Cliff Bleszinski: 'I respect that core gamers see free-to-play as a dirty, dirty thing'


But he’s done with the traditional model

When Cliff Bleszinski formed Boss Key Productions to create the game now known as LawBreakers, he always knew that free-to-play was the model he wanted. That statement’s not as black and white as it sounds. There’s a lot of in-between when you’re dealing with that monetization scheme. Bleszinski (like all developers, truthfully) says he wants to do free-to-play right.

Speaking with us at PAX Prime in Seattle, Bleszinski talked about the stigma that experienced gamers may have toward free-to-play. “It’s the idea of perceived value. Core gamers have seen free-to-play as a dirty, dirty thing. I can respect that. The amount of money I’ve spent on free-to-play games is very little. I don’t go full A Beautiful Mind on it, but I can kind of see where this is going.So, when it comes to Hearthstone, I’m just like ‘Here’s $60, just give me the fucking packs.’”

The rub lies within the fact that not everyone can just drop $60 on Hearthstonepacks. Bleszinski knows this and realizes that it’s essential that you’re able to cater to those at both ends of the spectrum. “We maybe have a program where if you want early access, give us $15 or $20,” he said. “Then you can play the game before anybody else and then maybe get a super discount on the initial pack of stuff that other people pay a few bucks for. It’s like open-world. How open-world are you? We want to be good free-to-play, not Vegas/mobile free-to-play.”

At this point, LawBreakersco-developer and Killzoneseries director Arjan Brussee chimed in “If you have a small barrier of entry like an early access fee, then I think that can work. For us, if you look at the game, it’s definitely a triple-A type of experience. We don’t want to charge $60, but our fans are used to paying money to play games with the Killzone and Gears of War stuff. So, I think we can leverage the free-to-play thing and do cool stuff in that space.”

Brussee’s right in saying that this is a segment of the gaming population that doesn’t have a problem coughing up some cash for games. The challenge comes in getting them on-board with free-to-play — especially those who are distrustful of the model. But, Bleszinski wouldn’t want to go back to the traditional sales metrics.

“Yeah, for me, that’s completely dead. That’s pre-orders, that’s ‘how many do you get in the first two months’ and then it’s an exponential curve downward after that,” Bleszinski said about the idea of his metrics for success suddenly shifting. “People who are still doing that: have fun. For me, that’s old. For us, it’s about a ramp.”

Bleszinski continued “We may not make a lot of money in the first couple months. But, in the first year, we may start to ramp up. These games are like a locomotive where they get going and going. Once they get momentum, you look around and say ‘How did this game get so damn big?’ The marking is a steady launch over the course of a bunch of different beats throughout the year as opposed to blowing the wad at Christmas while everyone else is blowing their wad. Or, the Super Bowl where you try to get Liam Neeson and Kate Upton to do goofy ads. We’re in it for the long-run here.”