Freemium as a front-end?

I had a pretty fascinating lecture from Steve Goss of Supermassive Games the other week and although the lecture was meant to be about getting into games employment it got me thinking a lot about this ‘freemium’ model that seems to have proved itself fairly conclusively in the last couple of years.

Supermassive are currently making exclusive content for the Connect system and, economically speaking, doing so in a fairly traditional way : large budget, medium development schedule, high risk. On the side, however, they have also produced a game of their own for PC called ‘Big Match : Striker’ giving them an income independent of the traditional games economy.

I think this is genius. It seems to me the large scale filmic economic model of games development is neither sensible nor sustainable unless supported by an organisation with pockets deep enough to swallow a failure, unless… If a games company can build a successful turnover using smaller, agile, baby games released at (nearly) no cost to the user but supported by in game content might they not then be able to break the shackles of ‘big publisher’ when it comes to creating their own epic-game? With a reliable freemium income, some time to build up cash reserves, and the increasing move to ‘self published’ content in theory a developer of any size could eventually afford to roll out a beefy franchise instead of waiting for a publisher to come knocking. This can only be a good thing.

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