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'Free' is a good time to stop lowering the price

Sometimes it's necessary to follow the flow of an industry whether you want to or not. Coaster Crazy is the first free-to-play game from Frontier Developments, but this wasn't exactly a simple switch to F2P.
Sometimes in business, it's necessary to follow the flow of an industry whether you want to or not. Coaster Crazy is the first free-to-play game from Frontier Developments, but this wasn't exactly a simple switch to F2P for the Kinectimals team. Back at the start of this year, Frontier's David Braben questioned why any studio would go freemium. "If we stay at 99 cents, people will still play," he said. "Otherwise, from an industry point of view, you get this diminishing spiral where, the only reason you're really lowering the price is to take customers away from other developers. "The problem with our industry is that we're selling ourselves short," he added. "There are already a lot of games that are a lot cheaper than perhaps they ought to be." It's hard to argue with the industry veteran, although free-to-play pioneers will no doubt take up the challenge. This move to free-to-play for Frontier, then, appears to go against Braben's feelings on the matter. Gamasutra asked the Elite creator why he had all of a sudden changed his mind on the matter. "This is something we have debated a good deal internally," he answers, "with people concerned over the negative perception of the current monetization practices of some current games."

Essentially, Frontier couldn't simply stand alone against where the industry is obviously headed, and free-to-play is now a necessity, especially for smartphones and tablets. "There is no question free-to-play is here to stay, and is now the expectation of most players," he notes. "We decided to take the opportunity to implement what we felt were best practices in this respect." However, as Braben said in the March piece, he does not want to see the video games industry going any further than this. The gambling industry now has a "customer acquisition cost" of over $100 -- where casinos actually give away that much money just to reel customers in -- and as an industry, Braben would much rather avoid this. "We have to stop lowering the price at some point - perhaps 'free' is a good time to stop," he says.

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