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Free To Play, Expensive To Love: 'Fortnite' Changes Video Game Business (reuters.com) 191

An anonymous reader shares a report: To see the storm that online video game "Fortnite" has unleashed on the world, just visit Jett Sacher in Brooklyn. The 13-year-old spends an hour or two every day on the game with his friends and is not afraid to spend his pocket money on it - bit by bit. "So I bought one dance, two skins and the battle pass," Sacher told Reuters TV about recent gaming sessions. "So that's, I spent $20 on both skins so $40 ... and the dance was another $10 so $50, 60 bucks, something like that."

Sacher's pay-as-you-go expenditure on dressing up his online avatar in the 'free-to-play' game helped "Fortnite" take in an estimated $223 million from in-game purchases in March, according to Joost Van Dreunen at research firm SuperData. "Fortnite," a sort of hybrid of "The Hunger Games" and "Minecraft," drops 100 people onto an island to fight each other for survival. It is a game-changer in the industry, analysts have said, because of the huge revenue it is making from "tween" and teenage boys purchasing outfits and other add-ons. Its publisher, Epic Games, is now worth $4.5 billion, according to an estimate.
Further reading: Gamers are the new stars. Esports arenas are the new movie theaters (The New York Times).
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Free To Play, Expensive To Love: 'Fortnite' Changes Video Game Business

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  • hmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:03PM (#56554304)

    A new age indeed ... "boys purchasing outfits" didn't use to be much of a business model ...

    • Re:hmm (Score:4, Funny)

      by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:25PM (#56554464)

      Don't you remember Saturday Night Fever? Tony Manero had to look *perfect*!!

      • Don't you remember Saturday Night Fever? Tony Manero had to look *perfect*!!

        Touche!

      • Don't you remember Saturday Night Fever? Tony Manero had to look *perfect*!!

        It's been going on for decades, that's for sure. Looking "fly" has always been a major expense for boys. Even if it's not the formal elegance girls go for, boys have always been trying to rock the cool, hip, or groovy look and some spend ridiculous amounts to achieve it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not sure if I should feel happy or sad that gaming is no longer just a hobby. It's entering the public imagination on the scale that kids used to be interested in playing sports.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:09PM (#56554356)
    I know modern graphics and shaders are a bitch to program, but that does not compute. Especially for a relatively low poly game like Fortnight. Nice work if you can get it. But it sucks for us old timers who want single player games or at least to just buy a game and call it a day.
    • by es330td ( 964170 )

      it sucks for us old timers who want single player games

      Amen!

      The first game I ever purchased as a kid was Wizardry for my parent's green screen Apple ][e. I just want to get immersed by myself in an epic RPG.

      • I just want to get immersed by myself in an epic RPG.

        There are some options out there. The Witcher series. Kingdom Come Deliverance. Wasteland 2.

        • for guys like me. Like, I'm probably never going to see another Sonic themed Cart racer from Sumo Digital. And RTS is a dead genre since most games devolve into twitch fests with Actions per Minute being how you win.
          • My, how fun was sonic and all stars racing transformed? easily 300 hours on steam -- a sequel would be fantastic.

          • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

            And RTS is a dead genre since most games devolve into twitch fests with Actions per Minute being how you win.

            To be fair, that is kind of the "real time" part of the name. There are still some good turn-based strategy games like Civilization out there where reaction time is irrelevant.

        • +1 on the witcher 3. Fantastic fantastic game in terms of graphics, story, plot, characters.. Also it draws more on eastern european lore, so it's a nice change from the faux medieval England stuff we usually get.

          Divinity is quite good too, but that's more of a turn based RPG.

      • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @01:57PM (#56555102) Journal

        Have you played Breath of the Wild yet? Phenomenal game. Good games do still exist.

        • Hell yeah. I've got a full-time job and a kid. I bought a Switch with BOTW a month ago, and my profile tells me I've played it "130 hours or more". I didn't sleep much, though!

      • I'll toss in a recommendation for Xenoblade. I couldn't really get into Xenoblade X, and I haven't started Xenoblade 2 yet, but the first one is one of the best RPGs I've ever played.
    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:37PM (#56554552) Journal
      It's a fun business model even if it feels a bit sleazy. The suckers who plop down $20 for a skin are paying for those who just want to play the game. As long as it's just the eye candy that has to be paid for, and not useful gear.
    • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
      As an old timer gamer myself, i like this business model. You _can_ just buy the game and call it a day. If you don't want to pay for aesthetic add-ons it won't affect your gameplay at all. It's at the opposite end of the spectrum from the "gatcha" style games where you have to pay real money in order to gamble on prizes that have a significant impact on the gameplay.

