CCP's Gaudechon: Free-to-play can be as big on console as on mobile

CCP's Gaudechon: Free-to-play can be as big on console as on mobile
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

October 11th 2013 at 1:10PM

Dust 514 exec believes there will be a surge towards the business model in triple-A titles for console

Free-to-play can be as successful on console as it has become on mobile, says CCP’s new executive producer on Dust 514.

Speaking to Develop, Jean-Charles Gaudechon said the most important part of any free-to-play title was the game itself, and console players would be willing to take on free games if they provide high quality triple-A experiences.

Freemium has become the dominant business model on mobile platforms, but it has yet to take off on consoles. CCP however has looked to make strides in the sector by releasing F2P MMOFPS Dust 514 earlier this year on PS3.

And Gaudechon was bullish on Dust 514’s chances as the company continues to make refinements and updates to the title, and on the opportunities for free-to-play on console in general.

“I wouldn’t say just mobile [has had success with free-to-play], I think PC is also a very successful platform. But yes, absolutely [it can be successful]. I think it all comes down to the experience you’re offering, to the product,” he said.

“If the game is that super high quality experience, that visceral MMOFPS on console, hell yes you would play it for free. Unless you’re against not giving money or playing for free.

“But obviously, going through the idea of microtransations, if they’re done well, and I feel that is the case with Dust and especially with some of the changes to come, we’ll make it an impressive experience, and yes it will be successful.”

With an even larger focus on connectivity on the Wii U, PS4 and Xbox One, and a willingness to break down some of the walls and loosen restrictions on the type of content and business models that can be implemented on console, Gaudechon says free-to-play is set to become more prevalent on next-gen.

“New consoles will offer even more for these type of digital products and free-to-play products, absolutely,” he said.

But how does free-to-play on console work? The number of users developers can amass for their titles on mobile means the small percentage of players that pay can still result in significant revenues.

Gaudechon says again it is down to what the developers are offering in their game, but recognised the model still has a way to go to convince consumers, at least in the western console market, that free-to-play titles can be as good as traditional premium releases.

“I don’t think I would limit it to the platform more than the people and how the people consume it. I think it’s really a matter of what are these things we’re offering, and how do people at an instance want to consume it,” he said.

“In some parts of the world like Asia, there’s no question. You don’t have a competition between one or the other. It is free-to-play, that’s the only and the best way to consume these types of products.

“In Western Europe and North America, if the question is for a North American gamer is there a reason for them to go free-to-play right away, it’s perhaps not for everyone. But it’s growing and it’s becoming a very strong offer.

“Something that feels really good to see now is, when before free-to-play products could be seen as a sub genre or like a less strong offering than a triple-A product, it’s now changing.

“I think that people are seeing that model and thinking ‘wait, you’re telling me that we’re going to get the same production values that we’ve seen [in traditional premium triple-A]?. That’s really quite exciting for us. Especially with a product like Dust 514. It will reach and is already up to par with some extremely good MMO FPS’s out there, and when you combine that then you’ll realise, yes, actually this is a really strong offering.

“I guess I would see it that way more than just on the platform. There’s more coming, and you see more and more free-to-play products coming on to these platforms too so I think there is a surge towards that model.”

Gaudechon insisted though that although he expected a surge in free-to-play console games, the business model was not as important as the quality of the product, and it was crucial not to disrupt the user’s experience.

“There are different ways to do it, but more importantly is that the core of the game is just not disrupted. We don’t stop you in the middle of having a great time or remind you that we’re going to stop you in five seconds because you need to put a dollar in the box. And we see that in bad interpretations today and when there are big debates around is that a good model or not.”

He added: “Progression items that make you go faster, again as long as everything is basically trainable and grindable, it is not an issue at that point.

“But yes, that’s basically the idea, you don’t have to stop the core, visceral experience to make a good free-to-play product.”