The question at this point, I think, isn’t, “Will consoles embrace free-to-play?” Rather it’s, “What possible reason is there for consoles to not embrace free-to-play?”

For the longest time, consoles couldn’t do free-to-play for the simple fact that you needed a disk or cartridge to play, which generally require a real cost. But with consoles appearing to more closely mimic PCs these days, with Internet connections, hard drives, web browsers, and so on, the ability to deliver content is no longer tied to physical products. And if F2P has taken over computers, why shouldn’t it become entrenched on consoles?

To be fair, the new spate of consoles, like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, aren’t the first to have Internet and hard drives. But when the PS3 and X360 were launched nearly a decade ago (wow!), free-to-play gaming was still in its infancy, at least in the West. Nobody thought it would be as big a deal as it is now.

Now, though, it’s something console manufacturers can’t ignore. While “F2P-mania” may not be as big a deal with console fans as it is with PC gamers, it would be negligent of them to ignore it. It can’t wait until the PlayStation 5 or Xbox… Two? 361?

TThere are, of course, F2P titles on the current generation of consoles, like DC Universe Online, DUST 514, and so on. And before you say, “Those aren’t free, you need a subscription to the online service,” I’d ask if you’re paying for your Internet connection on your PC. Besides, the aforementioned games are on the Playstation which doesn’t charge its userbase to play online.

But we haven’t seen a truly huge free-to-play game on consoles. There isn’t a League of Legends or even a World of Tanks kind of game, the kind with tens of millions of players, for console fans to enjoy.

Not every game fits as a F2P offering either. I wouldn’t expect single-player adventure or platforming games, which are more common on consoles than on PCs, to ever go F2P. To be a successful F2P game, you have to have some level of “endless” content, and often multiplayer activity, rather than a set beginning, middle, and end, to keep people playing (and paying) for a long time.

In asking for a “huge” game to go F2P, however, that runs us into the World of Warcraft paradox. If you can get millions of people to pay for your game, why offer it for free?

Theoretically, that’s to get millions more. But it’s tough to convince anyone, especially an executive at a company like, say, EA, to take anything even resembling a risk, especially when the standard model of up-front payment for physical products has worked so well for so long.

But imagine how a free-to-play Madden NFL might work:

  • Free: All 32 teams with current rosters, season/GM mode, online 1v1 play. I’d probably play a lot with just these options, and I think this represents the “bare minimum” that most people would expect.
  • Pay: Real-time roster updates, create-a-player, create-a-team, access to special online events (tournaments, leagues).

I’m sure the creative minds at EA could come up with more ideas on how to take our money. Yes, I know, it’s EA and they’ll probably come up with a lot of ways, many of which you won’t like, but you get the point.

The big sticking point, I think, won’t necessarily be in justifying the profit-and-loss part of the spreadsheets, but in convincing decision-makers that discs are on the way out, the conclusion a forward-thinking company like Netflix has already reached. It’s served them well for over 30 years and it’s going to be a long, messy divorce.

What do you think? Do you think we’ll see lots more F2P games on the new generation of consoles? And do you think we’ll ever see a huge F2P console game, on par with something like League of Legends?

By Jason Winter

46 Readers Commented

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  1. Gamer on June 11, 2013

    one reason i play f2p is to create my character its stupid to make that a p2p option in the first place

  2. Gamer X on May 30, 2013

    well chance with ps4 but with M$ … they are not even leaving us a chance to belive it …

  3. GamingMaster on May 30, 2013

    I hear the new xbox the xbox one sucks pretty much … The reason I was always a PC guy 😛

  4. Jibril on May 29, 2013

    Both consoles are gonna be trash because sony is trying to do to much with the PS4 and are going to start making you pay so PS4 just went down the hill and they trying to add F2P. Leave that to the PC gamers consoles already have there own online free to play quit trying to take ours. Xbox One trying do WAY TO MUCH. Why a t.v. foreal change the t.v. with voice command do that even work because the kinect device hardly works and that just another way for them to get you to pay more money. And not only that you have to pay for EVERYTHING. And I never liked Xbox anyway. But to me both consoles are gonna be a bust. so i might just stick with my PS3 until they stop making games for it.

