In case you missed it, Sony had a few choice words to say at last week’s GDC about their free-to-play business on the PlayStation 4. By and large, the words of choice were “very good.”
As reported on GameSpot and elsewhere, free-to-play revenue on Sony’s consoles is up 50% over year-to-year, with 3-15% of players being converted from free to paid players. Furthermore, the average revenue per paid player is comparable to what PC players pay and over 80% of PS4 users download digital content.
Around the time of PlanetSide 2’s launch, Sony Online Entertainment’s John Smedley said his research showed that 8-18% of F2P players, across a wide variety of games – not all Sony properties – converted to paid players. That could mean that the PS4 is lagging a little behind or simply that, because the games available on PS4 tend to be less “pay to win” than other F2P titles, that Sony is accepting lower conversion rates in exchange for generally happier players.
Going past the numbers, Sony admits that there are issues with approving and pushing content in a timely manner, an especially large issue for F2P games, which rely on continuous injections of content to keep people interested (and spending). Granted, it’s not like F2P devs who want to break into consoles have many choices. Microsoft is notoriously behind the curve when it comes to F2P on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and Nintendo… well, is Nintendo.
Maybe some of Sony’s pace is in making sure that an F2P game or update doesn’t tread down that “very dark road” that Zombie Studios’ Jared Gerritzen references. Valve has come under criticism for allowing some rather shady games (remember The War Z/Infestation: Survivor Stories?) onto Steam, so it could be that Sony wants to take the proper time to make sure F2P games on PS4 meet its standards for microtransactions. Even a game that’s been around for a while and that hasn’t shown any hint of questionable content can very suddenly shift its focus – sometimes inadvertently – to pay-to-win transactions.
In any event, if you were hoping that the free-to-play experiment on PlayStation 4 would be a failure, you’ll probably be disappointed. On the other hand, if you love the idea of F2P on PS4 – and, eventually, consoles as a whole – it looks like you’ll have a lot to love in the coming years. It just might take a little longer than you, and the developers, would like.