Creative Assembly explains why it has gone free to play with Total War: Arena


Total War: Arena is free to play because its multiplayer battles requires the huge player base that studios can build quickly if the game is cost-free, says lead designer James Russell.

Speaking to us just after the UK studio revealed Total War: Arena at GDC, Russell insisted that Arena’s free to play model isn’t ‘pay to win’. “Fundamentally if we want to take multiplayer to the next level we need a massive userbase,” he said. “One reason for that is to make matchmaking better. Matchmaking is faster and you get into battles quicker the more players you have. Because we want these team-based battles – up to 10 versus 10 – it needs a huge player population.”

Microtransactions seem to inspire a special kind of anger from certain parts of the game playing community, but Creative Assembly promises that it is being careful and considerate with its move into free to play.

“The first is the reason why we’re doing this is to make this great multiplayer experience…to have a player population on a different level,” said Russell. “What I should emphasise on the sort of monetisation philosophy that we want to follow is that we really want to focus on what we call ‘accelerators’. So we could have loads of premium content, consumables that help you win battles, but that is not what we want to focus on.”

“What we want to focus on is accelerators that help, let you level-up your character faster so you get to high-level content more quickly,” he added. “Just to be really clear: our intention is to make the vast majority of content available to everyone for free as long as they earn it. The focus of monetisation is really around enhancing the speed at which you get access.”