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

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.

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About the Author
Dave Cook avatar

Dave Cook


Dave worked on VG247 for an extended period manging much of the site's news output. As well as his experience in games media, he writes for comics, and now specializes in books about gaming history.