In video gaming circles, 2018 could be defined as the year that the Battle Royale-based genre finally found its footing in the mainstream, led by the free-to-play Fortnite. While the rise of the genre has continued to impact the industry, with nearly every shooter brand making their own battle royale mode, the real shift that has been seen has been the adoption of free gaming.
The free-to-play gaming market is now a behemoth of the industry, accounting for $87.7 billion in revenue during the year of Fortnite’s rise to prominence. In 2018, this accounted for over triple the revenues generated by triple-A titles from major publishers.
But this massive uptick in the revenue accrued from free gaming wasn’t an anomaly or simply led by one popular game: in 2019, free-to-play games continued to generate billions. As you would assume, mobile-based free games earned the most revenue, amassing $64.4 billion, with PC’s selection earning $21.1 billion, and console-based free-to-play games bringing in $1.6 billion.
The trend of releasing games without a price tag doesn’t look to be going anywhere, with major PC and console platforms adopting the strategy.
PC evolves into the free-to-play sector
PC gaming has long been held as the highest level of gaming, with the power of the hardware combined with the huge libraries of games doing well to support this PC gamer mantra. However, while there are fairly low-grade free-to-play massively multiplayer online (MMO) titles available to play through web browsers, there are very few PC platforms that still offer classic shareware games that deliver free PC games to download.
Shareware titles were very popular when the internet was emerging, with the first-person shooter, Doom, being a grand example of how free-to-play gaming originated on PC. However, with free-to-play gaming becoming viable in the modern market, new PC gaming platforms have emerged to deliver free games, including the likes of Nords: Heroes of the North, Sparta: War of Empires, Stormfall: Rise of Balur, and Pirates: Tides of Fortune.
The hybrid console adapts the popular mobile method
The Nintendo Switch recently surpassed 50 million in unit sales, surpassing the Xbox One’s seven years’ worth of sales in just three. This can be greatly put down to the massive number of games – from triple-A, indie, and free titles – and the home console-handheld nature of the hybrid device. In the myriad of games in the library, the Switch offers two distinct ways for players to game for free: demos and free-to-play.
The hybrid console offers lengthy demos for many of its biggest titles, including the upcoming Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX as well as the likes of Dragon Quest Builders 2, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and Octopath Traveler. To fit in with this ever-growing craze of free-to-play games, Nintendo also released Super Kirby Clash, Tetris 99, Dauntless, Pokémon Quest, and over 50 other titles for their players.
Free-to-play gaming is taking over, and while there is still a place for full-priced games, there’s no doubt that the popularity of free games will continue to lure in developers. This will further expand the number of price-less titles on the market as well as increase the quality of the releases, due to the level of competition.