  5. jason on May 29, 2013

    I hope not. Consoles are the last bastion of getting a game in full working form. Adding free to play will only completely destroy the gaming industry in its entirety. Free to play is bull shit, its nothing but charging ripoff prices for a gimped game to play it at a barely less-than gimped pace.

  6. KroSS on May 27, 2013

    Ok so both systems have there ups and downs… Remember the big crash on PS3…? No internet at ALL for a while. You get what you PAY for. Live the price of a game almost for a whole year. Much better network and much more secure. F2P titles are exclusive on PS3 other then 360 atm cause its a much simpler system to work with. DUST514 for example didn’t make it to 360 cause the console was to complex and difficult to work with. XBOX has the mic chat, party, exct option. PS3 however doesn’t. I heard that Microsoft had the rights to it and that’s why PS3 don’t have the option. Hopefully that is false and the PS4 has it also. Honestly… the similarity in the systems and popular game titles available make them about the same. The difference is what systems has the better GAMING features and what system your friends all agree on. Voice options im PS# don’t exist in comparison to 360. However Fable, Uncharted, Digaea, Halo, exct are all exclusives to consider. I like all but the Halo series for example. PS3 and most likely PS4 will soon have FFXI4 ARR. Very good game and it will be cross platform between PC and PS3/PS4. I like both systems actually all 3(pc). As far as F2P not sure about it. 90% of F2P on PC is mmorpg style. So that’s whaere the difficulty is. Not actually about the cost but making it effectively playable with a controller. Play some WoW pvp with a controller and goodbye. However FFXI4 has great controller support. So its all how the game is mage. If the make more controller friendly MMOS then im sure we will eventually see many on console. Honestly id like to see f2p or p2p mmos on console cause we have so few you may as say we have none. FFXI4 ARR is gonna be a great accomplishment(don’t forget about FFXI)….

    • LordHikaru on May 28, 2013

      I bought a PS3 last thanksgiving instead of a new 360(since mine had died) because I got a much better deal on it than I would of a 360. I’ll probably end up getting a PS4 some time after its release(when the price drops of course lol). ‘

      As far as MMOs and consoles in general. I think there’s huge potential in it, and its already been proven that it can be done with previous titles and some new ones. I think developers should keep pursuing it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  7. chefmadness on May 26, 2013

    I am so glad I have never paid microsoft for an OS. XP or WIN 7 Ultimate, I Thank pirate bay for the OS & DAZ for the key loader every day! $200.00 for an OS is insane & WIN 8 Sucks Ass! Wish game dev’s would make AAA XXX titles for linux, Microsoft offers the Dev’s so much money how can they turn it down.

  8. Boss on May 26, 2013

    I highy doubt microsoft have that many F2P games like the ps4 will. It’s not FTP if you got to have a live membership. They already boasted about them 300,000 servers. They want full control over everybody game.

    • chefmadness on May 26, 2013

      AGREED! Microshits is way to $$$ hungry. PS4 Will be way better! & PS4 network is free. Plus they all ready have proven it works with DCU & Dust 514.

  9. chefmadness on May 25, 2013

    I have done a lot of research & this is what i have to say. First off all mmorpg’s for the console will be buy to play with a small cash shop. DCU witch is an awesome game has all ready proven that it works. Borderlands is just begging to be an open world mmorpg, just look at it. It’s all ready for it with just a few tweeks if they code it right it will work out awesome! Bungie’s Destiny looks totally awesome! I doubt Morrowind Skyrim online will be just for the PC. It has been on way to many consoles & the Morrowind name on just the PC is just not right. So i predict YES mmorpg’s & online gaming will defiantly come to consoles ASAP!

