GWJ Conference Call Episode 386

Conference Call

Thief, Shadowrun: Dragonfall, One Way Heroics, Banished, Free to Play Mechanics Getting Into AAA Games, Your Emails and More!

This week Dave Heron joins Shawn Andrich and Julian Murdoch to talk about free to play mechanics encroaching on AAA games.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined.

Chairman_Mao's Timestamps
00.02.16 Thief
00.13.10 Banished
00.22.55 One Way Heroics
00.28.12 Shadowrun: Dragonfall
00.34.58 This week's topic: Free-to-play mechanics getting into AAA!
01.02.46 Your emails!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Chandra - Workbench Music - http://workbench-music.com - 24:27

Cosmos - Workbench Music - http://workbench-music.com - 1:02:11

Comments

Just started listening, so this isn't a comment on the contents of the podcast, but a general one: When I clicked Play, my ears exploded. I don't know if it would be easy or complicated, but do you guys think you could add a volume control? Most basic of functions, and I don't have it!

Pretty please?

Julian ! I am pushing 40 and I would NEVER push that easy button.
I would quit the game before pressing it. (By the way, this is my Irish/Welsh Celtish heritage that is on display here. "FREEEEEEDOM !")
I am with Shawn on this, "shut up, go away, put me back in there, I got this !"

Man, I'll say that I don't want to be a part of gaming in the future described in this podcast... I hated to see that microtransactions were implemented in Forza, and do I have to say anything about Dungeon Keeper? I think it's a predatory business practice, and I really could care less about shareholders in a publicly traded company boosting their dividends. I think it's a slippery slope where it's easy to fall into making a game impossible to play unless you pay more money. I say no thank you. If you start developing your games with the whales in mind, the development will change from the original vision to try and manipulate players into spending more money. It's only a matter of time.

I would agree that Bravely Default does ftp elements really well. I would have to search to find where I would give them money for SP, and they mention it once and then never again. IF you have to do it, do it this way. Leave the rest of the design of the game alone.

And the fact that it bothers me so much upsets me. The fact that the industry is going to a place I can't support makes me feel guilty and it's depressing. I'm an animator... many of my friends work in games, some of those for big developers, and it would suck if they lost their job because people like me refuse to support this model. I just can't get behind it. I like my single player, narrative based games. I love the Last of Us and Darksiders, and Uncharted, MGS, Bioshock... the list goes on and on. If games like that go away, or are replaced with games with heavy ftp trappings, I have to bow out.

Sounds like Thief missed out on the potential for a clock tower related mini-game.

JillSammich-

I think a point I failed to make clearly is that the incorporation of f2p is the inevitable future for the speculative big budget AAA not all games.

If they are implemented in a way that turns you off, or they shift the market away from genres you enjoy, that's unfortunate. I'm personally in the same situation.

F2P is not a problem, rather it's a symptom of a larger problem; there is a huge gap between the perceived value of games, and their actual value/cost to produce. However, there are alternatives.

Games will be produced to meet the demand. As players/consumers we show this demand by spending money. The Kickstarter model really illustrates this. If we want games that carter to our specific needs we need to make sure there that developers believe there is adequate demand, ie enough potential revenue.

The ends result is we either;

a) Stick with mass market games, and let a small number of players pay hundreds of extra dollars.

b) Being willing to spend a lot more the $60 for boutique games that cater specifically to our interests. These will vary in production value greatly and there often other costs; the current Kickstarter model means the backers assume most of the risk.

-David

I think that's absolutely a fair point, and it is unfortunate... I have been into games since I was very young, and it would be a shame to see the hobby I love so much become something I can't support.

I think a lot of people don't understand that the folks who make their games are very specialized. They have specific training in animation and modeling and texturing... coding, and scripting. These are all very high-skill jobs and the people that do them won't (and shouldn't) work for peanuts. (they also shouldn't be forced to crunch for months on end either but that's another conversation) I don't really have a problem paying a little more for my games when I have the money to be honest. If a game is great and has great art behind it, I have no problem supporting the developers. And really, if you think about it, it's a wonder that games haven't already been priced higher. I think they've remained at a constant price for quite a while, and production costs have only gone up.

Zip_Zap_Rap wrote:

a) Stick with mass market games, and let a small number of players pay hundreds of extra dollars.

b) Being willing to spend a lot more the $60 for boutique games that cater specifically to our interests. These will vary in production value greatly and there often other costs; the current Kickstarter model means the backers assume most of the risk.

