Ben Cousins, the leader of Ngmoco’s Swedish studio believes that within three years, there will be games with the production value, gameplay time, and experience comparable to that of Skyrim that will be free to play. Preposterous? Maybe, just then again, maybe he’s onto something.
Cousins believes that there are three levels of Free to Play games. The first level of has players paying for cosmetic items only. The (average) lifetime value of a player is around $5, not that much. The second level consists of games like FarmVille, and all those games by Zynga, games that have been dubbed “freemium”. These games feature intentionally annoying or irritating mechanics in hopes the player will buy their way around them. Cousins values the lifetime value of these players at around $20. This is where most Free to Play developers are currently at.
But what is someone rejected what’s currently acceptable? What if someone chose something different, something impossible? What if someone chose…Rapture? No, not really, but according to Cousins, there is a third level of Free to Play games that at first does seem a bit radical.
“I believe that single-player will be the next to be cracked in terms of freemium monetisation,” he said. “And I’m talking about traditional, story-based, scripted, linear and non-linear single-player that we see on consoles.”
Cousins believes that large-scale games like Skyrim can easily be monetized to be free to play, and that players will continue to pay for content as the game goes on. He foresees that all games in every genre will eventually move to a Free to Play business model, which will in time prove more profitable than the standard plan.
“I am totally 100 per cent confident – I will bet large amounts of money – that we will have, in the next few years, a free-to-play equivalent of Skyrim,” Cousins continued. “A game like Skyrim, where you accrue skills and equipment over time, that you can play for hundreds of hours, is actually one of the easiest games to develop for a free-to-play model. That would be a big hit.”