      As for the price itself *shrug* they're charging what the market will bear (or at least what they think the market will bear) just like any
      • While there is no "technical" advantage to skins in the game, the psychological advantage is significant. Once I wore my John Wick skin, enemy players became much more defensive. And nobody tries to shoot me in the back at long distances anymore ("How do you shoot the Devil in the back? What if you miss?"). I've still only spent $10 on the game and received lots of skins/emotes/whatnot.
      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        As for the price itself *shrug* they're charging what the market will bear (or at least what they think the market will bear) just like any other commodity. Do you think the actual physics clothes you buy cost as much to make as what you paid for them?

        Some "value" clothes for wear and tear are probably not that far off. But this is pure vanity/brand/fashion wear like an Armani suit or Louis Vuitton handbag. It's game bling.

    • by pruss ( 246395 )

      Doesn't seem sleazy to me at all. Think of the skins as just recognition of people who donate to the project. You are welcome to use the project without donating, but perhaps you want to donate, and in addition to the good feeling of supporting a project you like, you get some in-game recognition that doesn't affect game play (except for social reasons). (That said, I would almost never spend more than about $10 on a game. Most games I play are either free or less than $5 from gog.)

    • I know modern graphics and shaders are a bitch to program, but that does not compute. Especially for a relatively low poly game like Fortnight. Nice work if you can get it. But it sucks for us old timers who want single player games or at least to just buy a game and call it a day.

      I still avoid multi-player games and any game that requires I pay-to-play. I will buy once and that's it. Kids these days aren't good with maths. I don't get why my son buys a game that is brand new released rather than waiting a year and getting it half-priced. Sure, if you've played all existing games you might need to jump on the latest- but odds are the game will still be good a year from now- and at a better deal.

      • You son wants to play with his friends. If he waits a year before buying a game, his friends will have moved to a new one months ago.

    • I know modern graphics and shaders are a bitch to program, but that does not compute.

      Oh but it does, the whole plan of the greater tech community was to take away computer and software control from the filthy masses so they could do just this. They used the tech illiterate kids and ignorant parents of the world to rob the tech literate half of humanity blind. It began way back in the Ultima online and everquest days, there dream has always been to normalize the walled garden - you never own your software or machine we do approach.

      If you paid for any mmo you enabled all this nonsense. The

  • So glad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:10PM (#56554366)
    I'm so glad I stopped playing video games before this pay to play nonsense. Totally destroys the experience for me. I play video games to get away from things like a real life economy, not to make me a victim of it.
    • Try VR, for now its still a paradise.
      • Heck I still want to finish GTA IV, Diablo II, and Neverwinter Nights one day. I'll find them somewhere and make them run somehow. Don't need the newest thing. Id I recall correctly, Diablo III went to pay to play so I won't be checking that out.
        • Oh and I am somewhere in Assassin's Creed 2 as well.
        • Keep in mind, the GTA IV you play today is not the same as upon release. Last week most of the music in the game was stripped out due to licensing expiring. Its a massive blow to the style and tone of the game.
        • Diablo III pay to play? Are you referring to the Auction House? It's been gone for years, and the console version never had it in the first place.

      • by sirber ( 891722 )

        Try VR, for now its still a paradise.

        kinda pay to play, and it's pretty expensive

        • By that metric *every* game genre is pay-to-play, unless you know somewhere handing out free consoles or PCs (in which case, please share!)

          • Recycling centers received dozens of computers every day. If you know what to look for, you can probably get a decent mid-range gaming PC for under $100.

    • Re:So glad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ksevio ( 865461 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:17PM (#56554408) Homepage
      I've played fortnite BR and it's not pay to play. If you don't buy any outfits, you'll just get randomly assigned one of the default ones, and the dances/emotes aren't needed for anything. The stuff you can buy doesn't affect the gameplay
      • since a) there are teams and b) visibility matters. Being able to pick out a character from an outline to shoot in a split second is important in an FPS. It's why Team Fortress characters have such distinct body builds.
        • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
          a) The outfits aren't how you tell your team (and people often play without teams) b) most of the outfits seem to make people MORE visible with bright colors. The outlines don't change.
    • Re:So glad (Score:4, Interesting)

      by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:28PM (#56554488)

      There are STILL gems that don't have any of the bullshit micro-transactions.

