Free templates in video games have been a talking point for developers and gamers for decades, but in the fighting game community (FGC) it’s only just beginning to gain momentum thanks to a number of popular versions. .
Fighting game developers aren’t exactly new to the conversation, with several like Bandai Namco and SNK experimenting with the idea in their own way over the years. But with brawlhalla first success, MultiVersus reach 20 million players in just over a month, and Project L on the horizon – F2P is now the topic of discussion within the FGC.
In an interview with VGC, SNK Producer Yasuyuki Oda spoke about the inherent benefits of the F2P model, the concerns he and SNK have regarding its adoption, and the potential it holds for the future. This includes his view on MultiVersusalthough he cannot play himself.
“Obviously most of the talk right now is about the merits of free play; you’ll get millions of downloads, et cetera, et cetera. But there are also demerits,” Oda said.
“For instance, MultiVersus is 100% blocked in Japan, can’t be played. I’ve tried everything, I can’t even download the US version on the PSN and play it… I’m getting connection errors because they don’t have servers, basically.
MultiVersus isn’t currently available in several regions such as the Philippines, Malaysia, and Japan, but beyond inaccessibility, he sees this explosive user-base gain as the model’s greatest strength, in part because that it’s easy for someone to just tell a friend and then play together for virtually no cost.
Despite this inherent strength, Oda details how to scale content to match this type of product and the potential loss of historical impact that could also come from the F2P model.
Related: Persistent Skepticism of “F2P” Models in Fighting Game Development
In his view, adapting content to an F2P model is the most challenging aspect of developing these types of games, as it kind of becomes the business model; “the average money paid per user will be lower than that of a premium title”. That means you have to try to produce quality content at a steady pace to try and drive those small buys out of that expanded player base, making the project a lot bigger over time compared to a project that starts as that complete product, then add content after the fact.
And that’s not even about the possible shutdown of servers for these F2P games, which limits how long they can be played through official channels compared to traditional releases.
“For a genre like fighting games, for example, mark of wolves now gets a new game, and one of the reasons for that is that people have been playing the old game for almost 30 years now. You don’t really know what’s going to happen with a server game,” Oda told VGC.
“If something happens with, say, Warner Bros. Discovery, and the game is shut down, it’s gone forever. That’s our biggest worry when we think about a free-to-play model for a genre very iconic like fighting games.
With these concerns, Oda notes that he is more of an “old school traditional” when it comes to game development in that he wants to ship a complete package to avoid these complications.
And it’s not like he didn’t have a habit of quitting multiple mobile games during his tenure at SNK. The company has a long history of releasing titles like the ongoing F2P beat ’em up The King of All Star Fighters.
“It kinda hurts as a creator because we had free mobile games and stuff that didn’t have a big following and then they got shut down. And for us it’s kinda sad that you know that that content is now gone forever,” Oda told VGC. “That always worried me, and I think that’s one of the little drawbacks that sort of balances free-to-play. This is something you really need to think long and hard about. It’s always a possibility and there are more examples of it happening now with games being eclipsed and pulled from stores and all.
The same concept applies to the dwindling number of traditional arcades in the world and the loss of history that accompanies the complete shift to the console market over the past two decades, which SNK, Capcom and Bandai Namco specifically have had to to manage. a lot.
You can read Oda-san’s full interview, which focuses on the upcoming episode of Fatal Fury and his thoughts on the wider video game industry on VGC.