The producer of Age of Empires Online has been voicing his thoughts on piracy, saying that the free-to-play model is one of the best defences against piracy. He argues that Eastern games that primarily use microtransactions are more secure than other games, and that "it makes sense for us in the West to catch up on this."
Microsoft Games Studios' general manager Dave Luehmann made the comments in an interview with
, where he said “In the console world, piracy is a little better understood and managed. Whereas on an open platform, you need to have a different kind of business model that's more resilient to piracy. In Eastern countries, transaction-based online games have demonstrably been more secure against piracy, and I think it makes sense for us in the West to catch up to this.”
Over the last year, a few major Western MMOs have successfully gone free-to-play, including
Lord of the Rings Online
. Free-to-play online arena games like League of Legends and Bloodline Champions have also been growing in popularity after a quiet start. Luehmann lists this as one of the problems of the free-to-play model. "The launch of your game becomes less of an event," he added. "It's hard to have a big get-together and launch party for a download game like the ones we had for titles like Age of Empires 3. It's a different sequence of events – the launch isn't one big event, it's something that grows over a longer period of time."
The rise of free-to-play gaming is set to continue with the release of
Age of Empires Online
later this year, but the model hasn't been universally successful. Recently
Company of Heroes Online
closed its doors, and Relic seemed to have abandoned the idea for now. What do you think of free-to-play games? Are they the best defence against piracy?