Kabam: Free-to-play is gaming's next step, and console firms will not lead it

Kabam: Free-to-play is gaming's next step, and console firms will not lead it
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

January 8th 2014 at 11:57AM

Kabam’s says the ‘third phase’ of video games will be led by young studios, and says the company doesn’t use ‘free-to-play’ when addressing its audience

US social game company Kabam has said free-to-play is the next major phase of the games industy’s evolution. And, unlike the previously generation, it says that console firms will not lead it.

Speaking to Develop in an interview, Andrew Sheppard, president of Kabam Studios, said that he believes that console manufacturers and developers will not catch up with his company, and others like it, which began life at the infancy of web games.

He attributed this prediction to the way games started life as part of the coin-op business, before moving to retail and console, and now to free-to-play and mobile.

“In each of those three distinct phases, you see that the companies that was at the forefront, especially at maturity, were not companies that had existed in the prior phase. So the top coin-op companies were not the top console companies,” Sheppard told Develop.

“My firm belief is that you’ll see the exact same thing happen with free-to-play and mobile.”

With games including Kingdoms of Camelot and The Hobbit Armies, Kabam has proven to be a strong success so far, with revenues exceeding $325 million at the last count.

In his interview with Develop, Sheppard explained that Kabam has so far managed to avoid the fate of Zynga and others by making mobile a priority from its beginning.

“Free-to-play is happening because increasingly consumers are demanding choice. And they are getting content upfront for free. So what happened with music, and later movies and television, is happening with games. People want choice, and they only want to play things that they love and they’re only going to pay for things that they love,” he added.

“The entire free-to-play business model is about that. It’s being willing to give your [products] away, because you believe – and in our case, we believe this very strongly – you can deliver a gameplay experience and service that compels people to pay. That people feel is rewarding enough that they will pay for.”

Kabam’s audience is approximately 58 per cent male, and Sheppard said he feels this reflects how its approach of building “gameplay experiences that are much longer lived and much more endearing” is paying off.

He added that, as a company, Kabam does not tend to use the word ‘free-to-play’ in its communications with players.

“You know, it is a polarising term,” he said. “But I think most of the voices that are opposed to free-to-play are very similar to the voices that were opposed to console when coin-op was at maturity. So for that reason we don’t pay much heed to it.”

Read more about Kabam and its expansion plans in our interview.