While there has been a question of certain tactics with free-to-play games – which forced Apple to make changes in terms of how they’re listed on the App Store – it doesn’t appear they’ll be going anywhere soon. In fact, considering their continued popularity over the last month, we’re likely to see even more emerge, sooner rather than later.

Paul Simon, executive producer at One Thumb Mobile (a Scottish company that specializes in MMO releases for mobile), explained to GamesIndustry International that, with improvements still being made, free-to-play still has a lengthy life ahead.

“It’s unlikely the free-to-play stigma will fade away from Western gamers anytime soon. There’s a lot of psychology at play regarding fairness and free-to-play that isn’t an issue to gamers in Eastern markets where the model originated,” he said. “Free-to-play is changing and adapting for Western audiences. We’re likely to continue to see more and more players warm up to free-to-play — especially since it has become the dominant market strategy, and many gamers haven’t known anything else. This has been going on for the last five or so years, and it’s unlikely to swing the other way suddenly. People like free stuff!”

There are circumstances where gamers can be affected by the market, such as titles that require a “pay to win” strategy. “To have a successful free-to-play strategy, players need to see your premium items as fair and obtainable. If you sell the best weapons and armor in your item shop, you might have great short-term sales — but you won’t be able to keep players long term without very aggressive content update schedules,” added Simon.

Simon’s team at One Thumb Mobile is currently hard at work on revamping one of its popular mobile MMO releases, Celtic Heroes, around a new engine titled Destiny, using elements from Unity. “Experience from other MMO studios has helped influence our development. Our planning and documentation has gotten much better, and people have brought in tons of great ideas for future development such as our upcoming mounted combat and crafting systems — both of which have been heavily influenced by sandbox MMOs. Since we’re a mobile studio, we’re expected to produce content much faster than a traditional MMO. We’ve dropped the idea of yearly expansion packs in favor of smaller more regular feature releases based on feedback from our players,” said Simon.

Simon also noted how careful a developer needs to be with cost structure with such a game. “MMOs are complex and expensive projects that can cost tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands a month to run. One Thumb Mobile is in a fairly unique position that we’re an independent MMO studio. We started off with a very small team and grew along with the success of Celtic Heroes — reinvesting our earnings to grow from 5 to over 25 employees in three years. Staff should be your biggest overhead, so making sure to get the right people that are passionate about the project and not overspending on large fixed costs like massive server farms or an expansive studio right away can help keep your initial costs low,” he explained.

As far as the market goes, “In the next few years… we’re going to see more and more AAA-quality games on mobile and a change in core gamer opinions on mobile games. In the short term, discoverability is likely to remain the biggest challenge. While it can be a curse, it can also be a blessing — since an indie studio with a really great game can be just as successful as a massive publisher that has for the most part still only dipped their toes into the marketplace because the pace of change is so fast,” Simon said.

More of the interview – and insight into the free-to-play MMO market – can be found here.