Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley has slammed social gaming developers Zynga, stating that their approach to the free-to-play gaming model (in which gamers are allowed to access and play games for free, with in-game purchases and advertising delivering developers revenue) has damaged the genre.
The Sony boss, who has just overseen the launch of well-received free-to-play title Planetside 2 believes that gamers’ initial experiences with free-to-play Facebook games from Zynga such as Farmville has left a sour taste in the mouth:
“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,” he told PC Gamer.
But with the success of PlanetSide 2 under their belts (currently riding high with a metacritic average of 84), the Sony team still see free-to-play as a vital distribution and monetisation model for the future, one likely to expand into the next generation of games consoles:
“The truth is that now there are loads of really great free-to-play games, including ours, and I think Planetside is now a part of the hardcore community’s free-to-play library. We definitely made the right call, and we like what we’re doing. I think free-to-play is pure for one simple reason: people can vote right away,” Smedley concluded.
“If they don’t like your game they can just walk away because they didn’t pay anything for it – it’s the most democratic way to make games. And if they don’t want to pay for it now, our hope is that they pay for it later, but they don’t have to.
“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.”