“Almost free-to-play” is probably pushing it, but that’s the title that Edge Magazine (via GamesRadar) decided to go with when talking about Anthem in an interview with BioWare’s Jonathan Warner and Ben Irving. Warner called F2P “an interesting business model” — picking out Marvel Heroes as an example — and says that the studio “discussed a free-to-play model early on” but that it “just wasn’t a direction that the company was moving in.”
Producer Ben Irving had more to say on the matter:
“If you go free-to-play, you still have to have a profitable business or we can’t continue to do an amazing live service for all of our amazing players. So what would you really be trading if you gave the game away for free? There’s all that money you’d have to make to be profitable. And so then you get into the territory of being less player-generous.”
He’s correct that a F2P game needs to be a bit more restrictive on how it hands things out, to encourage more player spending. To take a recent example, look at Apex Legends versus the game whose loot system it seems to draw most heavily from, Overwatch. An Apex loot pack contains three items, and, at least in my experience, one is always in the form of currency. An Overwatch loot box contains four items, one of which is sometimes currency. Apex also has more categories of things you can unlock, and more in each category, so it’s tougher to get what you want from a loot box. Apex is free and Overwatch is a paid game, so I think most people are OK with the trade-off, but it’s undeniable: Apex Legends’ loot boxes are simply less generous than Overwatch’s. I haven’t religiously followed Anthem’s development, so I can’t say what kind of loot it will be offering, and the article says that even BioWare is still finalizing some things, but Irving’s probably right in his assessment.
I’ll say one thing, though, and it’s something we’ve seen and heard many times before: Don’t diss free-to-play by saying it’s worse — in this case “less player-generous” — than the paid system you’ll be using. The reason for those statements is a justification for asking gamers to pay for your game instead of getting it for free. It’s fine to have your game be non-F2P, but if your reasoning is less about how much your game is worth it and more about how bad F2P is, and you ever do need to go F2P, you’re then basically admitting that your game will be worse for it. I don’t know if Anthem will ever go that route, but I’ll be bookmarking these quotes, just in case.