Candy Crush developer's 'Game Guru' Tommy Palm thinks free-to-play is here to stay but that done well there's no problem. So who does he pick out as the F2P example studios need to follow? Hearthstone.
Free-to-play is getting an understandably rough ride at the moment with many games, such as Dungeon Keeper's mobile revival, rendered almost unplayable thanks to a grasping over reliance on in-app transactions. While Tommy agrees it's a very hard model to get right he does think, "it’s the trend," adding, "we’re really going to see a lot more".
As for the backlash he puts that down to, "a loud minority, especially the old school gamers". However, he does seem to think it's down to the developer to to be fair, saying that, "when a game company gets it right it isn’t a problem at all". So who does get it right? "I think a good example now is Blizzard with Hearthstone. That’s a free-to-play [game] that people don’t necessarily recognise as that, and then it’s not getting as much bad reputation in the hardcore press because, well for one thing, they did a really good job of getting the balance right". In all fairness King aren't one of the more gouging F2P developers out there. "We worked a lot at King making sure our games are really free-to-play," explains Tommy, "so you can make it all the way from the beginning to the very end without ever having to pay".
There's one more thing he admires Hearthstone for and that's it's forward thinking multiformat compatibility, something he considers to be the same "leap" as Facebook was as a gaming platform. According to Tommy it's still, "definitely very, very early days," adding, "there’s today probably not more than ten titles that are truly cross platform, where you can log into the same game from virtually any device. And Hearthstone is an example". In the future he thinks "we’ll see a lot more of that coming".