If there is one trend that is reshaping entertainment like nothing that has come before it, it is the rise of the free-to-play (FTP) model in gaming. As the name suggests, this is a business model in which customers can access games for free, without having to pay any purchase costs. Instead, game brands make money from optional extras such as DLCs, in-game assets, microtransactions, or premium content.
The model can be seen everywhere, from top-flight console titles to online bingo gaming, and it is increasingly becoming the norm. Let’s take a closer look and uncover why game brands are opting for a free-to-play future.
In order to understand where gaming is heading, it is worth looking at how we got here. FTP has existed in some form or another for decades, but it is a handful of more recent pioneers that are responsible for taking FTP global.
We’re talking, of course, about the MMO titans such as Fortnite and League of Legends, which remain the largest and most profitable gaming products on the planet despite being entirely free for anyone to play.
This is because they are able to draw massive audiences, which increases the pool of people willing to pay for premium content or sit through in-game ads. These sources of revenue more than make up for the fact that these games are free-to-play.
Industry Leaders Go All-In
Now that the MMOs have risen to the top of the industry, the stalwarts have finally taken notice. The FTP model is becoming increasingly visible within the ranks of prestige console game developers.
This year, the game development behemoth Ubisoft announced that it would be pivoting towards the development of “high-end” FTP games, in the belief that this is where future profitability lies.
Meanwhile, incredibly successful gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, The Walking Dead, Hitman, and Asphalt now all offer FTP content on consoles, something that would have been inconceivable just a few short years ago.
Upending Old Models of Play
In order to truly appreciate the magnitude of the changes being wrought by the FTP model, one should look at how it is even making its way into forms of online gaming such as gambling. Nowadays, you can even play free bingo for real cash prizes via industry-leading platforms such as Buzz Bingo, without needing to spend a single penny of your own money at any point.
In the case of real-money online games, the FTP model is being increasingly rolled out as a means of product promotion. Most FTP options within so-called iGaming are offered on a time-limited basis, giving players the chance to sample a product (and win real cash prizes at the same time) without having to make any kind of prior commitment. As it turns out, this is a pretty effective marketing tool.
For now, FTP works, and game companies of all stripes are keen to incorporate it into their business models. Whether FTP will displace paid gaming entirely remains to be seen, but it is truly remarkable how quickly it has become an industry standard.