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Xfire and the free-to-play market: an interview with Xfire president Mark Donovan

Above: EA's Battlefield Heroes is free, but makes its money on items like the outfits seen in the video above. 

GR: Any thoughts on the rising number of announcements for big MMO titles that are adopting the F2P model post-launch?

MD: I'm not surprised. It's much easier to gain user adoption when you lower the entry barrier, and if you produce engaging content it's more profitable to adopt F2P.

GR: Do you think The Old Republic will be the last big production MMO with a monthly fee business model?

MD: No, I think that a lot of titles that have been in the production pipeline for the last 3-5 years will still retain the P2P model simply because they were too far along to change horses mid-stream. I wouldn't be surprised to see more come out with that model over the next 1-2 years, but I do believe that the number will drop off very steeply after that. Too many publishers have been burned trying to follow WoW's success with a subscription model and they're looking for a new model to emulate.

GR: Do you think WoW, Rift, or The Old Republic might consider F2P models in the future?

MD: Absolutely, Trion has already showed their willingness to publish F2P games with End of Nations and WoW is now free up to level 20. I think that as the competition heats up and the quality of free games increases they'll have to reconsider their model or they'll see their market share erode significantly.

Above: Though their MMORPG Rift costs a monthly fee, Trion's MMORTS End of Nations will be free-to-play.

GR: There are more and more options for keeping track of friends, game stats, sharing videos, and voice chat. What's Xfire's role in all this as we move toward a future with more F2P titles?

MD: Xfire has always and will remain a centralized, cross-publisher solution for keeping track of friends, chatting and sharing game media. Our role going forward is to maintain the highest quality user experience for players, but to also provide more services for F2P publishers to take advantage of all of the tools Xfire has already built to drive engagement, virality and trial of their games. They to success in F2P is distribution and long term engagement - Xfire helps both and we're building out more solutions to help drive these benefits even further for publishers.

Oct 18, 2011

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1 comment

  • FoxdenRacing - October 20, 2011 1:35 p.m.

    This read more like an advertisement piece than an interview...what gives, GR? Where are the questions that would make him think, or even squirm? Questions like: "Do you believe the F2P model can survive if it ever becomes a large part of the marketplace, and the effect a much higher TCO will have on total unit sales?" Or: "How do you feel about sharing a business model with blatant scams [see: Smurfs' Village] and titles that put little effort into ensuring a balance between progression via time investment and 'paid shortcuts' rather than more innocuous and usually mechanically-irrelevant paid customizations?" For every well-built and honorably-run F2P title, there are 100 scams, sleazes, and shameless cash-grabs ["It's so free I've spent $8,000 so far!", as Penny Arcade puts it], and I imagine when a majority of games costs hundreds of dollars to finish, the total number of games paid for is going to tank. F2P is playing with fire incarnate...personally, I believe the rise and fall of SecondLife and even old-school Arcades to be a great case study in what will happen as adoption of 'Fee to Pay' increases.

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