To some, the term ‘freemium’ is derogatory, representing greedy developers who get hapless players addicted to their repetitive-yet-addictive games for free, and then bleed them of their hard-earned money by getting them to splash out on in-game items.
To others, however (mostly on the business side of things), misleadingly-titled free-to-play games are a model that’s proving to be hugely popular. The latest figures from MCV show that the freemium market is now worth £216m in the UK alone. While this figure pales in comparison to the £812m retaile market, it nonetheless shows that free-to-play is here to stay.
While it’s games like FarmVille which started this trend, even MMO behemoths like World of Warcraft are getting involved. Since WoW went freemium, the world’s most recognisable MMO has seen a spike in its subscription numbers.
SuperData Research believe that this isn’t the end of freemium gaming’s meteoric rise, predicting that the market will be worth £266.1m by 2015. That’s an increase of 22.9% on its current standing.
Interestingly, here in the UK we’re not quite as eager to get swept up in the free-to-play craze as the rest of the world (a testament to our nation’s willpower). Freemium profits in the rest of the world are generally expected to increase by 53.5% in the next three years (to £14.23bn), making the UK decidedly slower on the freemium uptake.
Free-to-play appears to be an increasingly popular system among both gamers and developers. With this system, the average gamer spends just £11.64 on an MMO game, which is considerably less than if the game demanded a regular subscription. The reason this works for publishers is that more people inevitably whet their beaks in these games due to their initial freeness.
Sounds like a win-all situation, except of course for the side-effect of more people getting addicted to such trivial games as League of Legends. Still, if it’s not MMOs we’ll get addicted to, it’s heroin, so this is definitely the lesser of the two evils.