      Two the more popular ones:

      * Minecraft
      * Terraria

      A list of great indy games:

      * AM2R
      * Braid
      * Castle Crashers
      * Cave Story
      * Cuphead
      * Fez
      * Inside
      * Limbo
      * Path of Exile -- NOTE: They have "ethical micro-transactions": Cosmetic items and stash tabs.
      * Super Meat Boy
      * Stardew Valley
      * The Witness

    • I (or my parents when I was a wee lad) have been paying for video/computer games since the late 70s. I guess you don't remember having to put a quarter into the Space Invaders cabinet, or having (to beg your dad) to buy that copy of Zork, do you?

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        Well, I *do* actually remember all four, no, make that five, times I did that. I was always to cheap to pay to play video games. I did buy several computer games, but when they started requiring an on-line server, I stopped buying. (Well, they *said* buying, but they acted more like it was a lease.)

      • Holy cow, Zork. I played it on a mainframe once. Didn't get very far. Is that the came that starts at a stream with water flowing out of a crack in the rock?
      • I remember plugging quarters in and having to save/beg for games all too well from the late 70s on. The thing with quarter powered arcade games though was that if you were good enough you could make a quarter last for hours (unlikely but could be done, saw a guy play Defender for over 2 hours), so at first game makers tried to give players increasing challenge to keep the money flowing. Eventually Atari brought us the OG Pay-To-Win game in the arcade, Gauntlet. Fun to play, exciting and a good social gam

    • I'm so glad I stopped playing video games before this pay to play nonsense. Totally destroys the experience for me.

      How would you know?

      I play video games

      ...

      I'm so glad I stopped playing video games

      Parse error.

  • Are you from 2005? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:12PM (#56554374)

    Because free-to-play and making money on cosmetics has been around for several years. You speak of it as if it's a new phenomena.

    • by higuita ( 129722 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:20PM (#56554438) Homepage

      steam made tons of money selling hats in team fortress 2, so yes, this is not new indeed.

      As long as this things are cosmetic, i'm fine with it... if they give a advantage, it is Pay2Win ... sadly many games are going to the latest and those that do not pay always lose

      • by rhazz ( 2853871 )
        I think gaming is a lot more mainstream now than it was when TF2 came out, the only real difference being how much money can be made selling to a larger audience.
    • This is reuters, one of the oldest news reporting agencies around, so yes. These people (and what they think their most popular demographic is) probably couldn't hold a video game controller in their hands, let alone tell you weather the controller they are a holding is a PS4, Xbox One, or Steam Controller. So yes, to them cosmetic micro-transactions in a 'free-to-play' game along with the new PUBG game format is cutting edge latest technology that the 'tweens' are enjoying
  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @12:13PM (#56554392)
    Targeting microtransactions (MT) at minors should be against the law. These games are designed to be as addictive as possible and to frustrate or dupe users into overspending.

    Free To Play is "free" in the same way as the first hit of crack cocaine is available for free from your friendly neighborhood crack dealer.
    • by Bigbutt ( 65939 )

      I don't know. Last time I checked, $20 wasn't a microtransaction :) Then again, boardgames are running $50 and up over $100 in some cases (Gloomhaven is $150 last time I checked) and RPG books are in a similar price range with the smaller thinner adventure books running around $20.

      [John]

      • Before the Free to Play games were around (mostly due to lack of bandwidth to download such add in's and servers reliable enough to handle the load) These games would normally cost $10.00 for a bargain bin cheapo game. $50/$60 for a decent game to around $100 for the big Ultra Mega Epic Game (opposed to the company Epic Mega Games) .

        These Free to Play games are akin to Shareware of the 1980s and 1990's Where you get to use the program get hooked on it, and decide to pay more for more content. Except for pa

    • Targeting microtransactions (MT) at minors should be against the law.

      Absolutely not.
      Parents/guardians should keep control over their credit/debit cards. Every platform that supports MT also supports parental control over purchases.
      We don't need laws to protect the cash of spineless adults.
      On the other end, if kids are working their ass off to pay for MT, awesome. Good work ethic.
      They'll eventually grow out of it, and will learn a lot about hard work and how easy it is to blow it.

    • I know right!?

      I don't recall having any sort of microtransactions back when I was playing Gauntlet in the 80's having to stick in 2-3 quarters every 3-5 minutes. Although it was easy to spend 20 bucks in one session. ;)

      At least with today's microtransactions once you pay 20 bucks for some DLC component it sticks with you (unless you're buying ingame consumables..)

