It took some time, but Ed Fries is sold on free-to-play.
Fries, the video-game industry veteran and startup adviser, spoke on a panel about video games at last week’s PAX conference in Seattle and was asked about his thoughts on the free-to-play business model.
“It took me awhile to get my head around it, but I’m a big fan,” Fries said. “It presents the lowest barrier of entry.”
Fries, formerly the head of Microsoft’s games business during the development and rollout of the original Xbox and beyond, did admit that “like everything that’s new, we’re pretty bad at [free-to-play] right now,” but said he believes free-to-play is here to stay.
“When people point to things they don’t like about free-to-play, I see it more as opportunities where it’s just bad game design as opposed to a fundamental problem with the idea of free-to-play,” he said. “It does cause designers to think differently and you have to build and run companies differently, but I’ve been around it for several years and it’s here to stay.”
PopCap’s CEO Dave Roberts echoed similar thoughts about free-to-play in an interview with GeekWire last month. PopCap, is now implementing the new business model, has taken criticism for jumping on the free-to-play bandwagon. But Roberts thinks it can work.
“We can now talk to a million people in a day or two million people in a day or five million people, or whatever it is going to end up with today. That’s a huge deal,” he said. “People forget that freemium can really be a great thing because we are really showing a lot of people the game, and they are excited about it.”
At PAX, Fries also touched on the future of video games and expressed some serious optimism, saying that there’s never been a more exciting time in the game business than today. It was curious hearing Fries say this, especially since just seven months ago he thought the game industry “kind of feels like (a) slow motion train wreck.”
“There’s an explosion of game companies from little tiny game companies to huge game companies,” he said. “You’ve got 450 people working on Destiny, and at the same time two people can get together with Unity and make something incredible.”
Editor’s note: Ed Fries is moderating a panel on the future of video games at next week’s GeekWire Summit on Sept. 12. Get your tickets here.