The rise of the free-to-play and multiple player online games have added a new component to the gaming industry, but they won’t replace home consoles or PC’s completely.
Despite the growing popularity of the trend toward free-to-play gaming models and those that employ social connectivity, not everyone in the business of online gaming thinks smart phones and tablet devices will completely replace dedicated gaming hardware in the future. Online games have become a huge industry within the last decade and the overall global video game market was valued at $65 billion last year.
As the international community of gamers continues to grow, the trend toward video game players as fourth-party developers of game content will allow for more open source models of game design, development and engineering. In this scenario game players will continue to create user modifications and content that are becoming become just as popular as the original games. Many game industry observers feel that as more games offer modifying opportunities, the number of established online game community developers will also rise beyond the estimated one half million that exist now in 2012. The rise of the free-to-play and multiple online player games have added a new component to the industry, but some game industry executives are now saying that many companies are overestimating the current trend toward free-to-play models and social connectivity.
When Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Jack Tretton recently spoke to International Games Industry International, a leading website and community for news and information about the global video games industry, he said that over the long haul, free-to-play and social gaming are unlikely to completely replace current business models and the dedicated console business used to play them. Tretton said “Free-to-play and social gaming is a business model that I think a lot of companies are learning is difficult to sustain for the long term, it's an adjunct or it's an add-on, but it's not where gaming is headed. It's an additive diversion. There's a place for social and freemium, but it's not going to replace the business models that are out there right now.” And although some in the industry worry that the rise of smart phones and tablets could soon replace dedicated gaming hardware, Tretton and Sony are still banking heavily on the console business and believe that selling dedicated game hardware is a long haul that will eventually pay off for Sony. Another worry is the cost of the console systems and there are some that believe smart phones and tablet-style devices could replace dedicated consoles only if the console makers continue to try and force gamers to buy their latest new products at a cost of more than $200.00 to $300.00 every few years because most informal players simply can't afford it.
In the end it will come down to how much money the companies can make with each new model, and so far with only about 5% of the market being free-to-play games, the genre hasn’t yet come close to overtaking the older and more traditional selling strategies employed by most single player games. Most multiple player games are not pay-to-win either, and usually only require one-time fees of about $10. The overall takeaway is that the new smart phone and tablet-based game designs have succeeded in giving game developers a new place to do their work, but they do not look like they re ready to totally replace home consoles or PC’s any time soon.