Monday, June 20, 2011

Is Steam the Future for F2P?

As stated in my previous post, I've been playing the Steam supported game Spiral Knights lately. The integration of this game as well as the game itself has got me thinking on other companies with F2P titles, such as Nexon.

The Steam client would make an excellent platform for simple MMO's. Have a single profile to connect all of them as well as a client that easily updates and connects the chat systems across all games. Your single account can manage subscriptions, cash shop purchases, achievements, mail between players...hell, add some Facebook connectivity there. All the cool kids are doing it.

This presents a huge opportunity for companies that manage multiple games. Even if they choose not to use Steam, the type of platform has many benefits for its users and the companies. Cash shop purchases for example. If there is anything that Apple has proven, it is that customers are very hesitant to input their credit card information into many different places. Creating a single, easy to use and trustworthy system like the Apple store that saves your account information for when you want to use it, and purchases become a lot less scary. I know this first hand: My brother ended up downloading over a hundred dollars worth of songs from the iTunes store when it first came out. Bringing multiple games together onto one trustworthy platform makes those cash shop purchases just as easy.

Now, this would be a difficult proposition for larger MMO's. Not for the companies, mind you: Subscriptions between multiple games could be handled easily as well as in-game services (character transfer, CoH costume booster packs, etc.). No, this would be a hard pill to swallow for gamers. Most of us are well aware of the devotion many MMORPG players have towards their game of choice. The amount of time needed to advance in a game lends itself to a market where players don't hop around subscription based MMO's very often, not to mention the high cost of entry.

But let's put together a hypothetical scenario. Sony decides, hey, that Steam stuff is pretty cool. Let's make Station Access just like that. You have your F2P section with PotBS, EQ2 and the others, and then the subscription section with DCUO and SWG. The cash shops would all be manageable from this one client, as well as updates to any game you have installed. That, and their Station Pass deal would be readily accessible and available though it as well, allowing players to easily hop between all of their games without hassle.

Even if Nexon took this up, it would still be just as useful. I say it's a Win-Win. Is Steam the future for F2P game companies? Maybe. Should it be? I think so.

What say you?

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