-David

To this I say, if we go with option a - If it's implemented at all times like a game such as Mass Effect 3, I can live with that. If, however, the design of the game is changed so that it's designed like a *insert incredibly popular ftp dev here* game - psychologically manipulating a player to purchase microtransactions to progress, making a difficulty spike so great as to be insurmountable without paying more, etc... that's where I worry. I know it's speculation on my end. It may be doomsaying... I think it's a valid concern. The way I play games is I like to enjoy an experience. I'm not really the type of player many publishers are looking for... the one that engages consistently and wants my game to be a service. Games for me are entertainment and a hobby. I consume them as I consume comics or film. I'm just worried that won't be an option for high quality, big budget games going forward.

And a question for those more knowledgable than myself... if we begin charging much more than $60 for our games, how many sales will be lost due to the increase in price? Will it be low enough that the increase will be meaningful or will people refuse to pay that much and you'll sell at a higher price, yes, but to a far lower number of people? I'm not really trying to push against a price increase. I'm genuinely curious.

TLDR - in the end, I think that as a consumer, I just don't want to feel like someone is trying to pull one over on me or cheat me out of what I've paid for.

I thought it was a very intelligent, very informative discussion on micro transactions, if a little depressing for people like me who find overt free to play mechanics to be a complete turn off. Thanks for giving us the developers perspective.

When I play games like Mass Effect 3's multiplayer there is an underlying sense of being a rat in someone else's maze and it kills the fun for me. Just that feeling that a game is primarily a money generating machine can remove any desire to play. I downloaded World of tanks recently, saw the starter tank chugging and rattling away to itself, looked in the store to see the piles of gold I could buy and uninstalled the game.

With competitive multiplayer the argument for hidden advantages not being noticeable to those who don't have them may be partly true but I would almost certainly attribute my inevitable frustrations at being killed repeatedly by other players to those hidden advantages. I can just about deal with early adopters, etc having an advantage over me if I can eventually get close to evening the odds through my own growing skill and knowledge of the game. If other players can pay in order to always have an artificial advantage, no matter how long I play, then I'm not playing that game. I realise I am probably in a minority.

When it comes to Titanfall or PvZ Garden Warfare having micro-transactions, people don't seem to remember or realise that ME3's multiplayer didn't have micro-transactions at launch. They were added later (I'm doubting myself now put I'm fairly certain that is the case.)

In regards to Shawn's "where does he poop?", it reminds me very much of MrBTongue/TUN's Shandification of Fallout episode. Specifically, he asked "What do they eat?" (which you can cut to over here if you don't want to watch the whole thing).

If it's implemented at all times like a game such as Mass Effect 3, I can live with that. If, however, the design of the game is changed so that it's designed like a *insert incredibly popular ftp dev here* game - psychologically manipulating a player to purchase microtransactions to progress, making a difficulty spike so great as to be insurmountable without paying more, etc... that's where I worry. I know it's speculation on my end. It may be doomsaying... I think it's a valid concern.

Understanding f2p implementation isn't as complicated as many make it out to be. It's really no different the other forms of economics.

1) Make something that people value, and then get in the way. This could be winning in a competitive game, plot or other content, peacocking (showing off rare visuals), or simply that ability to play the game.

2) One time purchases are bad business because profitability doesn't scale well with engagement. Once a player buys a cool hat, they can show it off whenever they want, as opposed to a consumable power up that lets a player win.

This will lead to a long term macro-level design shift rather then people messing with your favorite single player game designs (though short term all bets are off.) In order to be successful mainstream game publishing will have to shift towards game genres/mechanics that support effective f2p systems and the player that find them palatable. This means more multiplayer, tighter game loops (short matches, more games per session), emphasis on progression systems, and higher accessibility (lower initial cost, easier to gain competence, auto-aiming pistols, alternate objectives like killing bots etc.)

-David

Don't the multiplayer examples of F2P (selling easier access to killstreaks and loadouts) amount to selling hacks?

The thing that really disturbs me about pay-to-win F2P mechanics is what it says about the people that buy them: have they really convinced themselves that illusory success in a game is worth real money? That's a pretty screwed up mindset.

Zip_Zap_Rap wrote:

Understanding f2p implementation isn't as complicated as many make it out to be. It's really no different the other forms of economics.

1) Make something that people value, and then get in the way. This could be winning in a competitive game, plot or other content, peacocking (showing off rare visuals), or simply that ability to play the game.

