Camelot Unchained dev: free-to-play headed towards an “apocalypse” in 3-5 years time

Friday, 12th April 2013 12:21 GMT By Dave Cook

Camelot Unchained creator and long-time MMO veteran Mark Jacobs has warned of an impending free-to-play “apocalypse” in three to five years time, thanks to a rush towards unsustainable free-to-play models. He predicted to VG247 that developers will close and publishers stand to lose a lot of money.

Mythic co-founder Jacobs is currently raising funds for his spiritual successor to Dark Age of Camelot, entitled Camelot Unchained over on Kickstarter. It rests at $1,073,218
of its $2,000,000 goal with 20 days spare.

The game will be subscription based and the client will be distributed via torrent, skirting around the need for a mass publisher. Jacobs told me as part of an interview you can read here soon, that the free-to-play market is headed toward an apocalypse.

“The whole free-to-play thing isn’t going away tomorrow,” Jacobs stressed, “but let’s just see what happens in three to five years – and I’m betting closer to three – where free-to-play will become just another model. Right now you’ve got everybody chasing it, going ‘Isn’t this great? Free to play, we’re going to make so much money’”.

Jacobs felt that many developers and publishers are chasing the free-to-play market in the hope that a small percentage of players will actually lay down money on micro-payment items. He doesn’t see it as an economically viable strategy.

“I don’t think that model is going to work out all that well for anybody,” he continued, “not in the long term. Short term – absolutely. Just like every model that seems interesting works out in the short term.

“You know, free-to-play is just another model, and just like every other model in the industry, it will hold its special little place for a while but then there will be consequences. Those consequences in a few years will be a bit of an apocalypse.

“You’re going to see a lot of developers shutting down, and you’re going to see a lot of publishers going, ‘Oh yeah maybe spending $20 million on a free-to-play game wasn’t the best idea ever.’ That’s part of the reason, but the other reason is equally as important, that if you go free-to-play, you really have to compete with every other free-to-play game out there.

Jacobs believes that keeping player-bases smaller and more focused, with players who actually want to pay to play is the key to long-term prosperity in the MMO scene.

“Camelot Unchained is going to be a niche subscription game,” he explained, “so we eliminate the vast majority of people who won’t subscribe to this game, those who might say ‘Oh no I’m not going to pay a subscription, I want free-to-play.’ That’s just great because by getting rid of them, we say ‘We get it. You don’t want free-to-play, that’s fine. Go away’.

“That then allows us to focus our game on the people who want to pay for it, and are willing to pay for it. I’ll take a smaller subscription base that is dedicated, is energised and is excited to play our game, and to work with our game, than ten times that base where I have to deal with a lot of people who really don’t care.

“They’re just looking for the next free game, who are going to complain about it a lot, even though they’re not spending any money, who will feel they can say and do whatever they want because – who cares? It’s a free game – so you ban them. Whoopee.

“So they create an a new account, come back and start doing the same thing. No, I’ll leave that to the big publishers who want to have fun in that space, and who will make their money in the short-term, and I’ll happily take my smaller subscriber base who wants this game, and together we’ll make it something special.”

What’s your take on the influx of free-to-play games today? Is it out of control? Let us know below and stay tuned for my full interview with Jacobs on VG247 soon.



  1. SameeR_Fisher

    Someone call Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli here.

    I bet you he is going to make a counter comment within a week.

    or maybe not.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. LooneyLad

    He’s just wrong on so many levels. With the saturation in the MMO market sub based MMO will become a rarity…looks like it anyway, we’ll see :)

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Mkilbride

    Great interview. Really convinced me. Put 110$ “Young Her” most I’ve ever spent on a game.

    I’ve played pretty much every MMO to date, excluding ones not in English(and some that aren’t), and nothing beats Pay 2 play quality.

    GW2 disappointed me…GW1 was one of my favorite games ever…GW2 I regret buying.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Gylnne

    Great article.

    Looneylad please explain on what level he is wrong. The model, and that is all it is not a gift from the gods, is unsustainable for the long term.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. shillbuster

    look out for the CU fan brigade from shilling CU and bashing TESO/GW2.

    also as a takeaway from this otherwise trashy article, remember what TRION said about F2P 3 years ago, now most of the guys who said that are looking for work and TRION is going F2P/B2p/cash shop with every project now(and shutting down RIFT overseas).

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Sedwin

    F2P works on the premise that a small percentage of your players will pay for the rest of the players. The small percentage, the “whales,” will drop $50, $100, or even $1000+ per month to get the premium treatment, and the rest might spend $5 or $10 once in a while, but otherwise spend nothing, and most never spend a dime. This is not sustainable, nor is it, in my opinion, a fair way of conducting business.

    I do agree with Mark – the F2P fad will end. At first it was only in the East, now it has been embraced by the West, but our love affair with it will end and it will eventually become just another business model, not THE business model (almost) every developer is designing around.

    The problem when you make a game F2P is systems need to be designed around annoying players enough to pay. More bag space? Pay. More character slots? Pay. Faster mount? Pay. Some games are less annoying than others, but at their core they need to give you a reason to spend money.

    So, while F2P games annoy you into spending money, subscription games entertain you so you keep your subscription. I’d rather a game have to be fun enough to keep me than one annoy me enough to make me want to spend money.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Dreeb

    I agree 100% with Sedwin.

    Other than being “cheap”, I don’t know why people choose F2P. Very rarely do those games have anything worth of value in them anyway. But I guess that’s why there’s a Kindle with Ads and one without.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. LooneyLad


    The key is creating a steady player base, the payment model wont really matter then. The difference between the 2 models is that with the sub based model you can ‘milk’ your player base steadily and somewhat ensure a more ‘secure’ future for your product, and the f2p model will ‘milk’ the player base for less cash but MIGHT do it more frequently depending if you get sucked in or not. And that f2p is not a good option in the long run…just look at World of Tanks, those guys are making massive revenues, look it up. Its just business models, dont be naive people, they do wanna get your money one way or the other.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. SoMuchMass

    Mark is 100% right. When you are the special cookie and one of the few games that are F2P/B2P you are in a good place and you can use that as a differentiator. However, when most games are F2P/B2P in a couple of years and your game has to complete with hundreds of F2P games you are going to be in huge trouble.

    The industry is heading to a saturation of F2P games. And eventually to stand out you will be a subscription game. Think about competing with dozens of high quality F2P MMOs, then hoping 5% of those people that picked your game will buy something on the cash shop. That is just not a good model.

    The F2P/B2P community is something MMO devs really shouldn’t want. They move on from MMO to MMO without any sort of attachment. They are just looking for the next F2P game.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Christopher Jack

    I don’t understand most peoples criticism of f2p, their real issue seems to come from micro transactions which I believe most pay 2 play mmos have too. A growing amount of normal pay upfront games are abusing micro transactions. Normal dlc that that actually expands the game is fine but clearly they’d rather make you pay for hats or something that we used to call cheat codes, seriously though, charging for cheats is Fucking ridiculous…

    #10 2 years ago

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