    • MechroJay on May 26, 2013

      if you want a borderlands mmo, try Defiance(minus, 4 weapons slots[just 2], handsome jack, and a couple of other things, but u got unique specials, tons of guns, tons of grenades, tons of shields and even titles and vehicles)

      • chefmadness on May 26, 2013

        I have the defiance client but i can’t get a key for some reason. I thought it was free to play but i guess not. I will wait for it to go free to play. My money is kinda tight at the moment so no extra spending for the next 3 months. I am going to try firefall next month when it goes into open beta.

  10. Brijan on May 25, 2013

    I hope never to see again a world full of greed, in which big companies increase prices (their Cash Shops) to be a lot more people in their games, do not want to see low-quality games to offer many more products to a much larger market. For example, in the 80’s-90’s, in all that splendor were many good games but also very many failures caused by short development time for “happy” to many people … I just hope that this time the story is not repeated again and we can all benefit from this merger.

  11. ExHuman on May 25, 2013

    I own a 32 bit console and used to really enjoy it, but see no reasons to get other one since i got pc

  12. Cyberpunk on May 25, 2013

    Really would like to play dust 514 but its not on PC

  13. Cobraeik on May 25, 2013

    Sooo….
    Why would I spend all this money on a new console if I could just connect my more powerful computer to the tv and buy a gamepad.. ?
    I can play online, switch to TV…. What CAN PS4 do that my computer cant for the price ?

    • ExHuman on May 25, 2013

      — make u look like a nerd XD

      • Cobraeik on May 25, 2013

        But…but…what if I build my own system and have a World of Warcraft subscription.. ?

  14. Yoyo on May 25, 2013

    F2P + Console. Doubt it. Would you be willing to play, for example lets say, a pay to win shooter game vs a non-pay to win 60$ Call of Duty, Battlefield or 20$ Counter-Strike, as for MOBA type someone will probably release a good console game with that type of gameplay. That said PSO2 on Vita is pretty awsome, but phantasy star games are one of the few exceptions since they are part of a successful franchise…regardless of final fantasy which has been going downhill since after X-2.

  15. Zakena on May 25, 2013

    actually Consoles are something id rather enjoy with a friend playing besides me .
    otherwise i really find it no fun at all.
    i understand online gaming is quite popular on the consoles but i just cant seem to like it more than playing the same game online on a PC

    and then again people argue about specs in consoles? i think that argument category is better off with PCs.

    as a Solo gamer occupying a couch the TV solely to game for myself i rather have a PC xD

  16. from__hell on May 24, 2013

    i doubt we’ll see F2P in consoles in the immediate future, i think F2P needs to find it’s balance on PC before consoles consider making any changes, and I don’t see either Sony or Microsoft taking a risk like that, Maybe with a new console, maybe the OUYA,?

    • from__hell on May 24, 2013

      I know the OUYA is going to charge for the games, but they are letting a lot of independent developers publish their games, so IDK

  17. chefmadness on May 24, 2013

    Oh i forgot to mention I play crysis3 on my pc on med settings & it looks way better than 360 or PS3.

    • Jeffrey2475 on May 27, 2013

      Chef, I can play crysis 3 on max settings, but even on lowest possible settings on PC it looks better, if not the same as the 360 or PS3, graphics rules on computers, but either way…. I don’t play games for graphics, I play games for gameplay, replayability, and for enjoyment.

  18. chefmadness on May 24, 2013

    No way a f2p game will ever come to xbox! Microsoft is way to greedy & all they care about is the big $$ signs! PS4 has more of a chance of making f2p titles & the company is a lot better. Also i would like to point out PS network is free also if you look at the PS4 presentation video they talk a lot about online gaming through the PS network & teaming up with other players in many of there games. I think xbox1 has some nice hardware but not as nice as the PS4! xbox1 8gig ddr3, PS4 8gig ddr5! both have the same processor but the 8core in the PS4 is 3.20 ghz as the xbox1 in only 2.20 ghz. I use to like xbox when it 1st came out but over the years PS has improved so much i think PS will take the cake on this one & come out on top of Microsucks xbox1. I just wish game developers would make awesome games for linux! XD! I have a PC in my living room I use for all of my console games & have never looked back at buying a PS3 or xbox360. I use to own both & i got smart & sold them to build 2 awesome PC gaming rigs. I think everyone should do the same.

