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Building better communities: The next challenge for free-to-play

"Wall Street is trading in picoseconds, and we still have 16-player games. This is really small. This is not even modern online technology at all. It's basically 10 years behind," says Gabe Leydon with Machine Zone.
The free-to-play business model has seen a lot of success, but game developers still have their work cut out for them to bring free-to-play into the next generation. Gabe Leydon, CEO of iMob and Jet Fighters mobile developer Machine Zone, told Gamasutra at GDC Online about the next step for free-to-play. "Most of the advancements right now [in free-to-play], I would say, are in community," Leydon said. "Games have been largely about collision for the past 30 or so years -- collision-based games where you have to dodge something to survive, or pass the finish line before somebody else. "Now they're getting a little more emotional, more psychological," he added. "The games are more conduits to interact with each other, rather than to tell them a story. They let the users tell each other the story. What you're going to see is major advancements on the community side." Improving community engagement also means more opportunity to monetize players. But getting more people to interact with one another, and creating lasting excitement around a game, will be a long, difficult task. "Community has a long way to catch up to graphics. Online technology is a lot more advanced in everywhere but video games," Leydon said. "Wall Street is trading in picoseconds, and we still have 16-player games. This is really small. This is not even modern online technology at all. It's basically 10 years behind. So, the video game industry overall is really, really behind when it comes to modern web technologies." "If I wanted to license a graphics engine, I can. If I want to license a physics engine, I can. If I want to license a physics engine, I can. If I want to license a community engine, they don't exist. All the largest video games in the world right now are online, community-based games. And those are going to advance in a way that people don't quite see yet." Gamasutra is at GDC Online in Austin this week. Check out our event page for the latest on-site coverage.

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