The next stage in the evolution of free-to-play is successfully monetising the singleplayer game, according to Ngmoco's Ben Cousins, who believes there will be a free-to-play experience comparable to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim within the next few years.
Speaking at the F2P Summit in London today, as reported by Gamesindustry.biz, Cousins – who joined Ngmoco Sweden as general manager last July – said that a game like Skyrim was the ideal candidate for free-to-play.
"I believe that singleplayer will be the next to be cracked in terms of monetisation," he said. "And I'm talking about traditional, story-based, scripted, linear and non-linear singleplayer that we see on consoles.
"I am totally, 100 per cent confident – I will bet large amounts of money – that we will have, in the next few years, a free-to-play equivalent of Skyrim.
"A game like Skyrim, where you accrue skills and equipment over time, that you can play for hundreds of hours, is actually one of the easiest games to develop for a free-to-play model. That would be a big hit."
That, Cousins said, would mark the arrival of version 3.0 of free-to-play. Version 1.0 was devised in Asia in the 1990s, where microtransactions were used only for vanity items and speedier levelling. Version 2.0 is the current model, where the likes of Zynga deliberately add "unpleasantness" that can only be removed through spending.
The average revenue per player in version 1.0 was $5; currently it is $20. When Version 3.0 – the "monetisation superhighway," as Cousins put it – is reached, there will be no upper limit. Microtransactions will, he said, include gameplay features that provoke positive player response: excitement, delight, or risk-taking.
"In the future I believe free-to-play will be the way that nearly everyone plays games," he said in closing. "It will be nearly every genre, and it will be nearly every platform."