In the world of video games, free-to-play has fast emerged as a juggernaut. The majority of the top twenty grossing iOS titles, for example, don’t have any price of admission to start. Over 70% of revenue in mobile comes from in-app payments within zero dollar games. It’s quickly becoming the train you either get on, or from which you get out of the way. Microsoft, it seems, is hopping aboard.
Couched in a recent announcement that cartoony, “large-scale multiplayer” action title Happy Wars was releasing to Xbox Live Gold Subscribers was an exciting fact: the game will be free with microtransactions. Styled as tactics-meets-Mario Party, the game will see players facing off in large scale offensive missions against one another’s ground troops, air vehicles, and ultimately bases of operations. While it’s not clear exactly how purchases will come into play, an advertised slew of “lavish” in game items indicates that battle will be fuelled by the purchasing of single-use powerups, different types of weaponry, and – if you’re so inclined – unique outfits.
More details will emerge at this year’s PAX Prime, where the game will be playable, but in the mean time, this news represents the first tangible step towards a console environment whose pricing schemes mimic that of what we’re seeing in mobile. The clear influence of the monetization method made popular through social games and – more recently – mobile titles seems to be slowly reversing the balance of power between the console and casual spaces, and it will be very interesting to see if games like Happy Wars pave the way for a more open environment in which bite sized titles could make their way to console.
Less interesting to see? An average user try to fiddle with breaking down Microsoft Points into miniature transactions. Those things are already impossible to understand.