-David

Oh I don't think I misunderstand how ftp models work. I just think they can sometimes be slimy. And in this lies my main problem with the ftp model. When the getting in the way of the thing that people value (see: your examples) is by placing a pay wall there, I think that is shady. It's bad game design. Instead of being able to power your character up through gameplay or by solving a puzzle, you just have to pay to get past the gate. And there are many games where you can also grind your way there, but it takes so very long as to be prohibitive. At that point, you're changing what could be great game design into something cheap to "encourage" people to pay.

I think the example of something visual that in no way impacts gameplay is a less intrusive way to go about it. It may not be the most lucrative, but it's less offensive to the player. It respects their time and money more. I am a fan of good game design and I think trying to add ftp elements into a game where it doesn't fit is troublesome.

Lets say, for example, I make a hypothetical RPG. The battles are very well balanced and the story pacing is perfect. There may be a job system in there as well for people who like to tinker with builds. I love it. This game is my masterpiece. The story is engaging and well-written. Then a money guy from the publisher comes in and says... "you know what? people are gunna love this, but we need to raise our profit margin. What if we take away half of these save points you have here and instead make people pay to revive so they don't lose their progress. Now how about we take all of the best jobs and put them behind a pay wall. Oh, and what if you only get experience for a certain number of minutes and then monsters just don't give any unless you buy a booster. Also, make the game more difficult so that people die more often to encourage buying of respawns."

Now I have to change my game to fit a monetization scheme. Let's assume that my game's story is fantastic and people want to see it through to the end. Less people will do that because they've already spent money on my game and it feels like a slap in the face, so they put it down and think less of me as a developer. I know this example is much simplified, but it's representative of how many of us feel ftp is implemented.

Really intrigued by the e-mailer with the science and Starbucks background. Recommending them to make a game/mod seemed solid advice, but my question is: where would one start? I'd be interested in playing around with some tools as a personal project. Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of becoming a self-made Sid Meier type, but creating something original sounds fun.

I've messed around in Scratch before, but a tool which could be applied to a real platform like iOS, android or pc would be cool. Thanks for you suggestions and love the show (and community!).

I may have been half asleep on the way to work when I was listening to this, but I seem to remember a mention of a turn based RPG at some point. I can't remember what the name was and as good as the podcast was I don't feel like listening to the whole thing over again if I don't have to. Anyone have any ideas?

Edit: Nevermind, it was Shadowrun. I'm still half asleep apparently.

I wonder if any of the podcasters that have liked Banished have tried Gnomoria? Seems similar genre, and when I bought it and played in alpha, seemed to be a nice chill time suck game. Really enjoyed it.

Not as obscure as Dwarf Fortress, not as nice looking as Banished, but approachable for people like me who don't want the Dwarf Fortress level of complexity.

Frequently on sale for $3 or so. I need to get back into it, as a lot of stuff has been added since I last played.

I really liked the F2P discussion on the show. It really helped to give a better perspective on the business side of things. I especially liked that David mentioned the reality that games are going to have to scale down if they want to avoid going F2P. This is already happening (or happened) in certain genres.

For example, JRPGs are a lot more prevalent on the Vita and 3DS than the console counterparts. While this started primarily due to the higher popularity of handhelds, in the last 5 years we’ve started seeing less spin-offs and more core entries in franchises like Dragon Quest IX and Shin Megami Tensei IV. All while Square-Enix keeps dumping a ton of money into creating high-end graphics for the latest Final Fantasy that's only going to sell about 2-3 million units world wide (compared to 7 million back in the PSOne era).

In addition, the major publishers have largely abandoned the RTS genre in recent years. I think indies have moved to the fill the gap, but we’re a long way from the 90’s when publishers were putting Starcraft, C&C, Total Annihilation and a handful of other projects like Dark Reign or Age of Empires in the mix.

Going back even further, I think the “death” of the point and click adventure genre stemmed from publishers bailing out of the genre because costs had increased while the audience stagnated and or shrank. It’s only been in the last few years that we’ve seen a resurgence in the genre from the indie sector and that seems mostly due to embracing alternative distribution methods, relatively low system requirements, and tangentially being an under served market.

JillSammich wrote:

And a question for those more knowledgable than myself... if we begin charging much more than $60 for our games, how many sales will be lost due to the increase in price? Will it be low enough that the increase will be meaningful or will people refuse to pay that much and you'll sell at a higher price, yes, but to a far lower number of people? I'm not really trying to push against a price increase. I'm genuinely curious.

