If Epic Games VP Mark Rein is to be trusted, Sony and Microsoft will are both ready to go all-in on the growing trend that is free-to-play gaming. The two competing platform holders are slowly experimenting with the concept — Sony currently offers free-to-play games such as DC Universe Online and Dust 514 on the PS3, while Microsoft has Happy Wars and the upcoming Ascend game. So the idea that we'll see a lot more of these types of games in the future is not out of the question.
Speaking at the UK's Game Horizon conference, Rein addressed the idea of free-to-play on consoles.
"The next-gen consoles are going to be fully embracing the free-to-play and these IAP-type business models," Rein said, "So in case you don't know that I'm putting that out there. Sony and Microsoft are both going heavily in that area."
When his statement was called into question, Rein reiterated, "I'm telling you what they're telling developers."
Unfortunately, games with the "free-to-play" label oftentimes have a negative connotation associated with them. Mobile games are a big contributor to the belief that free-to-play is just a money scheme. But if you look around the industry of late, you'll notice a considerable amount of quality games that are completely free-to-play. League of Legends is just one that comes to mind, and is probably the best example, although it's currently only available on PC. This game costs you absolutely nothing to download and play, and the only thing that really requires you to spend money are the character skins (costumes) — and those are purely for aesthetic. Other than that, you can compete and play with others with no handicap.
Of course, as with any transition, there will be an adjustment period. Not all traditional publishers will have an easy time adjusting to this new business model and, as a result, I'm sure we'll get a games that screw up the system. But overall, I think an assortment of free-to-play games could be good for the industry. I'm sure EA, who already nickels-and-dimes gamers with a full $60 game plus microtransactions will have a hard time with a concept that the base game can be downloaded for free.