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SOE's president on doing free-to-play right

Free-to-play is the future for Sony Online Entertainment, but its president John Smedley knows the payment model has some serious hang-ups with many gamers. Smedley spoke to PC Gamer about how PlanetSide 2, the company's latest free-to-play title, does it right.

"[T]he way we see it is that the 90 percent of players who don’t pay are making the game fun for the 10 percent that do," Smedley said. "So we look at the world in terms of how many people are playing the game, and not in terms of how many are paying. The players are content for one another, so the free players are just as important as the ones who are paying."

League of Legends uses a similar system, which allows free players to compete on a mostly level playing field while offering plenty of encouragement to pay up. While League of Legends appears to be the most-played game in the world, Smedley said, gamer sentiment toward free-to-play remains poisoned by certain titles.

"[League of Legends has] 70 million registered users, 3 million people watching their championships, so free-to-play has actually been really good for 4 to 5 years now," Smedley said. "But the reputation that it got from early in its life, especially in terms of social games. I think Zynga has done free-to-play a terrible disservice because many of their releases are monetisation products--not games."

Smedley said free-to-play is ultimately the most democratic way to sell games, as players who try them can either walk away if they don't like them or pay if they do.

"So it makes me feel good that the games we make are being judged on their merit, not just how well we can market them or force them to play and pay like Zynga tried. It’s pure and I love that."

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5 comments

  • Travia220 - December 18, 2012 2:32 p.m.

    The only company to do F2P right is Valve. Others do it fairly well but none of them do what Valve does. Other companies should be trying to appeal to a players vanity and sell cosmetics. Humans love vanity it's basically by nature. Being that special butterfly.. etc. Instead of selling Pay 2 Win items or borderline P2W items.
  • Pruman - December 18, 2012 11:16 a.m.

    The way I see it, there are two kinds of F2P games: 1) The game is excellent and fun to play on its own, and there is the option to spend money to augment an already great experience. I tend not to, however, but my sense is that the developer hopes I'll recommend their game to someone who will. 2) The game is a ridiculously protracted grind-fest that almost requires the spending of money to have any sort of enjoyment. See: World of Tanks. It's like a museum with a "NO ADMITTANCE WITHOUT $5 SUGGESTED DONATION" sign hanging out front. There has to be a happy medium between 1 and 2.
  • slimjim441 - December 17, 2012 11:37 p.m.

    So how about we get Planetside 2 on Mac then, eh?
  • cricket0 - December 18, 2012 10:42 a.m.

    Hey, if you can prove to them you have a Mac that can handle this game graphically, they might give it a thought
  • slimjim441 - December 18, 2012 12:13 p.m.

    Well, I'm not a tech junkie, so I don't know the specs, but I can handle The Witcher 2 on my iMac just fine, where my friend's relatively new bigass 'super special' PC can't.

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