As a PC gamer since the late 1980’s, the very idea of freemium gaming has always felt a bit strange and uncomfortable to me. Call me old school, but when I buy a game I expect to own that game; I expect it to be a complete game that at least works properly out of the ‘box’; and I most certainly don’t expect to have to pay repeatedly to unlock content as I’m playing through. ‘Freemium’ to me is just a clever and dubious way to extort money from inexperienced gamers — today that includes kids of the 00’s and their parents, who, regrettably, probably never experienced the glorious pre-persistent connection, pre-fremium world of PC gaming.
I’m clearly not alone in my strong dislike for fremium gaming and the complete bullsh*t that is microtransactions. Last week EA got smacked hard by gamers upset that their new juggernaut release Star Wars: Battlefront II would require users to purchase in-game credits or slog through 40 hours of gameplay before heroes like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader could be unlocked. This probably would not have caused such as stir if the game sold for a more modest $15 or $20, but at $60/$80 it was a full-priced game. The overwhelming consensus was that full-priced games shouldn’t require (or even highly incentivize) additional purchases to unlock the game’s most desirable content. It certainly didn’t help that EA was already among the most despised companies in the world.
And now today, with some eye-opening data from SuperData, we can see that Battlefront II was just the tip of the iceberg. Having largely shied away from big title games like Battlefront, Call of Duty, and FIFA these last few years, I was blissfully unaware of just how pervasive the fremium/free-to-play nonsense had crept into the PC gaming industry. Crept isn’t even the right word; launched is more like it! SuperData’s report shows that free-to-play revenue now makes up the largest slice of the pc/console revenue pie, bringing in more money than pc/console game sales and DLC/add-on content combined. Not only that, but free-to-play is also the fastest growing revenue generator, having expanded from just $11 billion in 2012 to $22 billion in 2017. Looking forward, SuperData is predicting $25 billion in freemium revenue by 2022.
I may be among an older generation of gamers who will likely despise microtransactions no matter what. But the uproar over Battlefront II gives me hope that at the very least we gamers can stem the tide for a few more years to come. And, regardless, I suspect there will always be excellent new non-fremium titles from small, independent developers who actually see the value in respecting their fanbase.