Developer experiences from the trenches
The biggest challenge the game industry faces right now is not the invention of new games and IPs but the discovery of new models to supplement the existing, more traditional ones. Model experimentation is to the game industry in 2011 what cellular regeneration is to an injured human.
One example of a model innovation is the Free to Play model. In Free to Play, an effective game designer teaches players about a value system in their game. Once this is underway, they upsell the player on in-game features that have value within that system. In this model, the developer ultimately convinces people to buy the game. Usually this job belongs to the marketing team. (Yes, Free to Play should be called Pay to Play).
In traditional boxed retail, the marketing team teaches the customers the value of the product through screenshots and trailers. If the proposition resonates with the customer, they’ll probably buy the game.
In some situations, Free to Play teams have, effectively, put marketers game designer’s chair. These games are often thin veneers overtop of a spreadsheet that optimizes customer conversion.
A lot of dedicated gamers love escapist multiplayer experiences. If Free to Play is to truly succeed amongst dedicated gamers, it is the game designers and developers who must stretch to understand how to account for player behaviour and incorporate it into their tool belt.
Free to Play is definitely coming to your favourite types of games. Game development incorporates such a wide range of professions and skill sets. I am excited that it now incorporates one more.
If you find Free to Play ominous, you are always free to prove out a different model. :)
Signed, a guy who plays Free to Play Team Fortress a whole heck of a lot.