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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."

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.