Publishers and devs already are charging more than $60 for games. That's the expansion pack and (more recently) DLC model, which I expect has a higher ROI than the base game because most of the grunt work was previously completed in the vanilla game development. Plus you can get away with charging up to 2/3rds the MSRP of the vanilla product, and there's a knock-on effect which boosts sales of the vanilla product too.

Zip_Zap_Rap wrote:

This will lead to a long term macro-level design shift rather then people messing with your favorite single player game designs (though short term all bets are off.) In order to be successful mainstream game publishing will have to shift towards game genres/mechanics that support effective f2p systems and the player that find them palatable. This means more multiplayer, tighter game loops (short matches, more games per session), emphasis on progression systems, and higher accessibility (lower initial cost, easier to gain competence, auto-aiming pistols, alternate objectives like killing bots etc.)

I don't think it's at all a coincidence that nearly all the big publishers have some sort of F2P digital CCG or Lords Management game either currently available or in the pipeline. Blizzard-Activision has Hearthstone and Heroes of the Swarm, Ubi has Duel of Champions, Square-Enix has Guardian Cross (which isn't really a CCG but I digress). EA's currently the odd duck out but instead is chasing F2P with older IP like Dungeon Keeper, Ultima, and Theme Park.

MannishBoy wrote:

I wonder if any of the podcasters that have liked Banished have tried Gnomoria? Seems similar genre, and when I bought it and played in alpha, seemed to be a nice chill time suck game. Really enjoyed it.

Not as obscure as Dwarf Fortress, not as nice looking as Banished, but approachable for people like me who don't want the Dwarf Fortress level of complexity.

Frequently on sale for $3 or so. I need to get back into it, as a lot of stuff has been added since I last played.

Indeed I have, and while I dig what it's doing, so far I've had a hard time caring about the world much. I dig some if the mechanics, it just hasn't grabbed me yet. I owe it more time.

As always, a fascinating discussion on the podcast is continued by GWJers 'below the line'.

Much has been said about the cost of developing games and the extent to which this skews the potential profitability of the game. However, I wonder whether marketing costs are the bigger problem.

The rule of thumb for 'tentpole' movies is take the production budget and then add the same again for the worldwide marketing budget. It seems to me that AAA games are following a similar model.

Others will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember tv commercials for AAA games being that common until the mid-PS2/Xbox era (the GTA and Project Gotham 2 come to mind). Now it seems to be impossible to launch a AAA title without a tv campaign.

In a multi-channel tv world this must be staggeringly expensive to undertake worldwide.

And that's without other advertising channels, like cinema, outdoor, magazines and the rest.

pinkdino99 wrote:

Julian ! I am pushing 40 and I would NEVER push that easy button.

I'm pretty sure it isn't necessarily an age thing. I just turned 30 and while it's true that I'd bang my head against that same wall for hours on end until I beat that boss/figured out that puzzle/passed that level, this is no longer the case.
What changed? Okay, true, I'm a few years older, but what really, really changed was working full-time, no longer being a care-free student and becoming a mom (I didn't find that marriage changed my gaming habits all that much, that's why I'm not mentioning it). There are just some things that take priority now, and since my time is a lot more precious, I'm not as forgiving when a game gets frustrating. I used to take difficulty as a challenge and thrive on overcoming them. Now I just want to unwind after a long day, and I don't want to deal with extra frustration.

Except when it comes to strategy games. I have absolutely no shame in admitting that I've always played my Civ games on Settler, maybe Chietain difficulty.
Stop staring. I know, I'm terrible at them, but I still enjoy them with the training wheels on.

legopirate27 wrote:

Really intrigued by the e-mailer with the science and Starbucks background. Recommending them to make a game/mod seemed solid advice, but my question is: where would one start? I'd be interested in playing around with some tools as a personal project. Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of becoming a self-made Sid Meier type, but creating something original sounds fun.

I've messed around in Scratch before, but a tool which could be applied to a real platform like iOS, android or pc would be cool. Thanks for you suggestions and love the show (and community!).

I also wanted to add in about this email and response, and I think the final comments from the podcast are where I'd throw in my +1 - find an small/indie studio, and help them ship by being the guy who takes the reigns on the project.

I've got a friend here in Boston that joined up with one of the indies in town as a Production Manager, whipped them into shape, and while she has moved on to something else, that indie has also "pivoted" into being an incubator for other indies based on the things she implemented.

