In video games, the free-to-play model is on the rise

When talking about fruitful businesses, the example taken most often has to be sports. Athletes make a lot of money every year, simply because business calls business. As bland as it sounds, it’s true: the sports world works with numbers appropriate to it.

Dollars pile up just like cartridges for the video game industry. Credits: Kevin Bidwell/Pexels

The video game industry is no different. Although still fairly new, creating games generates billions of dollar every year, and it keeps growing. In the beginning, players helped install the pay-to-play model as the reference. Regardless of the platform, whether consoles or PC, the player needed to buy the game to be able to play it. The biggest grossing franchises of the current era work on that model: Pokemon, Mario, Call of Duty…

In 2006, California university roommates Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck decided to create their own studio: Riot Games. Their main claim was that other video games editors did not listen nearly enough to the player base and that paying to play games was an outdated model. In 2009, Riot Games released its first title: League of Legends. Merrill and Beck made a risky bet: allow players to install and play the game for free.

More than ten years later, it would be a denial to say that their bet didn’t pay off. Relying exclusively on the purchase of different cosmetics (“skins”) for the heroes in the game – called “champions” – the company finds itself trusting the top spot when it comes to revenue generated by free-to-play games.

The infographic also shows that mobile remains the preferred platform for most successful free-to-play games with well-known titles like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush.

The future will tell if the model’s success originates from sheer luck or if its viability will inspire more editors to offer a free-to-play experience.