games, saying that games based on this particular model are getting more popular than ever around the world.

Using Riot’s League of Legends as an example, he pointed out that the staggering number of registered users and followers simply goes to show that free-to-play games have been performing extremely well.

“In Asia free-to-play has been prevalent for years, but now you’re starting to see these games get popular all over the globe. League of Legends, for example, is the biggest game in the world right now. Period. And it’s got 70 million registered users, 3 million people watching their championships, so free-to-play has actually been really good for 4-5 years now,” said Smedley.

Smedley noted that while the model itself is turning out to be quite attractive for the gamers and promising for game makers, its reputation is being tarnished by the way Zynga is handling it.

The SEO boss said that the San Francisco-based social game maker has been one of the most prominent users of the free-to-play mode, creating the likes of FarmVille and Mafia Wars based on it.

Instead of using the model to the advantage of gamers, the company started to concentrate more on using it to drain money out of users by monetising in-game products.

While the introduction of premium products is understandable and fair, Smedley feels that Zynga is going a little over-board, which is causing them to lose direction and consequently tarnish the image of free-to-play games.

“The reputation that it got from early in its life, especially in terms of social games. I think Zynga has done free-to-play a terrible disservice because many of their releases are monetisation products – not games,” stated Smedley.

The SOE president is, however, glad that the likes of League of Legends, Defence of the Ancients (DOTA) 2 and PlanetSide 2 are helping in maintaining a good reputation of free-to-play games by offering quality experience.

Despite the free-to-play games making such a solid impact, Smedley believes that traditional business models are not under the threat of getting replaced completely.

According to him there are certain limitations of free-to-play games that make it extremely hard, if not impossible, for it to work in certain avenues, citing huge download size of certain games as one of the factors.

SOE released the free-to-play massively multiplayer online first-person shooter (MMOFPS) PlanetSide 2 for Windows last month.


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