Finished listening. In regards to the reader mail:

I was in my early twenties when I knocked Ninja Gaiden 2's difficulty down. I was maybe halfway through the game and the beginning of a level kept on slaughtering me. So I decided "Screw it, I'm no masochist" and restarted on easy.

That wasn't the shameful part. The shameful part was remembering where certain enemies appeared and instead encountering weaker trash mobs, fewer foes, or worse, none at all. It really hit home when a cut-scene played where I first encountered a big, spikey, winged beast in the Normal difficulty, but this time was a not-so-spikey no-wings younger brother that provided little challenge.

It was as if the game was taunting me when all I wanted was to take less damage from enemy attacks.

"What's that? Little baby can't handle our normal difficulty? Is it too hard? Well here you go baby, we replaced all the enemies with little baby baddies so the baby could have an easier time killing all the babies. You baby."

As for the guy looking to get into game development: my original goal in College was to come out with the skills necessary to become a game developer. What I learned was that there are few advantages to going to school for anything programming related. You can learn it at home finding guides on the net, buying much cheaper books at the Barnes & Nobles, and downloading express versions of programming software (that is, of any programming language that's not already free).

The only worthwhile experience I really got out of College regarding education were actually my creative writing courses and anything involving focus testing or useability. Those actually helped educate me and teach me things I wasn't aware of.

I'll also second Julian's recommendation that schools are valuable for art, though they also have a trade-off. On one hand, you get educational discounts on otherwise expensive software. At the same time, that discount is more than made up for in tuition costs.

I think the games industry is one of the few that is much more accepting of people that don't have an over-priced degree, which is nice because another lesson I learned: make sure you really, actually, genuinely like programming before going to College for it (hint: I don't).

ccesarano wrote:

I think the games industry is one of the few that is much more accepting of people that don't have an over-priced degree.

I'm going to partially disagree with you.

What I've seen is that, in the video game industry, being able to show that you can ship something is the single biggest thing you can have going for you.

Places like DigiPen can churn out hundreds of untested coders with "game programming" degrees, but if you haven't done anything, you drop to the bottom of the resume pile.

If you can say "hey, here's the 5 games I built while in college/working another job/living out of my parent's basement", on the other hand...

I always think back to The Trenches post called The Great Divide.

“What is the best thing we can do to improve our chances of being hired?”

The lead producer thought for a second, then replied, “Make games of your own. Or mods. As a matter of fact, I’d rather hire someone who spends all day working on their own game than someone who works an unrelated job. [...] If I have the choice between someone who talks to our customers all day and someone who sits in their room making maps, its no contest. Even if you have a portfolio, you just aren’t going to have the same amount of time that an un-distracted candidate has to develop his skills.”

Zelos wrote:

The thing that really disturbs me about pay-to-win F2P mechanics is what it says about the people that buy them: have they really convinced themselves that illusory success in a game is worth real money? That's a pretty screwed up mindset.

I think that's a "screwed up mindset" or at least a very narrow minded judgement. I would say that it's hardly anyone's place to determine what someone deems valuable.

The ability to be the best at something, to show mastery, to impose that mastery on other people is a very common desire. Frankly it's the foundation that my industry was formed.

Frankly I think games/competition is very important and I certainly feel that the people that facilitate that competition create value and should be compensated.

McIrishJihad wrote:

If you can say "hey, here's the 5 games I built while in college/working another job/living out of my parent's basement", on the other hand...

That's basically what I mean. If you have something tangible and of a decent enough quality, then you're basically a candidate whether you went to College or not. What matters is that you made something.

And if you can muster the energy to make something while working a job full-time, I would view that as further proof that what you're doing is something you really enjoy and are more likely to do as a career.

legopirate27 wrote:

Really intrigued by the e-mailer with the science and Starbucks background. Recommending them to make a game/mod seemed solid advice, but my question is: where would one start? I'd be interested in playing around with some tools as a personal project. Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of becoming a self-made Sid Meier type, but creating something original sounds fun.

I've messed around in Scratch before, but a tool which could be applied to a real platform like iOS, android or pc would be cool. Thanks for you suggestions and love the show (and community!).

Starting with a basic framework is important. There is no need to code an engine. I would suggest Game Maker Pro, or RPG Maker as a starting point.

For aspiring level builders I would suggest an engine agnostic approach to grey boxing; google sketch-up is great.

