Age of Empires Online dev says free-to-play games are the best defence against pirates

Age of Empires Online 1

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 MCV , 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 Champions Online and 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 Battlefield Play4Free and 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?

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.