id Software is reenergizing the Quake franchise for the eSports generation with Quake Champions, several years after the great but old-fashioned Quake Live. This time, however, the tech will keep up with the fast-paced arena shooter gameplay, so we should get the best of both worlds. There’s only one major question remaining at this time: is it going free-to-play or buy-to-play?
id’s Tim Willits said the following about the Quake Champions business model: “I can definitely say that is a really hard problem, and so for us we’re trying to figure out exactly what people want more of, and how they perceive it”.
“And I’m not even trying to be cagey! It’s not like we know and just aren’t trying to tell anybody, we don’t know and we’re still trying to figure this out.”
It’s never an easy decision and id Software has to carefully consider the pros and cons from both sides. If the studio prefers B2P for Quake Champions, then the game will have to compete with one heavyweight (Overwatch) and a potentially tough rival (Cliff Bleszinski’s Lawbreakers, which was initially revealed as F2P but later switched sides). The main advantage is that they can rake in quite a bit of revenue from initial sales but not as much as a couple of years ago, as we’re guessing that those players who are already deeply invested in Overwatch probably won’t buy another arena shooter for some time. Going for retail also diminishes the dangers of aim hacks, spambots and all that stuff, making it – possibly – a slightly safer, more mature environment for competitive players and ultimately eSports.
On the other hand, F2P would immediately open Quake Champions to a larger, pretty much unlimited player base, longtime fans of the franchise and new players altogether. There’s no denying the appeal of having your game played by anyone, anywhere, anytime, without some sort of barrier of entry – casual players may turn into enthusiasts in a few days and support the game in ways/amounts that weren’t expected. With this, of course, comes an added layer of toxicity, but the solution could in fact be easier than it seems: make the game free-to-play for everyone, but those who want to participate in the more serious aspect of it, such as ranked matches, would have to pay a onetime small fee. Atlas Reactor is currently trying something of the sort, but that doesn’t seem the right game to judge the success of this plan, due to the niche appeal of that game.
The free-to-play market isn’t exactly jam-packed with top quality first-person shooters, AAA shooters, so this would be a perfect time for one to show up and take all the spotlights. Competition would come from the eternal Team Fortress 2, but the settings of the two games are so different that they could perfectly co-exist. There is a big rival in the works also from a classic franchise and confirmed free-to-play: Unreal Tournament. This one and Quake Champions share quite some history, both are returning with new tech and should both turn out free-to-play, it would make for a very interesting battle of arena shooters.
Quake Champions is going to face little but heavy competition, no matter what its business model turns out to be. But whichever way we look into it, picking a fight with Overwatch always seems to be the hardest path. There aren’t many studios capable of beating Bethesda and id Software, but Blizzard is surely one of the few.