For playable level/mods UDK for simplicity, albeit is has declined in recent years. Kismit and Unreal script having wonky interactions but make things like doors and basic event triggering easy.

Crytek requires a bit more finesse but can produce some really stunning outdoor areas.

Far Cry 2 ships with an easy to use level editor.

-David

rabbit wrote:
MannishBoy wrote:

I wonder if any of the podcasters that have liked Banished have tried Gnomoria? Seems similar genre, and when I bought it and played in alpha, seemed to be a nice chill time suck game. Really enjoyed it.

Not as obscure as Dwarf Fortress, not as nice looking as Banished, but approachable for people like me who don't want the Dwarf Fortress level of complexity.

Frequently on sale for $3 or so. I need to get back into it, as a lot of stuff has been added since I last played.

Indeed I have, and while I dig what it's doing, so far I've had a hard time caring about the world much. I dig some if the mechanics, it just hasn't grabbed me yet. I owe it more time.

When I got it, I quickly sunk like 10 hours into it. It was really early alpha, so I set it aside with a plan to get back to it. Might make a good laptop game.

Really like it, especially at what I paid.

But I can understand it not immediately attracting you to the world. Especially early on, there's not tons of personality, at least until you start twiddling with a lot of the jobs, settings, gnome modes, etc.

Glad to know you've played it, there's a pretty good thread here on it somewhere.

detroit20 wrote:

As always, a fascinating discussion on the podcast is continued by GWJers 'below the line'.

Much has been said about the cost of developing games and the extent to which this skews the potential profitability of the game. However, I wonder whether marketing costs are the bigger problem.

The rule of thumb for 'tentpole' movies is take the production budget and then add the same again for the worldwide marketing budget. It seems to me that AAA games are following a similar model.

For top end AAA games you are short selling the marketing budget. I'm no marketing expert but I'd imagine Marketing budgets are relatively easy to calculate and evaluate. I also suspect the continue to hold value much longer then the actual development. For example, marketing dollars spent of Black Ops II transferred some value to the Modern Warfare III campaign.

As f2p mechanics start appearing in games the need to acquire users will only grow. For reference King spent over 400 million last year on market/user acquisition largely on Candy Crush.

Love this community so much! After listening to the podcast and finishing it with thoughts about Free to Play business models and the rumination there of, I find others have already written way more than I could right now on this exact topic. I don't have much to add to the conversation (or the time right now), but had to say something about a community this in touch that the conversation doesn't end in the Conference Call. <3!

shoptroll wrote:

For example, JRPGs are a lot more prevalent on the Vita and 3DS than the console counterparts. While this started primarily due to the higher popularity of handhelds, in the last 5 years we’ve started seeing less spin-offs and more core entries in franchises like Dragon Quest IX and Shin Megami Tensei IV. All while Square-Enix keeps dumping a ton of money into creating high-end graphics for the latest Final Fantasy that's only going to sell about 2-3 million units world wide (compared to 7 million back in the PSOne era).

Speaking of which, I saw today that the new harvest moon in Japan had the best selling opening week in many iterations of the series, and the series has seen growth since switching to the 3DS.

shoptroll wrote:

I don't think it's at all a coincidence that nearly all the big publishers have some sort of F2P digital CCG or Lords Management game either currently available or in the pipeline. Blizzard-Activision has Hearthstone and Heroes of the Swarm, Ubi has Duel of Champions, Square-Enix has Guardian Cross (which isn't really a CCG but I digress). EA's currently the odd duck out but instead is chasing F2P with older IP like Dungeon Keeper, Ultima, and Theme Park.

This is a really astute observation. This is exactly the types of games big publishers will be willing to invest/gamble/speculate in/on. Genre's that support and can facilitate a viable micro-transaction based economy.

People shouldn't worry about f2p leaking into their JRPGs or other single player games because the publishers won't even consider them viable.

I thought I'd add a helpful link to the thread.

http://venturebeat.com/2014/01/20/10-online-pc-games-that-made-more-than-100m-in-microtransaction-sales-last-year/

It really illustrates the relative value of different micro-transaction models.

TF2 selling mainly hats compared to CrossFire which follows a very consumable based, pay to compete/win model. You can see why when critics of the later system point to the former as an example of "the right way to do f2p" it doesn't persuade investors.

I think it also really brings into light how Western-centric the common discourse is around the economics of the game industry. The reality is that very quickly "is this viable in Asia?" has become a very important question during a greenlighting process.