Don't fear freemium! That's the message being put across by a senior PopCap exec this week. Bejeweled franchise business director Giordano Contestabile has reached out to the "curmudgeons" and "Cassandras" who have cried foul of free-to-play models in the past, and criticised freemium as an initiative that "will bring ruin on our beloved activity, replacing engaging gameplay with repetitive, exploitative viral mechanics."
Contestabile's opinion is rather that freemium games should not be judged on the first wave of social titles that hit the likes of Facebook, and that developers should look to age-old models, stating a mantra applicable to any studio in the industry: "Make it fun, and people will come. Make it fun, and people will play. Make it fun, and people will want to pay."
Contestabile's point is that the key to social game success is no different than that of a triple-A blockbuster: "the most effective (and probably only) way to succeed in the long term with a social game isn't much different from what it has always been: make a game that people want to play and that will keep players entertained and engaged."
He acknowledges, though, that freemium games have had their problems, and have garnered their fair share of detractors, and rightfully so. But that these shouldn't be used to write off the whole lot, or indeed the potential of freemium models in general.
"To them, I say: you are right, many existing social games are shallow, and don't seem to have players' enjoyment as the foremost priority. But many are, and every day we see new ones that, while not perfect, bring innovation and a sense of fun, and advance our overall understanding of a space that's still in a very early stage of development.
"There is nothing inherently bad or wrong with freemium: all it does is give designers more freedom, enabling a much more rapid usage growth and providing the tools to measure what players actually do in the game, allowing for continuous iteration and improvement. Those are all advantages, and can be engaged to make awesome games in an array of genres, for an ever-expanding audience of 'gamers'. Imagination being the only limit, wouldn't joining the party be a better use of your time than complaining about it?"
Hear, hear. [EDGE]