    • Lol No on May 24, 2013

      The fanboyism is strong with this one.

  19. I just mounted bro on May 24, 2013

    *Mounted

  20. iluvgamez on May 24, 2013

    U dont get my point. Did i talk about hardware anywhere? Nope…

    • GamersUnite on May 24, 2013

      But U Not Getting His Point, Ur Gnna Waste Time and Money On the Crappest Console Out. I Havent Heard The WiiU In Anything Like A Week After It Came Out.

      • ilvugamez on May 24, 2013

        Wait,wait. Do i buy the Wii U for me to have fun or to try to impress someone?
        Guess what, im buying it for myself because i can enjoy it.
        I dont care if u dont like the Wii U. I really dont care.

        • GamersUnite on May 24, 2013

          Re Read What I typed….I didnt say i hated it, its just that bad. No one really ask if u bought one or did

    • Mystika on May 25, 2013

      Don’t bother with such people. Ever since the Wii (actually I’m pretty sure ever since the N64 even), Nintendo haters have been rampant all over the place.

      Not everyone games because they want the best spec consoles; if you’re going to talk about specs and graphics, a PC is way better.

  21. ilvugamez on May 24, 2013

    I never liked the xbox but i wouldnt say its a bad console, for sure not, but this Xbox One fails hard. This is not a gaming console. Its just not.
    I always was into Playstation since the 1st came out but im also not happy with the Ps4, still not that worse like the One, but still blows…
    So in my opinion, if Nintendo want to take over, its the best time for it now. They can do it.
    Anyways, i wont buy the One nor the ps4. This time ill stick with the Wii U. You put the game in and play. Thats all i want with a console.

    • Sza on May 24, 2013

      Sorry but Wii U Is failing even harder,the hardware sucks so much some devs have refrained from releasing games to it.

    • LordHikaru on May 28, 2013

      Waiting til after E3 to put in my final verdict on the Xbox One.

  22. Wofvan on May 24, 2013

    Im really big fan of both consoles ps and xbox, but all those things that microsoft did/going to do with the new xbox is just sad. i think ps is going to win with theres new console in the martket and if there will be acces to a huge F2P games in ps store, its over for xbox.

  23. Gamer X on May 24, 2013

    Its possible and I wish to but no one knowes .. no one knowes..

  24. BullsI on May 24, 2013

    Ok, I don’t like the comment that “don’t you pay for internet on PC”. The fact is, I have to pay for internet to use anything on the internet: xbox, ps, computer, anything. Microsoft charges a fee on top of that to gain access to the features you get for free almost anywhere else. Why people still put up with that I will never understand.

    p.s. Mounted?

    • LordHikaru on May 24, 2013

      Why I opted to getting a PS3 last Black Friday instead of getting a new 360 since mine had bit the dust. I will miss the Xbox exclusives though.. We’ll see how the Xbox One pans out.

    • vermion on May 24, 2013

      and now with ps4 sony will start carging for the online

      • chefmadness on May 25, 2013

        No PS network will be free as all ways for the PS4!

      • BrandNewDaddy on May 25, 2013

        Actually what will be charge will be the Gaikai game streaming network, and that will be basically the same thing as Onlive, pay a monthly fee and get unlimited game access and stream them directly to your console(no downloads needed) or you will still have your access to the PSN store, but rather then downloading the game it will use the Gaikai network again to just stream that individual game to your console. So ultimately you either pay for each individual game you want never having to worry about you ending up with no games due to not paying a monthly fee, or pay a monthly fee and having access to all games on the PSN store. its your choice pretty much. But online play will still be free of charge as it has been on PS3.

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