In the past, if players were looking for free-to-play games, they’d have to turn to either PC or mobile devices to find them. However, given Microsoft’s recent business decisions, it appears that the company is quite serious about bringing the format to Xbox One – in a number of ways.
A few decisions over the past week have fueled that change in direction, including the announcement of Wargaming’s highly popular World of Tanks for Xbox One (following its massive success on Xbox 360); the multiplayer action game Gigantic, which will be coming from Motiga sometime later this year; the confirmation that Microsoft’s own Fable Legends would be a free-to-play release, structured in a similar manner to Riot Games’ immensely popular League of Legends; and Hi-Rez Studios’ Smite, which has been confirmed to go into early access testing on the Xbox One starting this week.
So what does this mean It means that Microsoft is starting to move forward on the idea of offering free content for Xbox Live regular and Gold members alike, providing a number of alternatives for those who might be too tight on a budget to purchase a $60 title. The company is no stranger to the format, as it’s introduced hit games like Happy Wars and World of Tanks on the Xbox 360, generating huge audiences as a result.
The Xbox One got a free-to-play boost in the past year as well, including titles like Killer Instinct, Project Spark and Warframe (which is also available on PS4) providing a good amount of gameplay with no purchase required. (Microsoft also released the active Xbox Fitness program to Xbox Live Gold members for no charge.)
This new avenue of business could be good for not only players, but developers as well. Expanding highly regarded franchises to a new format can be a tremendous value to publishers, enabling them to bring a similar yet somehow new experience to players, and opening the door to potential business through microtransaction purchases and other features – without gouging them like crazy, as some “freemium” models have been known for in the past.
Microsoft can also benefit from this shift, as it not only brings more of these projects on board its system, but can also advertise them as a key ingredient to the success of Xbox One. While its focus on premium games like Halo 5: Guardians would remain steadfast, the company could easily promote free-to-play releases to its Xbox Live Gold members, thus increasing memberships and benefits to make the service worthwhile. Free weekend events could also be more concurrent, allowing those who don’t yet have Xbox Live Gold the chance to see what it’s like to be a member – and maybe even offer a discounted rate as well, as it did in the past month, lowering its price temporarily to $39.99 for one year.
It’s too soon to tell just how well these titles will do, but if the numbers from Happy Wars, Project Spark and World of Tanks are any indication, they’re bound to be hits – and that’s good news all around, for players, developers, publishers and Microsoft alike.