When someone asks us about one of the best examples of a good free-to-play game, Warframe usually is one of our replies. Digital Extremes’ free-to-play shooter recently broke its concurrent player record with the release of The War Within expansion, with the impressive number of 68,530 players online at once. With over 26 million registered players since its first launch during 2013 on PC and later on PS4 and Xbox One, Warframe is a resounding success and it keeps growing. But it wasn’t always like this.
Meridith Braun, VP Publishing at Digital Extremes told Games Industry that Warframe started as a something of a make or break exercise, one where marketing budget was pretty much non-existent:
“There was barely budget to buy an account server for the game, let alone to spend on marketing at the time. We turned to viral everything to get the word out: live streaming, social media, Reddit, forums, PR, knocking on partner’s doors for promotional opportunities.”
It was only after open beta that things started to look up and player number increased, thanks to frequent updates and word-of-mouth:
“We discovered early on that frequent significant updates – updates that added dramatic gameplay changes, enhancements and content, and transparency with our community, brought in droves of new players. […] nothing beats age old word-of-mouth between players telling their friends to join in on a game that only gets better and better over time.”
At a time when boxed games such as the new Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Watch Dogs 2, Dishonored 2 and Titanfall 2 seem to be underperforming, Meridith Braun sees the rise of quality in F2P as one of the reasons for that:
“I think we’re seeing the F2P model disrupting the standard retail model for larger budget games. The continued rise of AAA-quality, free-to-play games coming to market – and their ability to fill the long gaps between large IP releases – is taking a bite out of the big game market. Just this year it was great to see F2P titles like Paragon and Paladins launch to great fanfare and numbers, I’m sure they both had some effect on the big budget FPS games alongside Warframe.”
“It’s hard to compete with free. Sure, we want people to eventually pay for the entertainment they’re receiving – but when you have the ability to try out a game for free for as long as you want, a game with equally great production value, and then decide if it’s a game that deserves your money, that’s pretty stiff competition. The larger games also aren’t built to be as agile and reactive to the market after they ship. Free games at their core are made to continually update and improve, offering incredible value and entertainment over a longer period of time.”
All of this seem like valid points to us and Warframe definitely still as a long life ahead. What do you think of Meridith Braun’s opinion?