The recent groundbreaking success of MiYoHo’s Genshin Impact raises a lot of questions about the future of the video game industry. While there has been no shortage of successful free to play games such as Fortnite, Apex Legends, Warframe, Dota 2, etc, none of them have tried to appeal to a wider audience as Genshin Impact does.
The Myth Surrounding Free-To-Play Games & Microtransactions
It isn’t difficult to notice the obvious differences. Games like Fortnite and Apex Legends all align to the same genre that is not the cup of tea for everyone. Whereas Genshin Impact‘s inspiration lies in titles such as Zelda Breath Of The Wild, a game that is deeply loved by gamers all across the globe.
Moreover, the AAA nature of Genshin Impact changes the game altogether. Open world games have been the staple genre this console generation and there’s no doubt this trend will continue in the upcoming years as well. Games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ghost Of Tsushima, Horizon Zero Dawn add hours and hours of extra content for players to grind in that in a way justifies the $60 price tag. But what if one can get titles like “these” for free?
Genshin Impact raises such questions and for someone who has avoided games like Fortnite and Dota 2, this means a lot. I have spent over dozens and dozens of hours in Genshin Impact and even though its free-to-play business policy is starting to make more and more sense as I level up, I’m not worried at all. That doesn’t mean I’m convinced to spend money on microtransactions yet, which by the way is considered taboo in the wider gaming industry thanks to games like Star Wars: Battlefront 2.
Microtransactions leave a foul taste in the mouth of gamers who are habitual of spending only $60 on their games. But perhaps it’s those games that don’t deserve that extra touch of your wallet and not the entire business policy in general. What I mean is that there are rarely such free-to-play titles available that are rich in quality and scope, where you wouldn’t hesitate to spend some extra cash in the game, even more so because the game gives you so much for free already.
However, this doesn’t mean that Genshin Impact‘s pay to win policies are perfect, it’s not. After the first few hours, the game wouldn’t seem as rewarding as it initially seemed and that is when the grinding kicks in, like most free-to-play games. But unlike other games, Genshin Impact‘s world is actually really good, the grinding isn’t a chore but a fun affair. And it doesn’t take much time for someone to realize that the game deserves one’s time and attention and also an investment( both figuratively and literally).
The Future Is Flexible
The concept of platforms is diminishing, slowly and gradually as we move forward. Microsoft has already discussed their philosophy for next-generation. They don’t care where their audience plays their games, but rather how they play their games.
With services such as Game Pass and xCloud, accessing high quality, AAA games at a shockingly low price, that too on a platform of your choices such as PC, console, or Mobile devices, gaming won’t just be a niche activity that is religiously followed by its ancient devotees, but also a humongous batch of a new audience that is open to trying new things, which isn’t as expensive and inaccessible as it seemed earlier. This brings us back to the free-to-play model yet again.
I recently recommended some of my non-gamer friends and a couple of gamer friends who are completely out of touch with the gaming trends, to try out Genshin Impact ( because it’s free and it’s good) and they did. What’s more, they had a blast with it. These people weren’t restrained by the game’s exclusivity of platforms, they played it on their mobile devices or their PC. One way or another they had an incredible time.
Genshin Impact grossed over $100 million in its first two weeks, whereas Horizon Zero Dawn has made roughly over $300 million in three years. While there’s an obvious difference in the development budget of both games, with Genshin Impact having a significantly higher budget, it’s hard to ignore the long term benefits of the same.
Meanwhile, services such as game pass may also boost the player counts of these free-to-play titles by providing free DLC’s, in-game currencies, and much more. It’s a much viable way to invest in these games if you would rather avoid microtransactions or pay extra. A prime example of this is Destiny 2. While the base game is free to play, it’s various paid expansions are available for free on the game pass, alongside its upcoming one “Beyond Light” that is scheduled to release on November, 10,2020
The impact of these big-budget free-to-play titles are eminent, and it is changing the industry for better or for worse. Whereas Sony and PlayStation are reluctant towards changing their business policies and would continue to develop high quality, polished, AAA experiences that would cost $70 in the upcoming years and would be restricted to a single platform, the wider industry that includes gaming subscriptions, free-to-play titles, etc would drastically change the gaming landscape in the meantime.
Even games such as Halo Infinite, which is rumored to have a development budget of over $500 million would offer a free-to-play multiplayer mode when the game launches later next year. It is perhaps only a matter of time when companies like PlayStation and Nintendo realize that they are better off making free-to-play titles that would make them even bigger profits and take less time to develop and if that happens, what would become of this industry?