Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has been speaking to GamesIndustry International about Ubi's reasons for embracing the free to play model . He says free to play games are more cost effective to create because typical PC releases are so heavily pirated. He claims that "only about five to seven per cent" of players pay for PC games, "the rest is pirated."
Guillemot doesn't provide any evidence for this, but insists that the rate of paying customers for a traditional release is equal to that of a free to play game. He says that the free to play model lets Ubisoft "take content which we've developed in the past, graphics etc," to make "cheaper games and improve them over time."
"We want to develop the PC market quite a lot and F2P is really the way to do it," he says. "The advantage of F2P is that we can get revenue from countries where we couldn't previously - places where our products were played but not bought. Now with F2P we gain revenue, which helps brands last longer.
"It's a way to get closer to your customers, to make sure you have a revenue. On PC it's only around five to seven per cent of the players who pay for F2P, but normally on PC it's only about five to seven per cent who pay anyway, the rest is pirated. It's around a 93-95 per cent piracy rate, so it ends up at about the same percentage. The revenue we get from the people who play is more long term, so we can continue to bring content."
It would be very interesting to learn where Guillemot has taken the "93-95 per cent" figure from, but a belief in that high a rate of piracy would explain the aggressive DRM strategy that Ubisoft have been pursuing for the past few years. Ubisoft recently announced that they'll be charging into the free to play market with three new games, Anno Online , Silent Hunter Online and Heroes of Might and Magic Online .