Tribes dev: free-to-play games on 360 “inevitable”

Tribes: Ascend, the upcoming relaunch of the high-flying FPS series, will be free-to-play on PC. Slated for an Xbox 360 release, the console version has been delayed while Microsoft sorts out its policy on free-play titles into Live Arcade, as the company’s framework doesn't currently support such models. However Todd Harris, whose Hi-Rez Studios is producing the title, isn't worried by the delay. He says Microsoft is open to adopting a free-to-play framework: “It's inevitable that Microsoft will move towards that because the industry is moving towards that.”

“The ability to patch frequently, the ability to have it be free-to-play so users can get a taste without any fee,” continued Harris, “both Sony and Microsoft are moving there strategically but there are still some things to be worked out on both the business side and the technical side.” He says the games industry is moving away from the traditional model of buying a game upfront and toward models such as free-play, ad-supported and microtransaction-driven titles. Releases such as Valve's now free-play Team Fortress 2, as well as the widely documented success of fragmented, low-price titles such as Angry Birds point toward this trend, which Microsoft acknowledges it will be following.

“We're always looking at different models and different ways we can work with partners to bring content out,” the company's Xbox senior product manager David Dennistold Eurogamer. “Kinect Fun Labs – that's an ad-supported model. Those titles are sponsored. There are different ways you can deploy or distribute games using different types of business models.” Dennis says Microsoft's current strong industry position is an ideal one from which to experiment and “see what consumers like and what they don't like... you'll see us continue in the future to look for a lot of different models for distribution.”

Until Microsoft has sorted out these issues with developers such as Harris, projects like the 360 version of Tribes: Ascend remain on the back-burner. How eager are you to see free-play games make their way onto XBLA?

Aug 1, 2011