Strain: Free-to-play equals not-for-fun

Strain: Free-to-play equals not-for-fun

By Rob Crossley

November 26th 2009 at 12:10PM

â??These games put designers in a position where they spend their time not thinking about what is fun,â? says MMO maestro

Developers working on free-to-play projects are too preoccupied with in-game revenue opportunities and don’t have time to focus on making games fun.
 
That’s the opinion of Jeff Strain, the decorated MMO veteran at the helm of startup studio Undead Labs.

“There are a lot of free-to-play games on the market. That’s kind of the new trend, but nothing is really free,” says Strain in the second half of his interview with Develop.

“No-one is doing it just for fun. In the case of an MMO, no-one is pumping 30, 40, 50, 60 million dollars into their product just so they can spend that money and people can laugh about it.  The revenue has to come from somewhere.”

In the case of free-to-play MMOs, such revenues tend to come from ad space or microtransactions, where players are channeled into looking at adverts or compelled to buy miscellanea for their avatar. Freemium games, meanwhile, have gameplay limits that can be unlocked after paying for the full edition.

“These games put designers in a position where they spend their time not thinking about what is fun,” says Strain. “They’re not designing a game to be fun. They’re designing a game that can channel people into stores. They’re designing ways to tempt people to use in-game currency. They’re designing ways to channel people’s direction into advertising.

“What concerns me with that is that I see more and more of a focus on alternate revenue streams. ‘Oh you want this in-game currency, well text this number and we’ll give you a code for it’. Y’know, I don’t want to do that. I want to spend all of our time focusing on making the most fun post-apocalyptic zombie game we possibly can.”

Strain revealed that Undead Labs’ debut project – a zombie-filled MMO for consoles – would ‘almost certainly’ be subscription-based.