Free-to-play dev says Western gamers more critical of the cost structure

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Free-to-play games get plenty of hate from a large segment of the gaming populous — and in particularly egregious examples of “pay to win” schemes, I have no problem joining in — but Paul Simon, executive producer of the long-running iOS MMO Celtic Heroes, says this will eventually fade.In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Simon speaks about balancing the app revenue model so as not to upset players.

“It’s unlikely the free-to-play stigma will fade away from Western gamers anytime soon,” he says. “There’s a lot of psychology at play regarding fairness and free-to-play that isn’t an issue to gamers in Eastern markets where the model originated.” That stigma comes from games that have a poor free-to-play model and end up souring the player base on the entire concept, even before giving other games a shot.

He’s spot on in that regard. There are a few uniquely horrible “free” game apps that are simply shells designed to make you realize you have to open your wallet before the fun actually begins, and once you’re bitten by them, you’ll certainly shy away from others. That can’t be an easy issue for a developer of quality free-to-play software to have to deal with, and I do sympathize, but it’s become a reality of the App Store.

It’s strange, but over time the apps that you have to pay upfront for have become the safer bet. If an app is US$3.99 and it has a great rating, it’s almost certainly gold. If a free app has a similar rating, it’s impossible to tell if that rating is coming from players who have experiences the free content exclusively, or those who didn’t see a problem spending $20 on some in-game “coins” or “jewels” or whatever else the app is peddling.

The full interview is definitely worth a read, as Simon explains how he believes free-to-play will eventually shed its poor reputation and become a true part of Western gaming culture.

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