Why Killer Instincts Free To Play Model is the Future of Video Game Design

The news that Killer Instinct will use a “Free to Play” pricing model caused quite the stir when it was announced back at E3. Some love the pricing strategy, others hate it. What’s clear, however, is that we’re witnessing the future of video game design with the free to play model.

“Free to Play” is a pricing model that makes sense both for the publisher and developer and for the players too. On the publisher and developer’s side, the fact that games can be played for free means bringing in new audiences. Asking for $60 up front is now way to attract gamers to a new game that they’re not sure of. Let’s face it, $60 is a heavy price tag for a game that could end up being low quality. Being free to play allows gamers to try a game before they buy.

With Killer Instinct, the “free to play” model will allows gamers to play as Killer instinct’s main character Jago—the archetypal hero character. Other characters will cost more money to unlock. But since Jago is free, gamers will at least give Killer Instinct a try, and from then on publishers and developers must hook the gamer in order to ensure they buy the content that makes the money (in the case of Killer instinct, this is the other characters).

Gamers can play as Killer Instinct’s Jago on XBOX One for free. Other characters will need to be purchased. 

So, why is this so important to video game design?

For starters, the free to play model means that developers need to make high quality games. Players will know, without paying a dime, whether a game like Killer Instinct is good. If it is, the video game developers and publishers stand to make a lot of money through DLC. But if Killer Instinct is bad, they’ll end up losing a great deal of money as gamers refuse to buy content.

So, “free to play” ensure that the only way developers and publishers will make money is through high quality games.

Another plus of the free to play model is that it allows for more creative video game design.

One of the main reasons why unique and highly creative games fail to make money is because people don’t trust them. Gamers will buy Halo, Call of Duty and other big name games because they know what they’re getting. Few gamers want to spend money on a unique and alternative game that they’re uncertain of. But gamers will try a game that they’re uncertain of if it’s free. Provided the game then delivers a quality experience, gamers will buy into it.

There is a flexibility about the free to play model, a flexibility that benefits gamers and developers. Gamers can try out new gaming experiences that they’re not confident enough to spend $60 on. Developers can try out new and untested waters, knowing that gamers will at least give alternative games a shot.

All in all, the “Free to Play” model makes sense. Over the next few years we can expect to see far more games utilising this model. And for the future of video game design, “free to play” can only be a good thing, affording flexibility for developers and publishers alike.

Let’s see how well Killer Instinct fairs on XBOX One. Will every just stick to playing Jago for free, or will they splash the cash for the full Killer Instinct experience?


Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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