Ubisoft eyes a free-to-play gaming paradigm

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot says he believes a free-to-play gaming paradigm  will generate a profit for studios, while helping to turn the tide against rampant piracy plaguing the industry.

“We want to develop the PC market quite a lot and F2P is really the way to do it,” Guillemot told GamesIndustry during a recent interview.

“The advantage of F2P is that we can get revenue from countries where we couldn’t previously – places where our products were played but not bought. Now with F2P we gain revenue, which helps brands last longer.”

According to Guillemot, F2P is also a way to get closer to your customers, while simultaneously ensuring a viable revenue stream.

“On PC it’s only around five to seven per cent of the players who pay for F2P, but normally on PC it’s only about five to seven per cent who pay anyway, the rest is pirated,” he explained.

“It’s around a 93-95 per cent piracy rate, so it ends up at about the same percentage. The revenue we get from the people who play is more long term, so we can continue to bring content.”

Guillemot also noted that free-to-play games are typically cheaper to code and distribute, but was quick to emphasize F2P wasn’t a magical solution to all of the industry’s current problems.  

“People are saying that the traditional market is declining and that F2P is everything – I’m not saying that… 

”[Yet], we are waiting for the new consoles – I think that the new consoles will give a huge boost to the industry, just like they do every time that they come. With the innovation that we’ll see from, first, the Wii U then the other consoles, the market is going to grow enormously again,” he added.

Interestingly, Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata recently confirmed that the next-gen Wii U console will support a free-to-play gaming model.

“With respect to the Wii U system, when we began working on it, one of our goals was to have a variety of purchase options and additional e-commerce options available at its launch,” said Iwata.

“And because of that, we have prepared a Digital Rights Management system. We have designed the system from a technical standpoint to allow developers to freely take advantage of things like free to play and micro transactions.”

Free-to-play has also been strongly endorsed by industry veteran Daniel Kim who urged console developers to take a giant leap of faith into the F2P market or risk irrelevancy. 

“Console developers are starting to realize that unless they make accommodations or think about changing their own business model they’re going to quickly go the way of the dinosaurs,” Kim opined.

Kim also noted that consoles struggled to find a viable economic model in Korea due to rampant piracy – prompting local devs (PC and console) to adopt more of a free-to-play model than their American counterparts.

“[Yes], I understand the challenge but unless they’re being aggressively proactive about making that leap – it’s kind of like the Indiana Jones, taking that leap of faith – [but] unless you do it there’s no other way to continue to grow,” he added.