  • Somehow spending $5 for that shirt, or $10 for that character, or $nn for whatever cosmetic thing just doesn't appeal to me.

    I can appreciate that the game isn't pay-to-win and they gotta make money somehow... I just don't get how people can spend so much money on so little real content.

    • > I just don't get how people can spend so much money on so little real content.

      ePenis bragging rights, aka Vanity.

      The same morons (*) who pay thousands of dollars for a Rolex watch or a Gucci bag [gucci.com] ($2,000+ WTF?)

      (*) Paying $20 - $500 for a watch is fine.
      Paying $5,000 for a watch is vanity, aka More money then brains.

      • Once upon a time I was visiting New York City with my kid Sister when I saw a gaggle of teenage girls carrying diaper bags. When I pointed them out to my sister and wondered aloud why they all had diaper bags when there wasn't a child in sight, she about lost it. Apparently the latest fashion at the time in purses was these really large bags made with bright floral and polka dot prints. Those bags were high fashion and easily cost more than the entirety of my adult wardrobe. Kids spending large sums of mone

      • > I just don't get how people can spend so much money on so little real content.

        ePenis bragging rights, aka Vanity.

        The same morons (*) who pay thousands of dollars for a Rolex watch or a Gucci bag [gucci.com] ($2,000+ WTF?)

        (*) Paying $20 - $500 for a watch is fine. Paying $5,000 for a watch is vanity, aka More money then brains.

        I know, right?! It's almost as if humans have different preferences so choose to spend their money in different ways!

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        Paying $5,000 for a watch is vanity, aka More money then brains.

        I spent a little more than that. The watch is worth more now than when I bought it. I've also had the pleasure of owning it.

        Why would that qualify as more money than brains? Come to that, what's vain about liking cutting edge precision engineering?

    • People make vanity purchases all the time.
      That fancy Car costing over $50k will last and work just as well as a $25k car. You may be getting some extra luxuries that will cost the car manufacture a couple of thousands of dollars. But you are really paying for the vanity of saying you have that type of car.

      Or people paying extra money on clothing with a logo on it.

      Apple caters to the vanity purchase.

      Is it the most optimal use of your money? No.
      However it may be worth it if it makes you feel better.

    • I play Pubg, counterstrike, rainbow 6 seige, and a few other games that have cosmetic microtransactions, and ill say this. It seems stupid, until youve played like 200 hours, and youve only spent 15 bucks on the game. At that point its like "why not spend another 5 bucks to get something cool that you want?" The game is still practically free in terms of money per hour of gameplay. The only difference with fortnight is that its *literally* free up until that point.

  • Serious question what is the change here? This model has been in place for years now with DLC. What's the shift away from that model?
    • by CodeHog ( 666724 )
      Ok, rtfa - boys buying outfits is the game changer. Eh, it's the same thing as them buying weapons or other items. Outfits are just an extension and not a game changer. Most of them just want their character to look like their idea of cool, be it some armor or a tutu.
    • What changed? The editor has been living under a rock for the past decade and just now realized what games have been doing. i.e. Beginners play Warframe, Vets play FashionFrame, etc.

      People will pay Real Money for cosmetic items! News at 11.

      Valve's TF2 popularized micro-transactions for cosmetics almost a decade ago [teamfortress.com] when Team Fortress 2 hats became available on May 21, 2009.

      • by CodeHog ( 666724 )
        LOL! In other news water is wet and sky is blue.
      • Second Life was doing micro-transactions for cosmetic items, some of which were/are actual makeup style cosmetics, years before Valve had their hats.

        Avatar Appearance is such a big part of Second Life and has so many items available, that there are blogs dedicated to Second Life fashion.

        Here's one of my favorites: http://www.strawberrysingh.com... [strawberrysingh.com]

        You may have seen that article on PC Gamer where they mentioned her:

        https://www.pcgamer.com/second... [pcgamer.com]

  • Black Mirror - Season 1 - Episode 2 - 'Fifteen Million Merits'

    Watch it before you buy anything else.

  • Good description of the game industry at present?
  • ... is why we still haven't seen modders, foss developers and artists get together to build their own games. Big style. Where are the awesome arena shooters from back then? Where are the mech games and foss games with own IP? Wesnoth and Xonotic can't be the end of it, no?

    Is overwatch really the last answer to this?

    Xonotic should have some foundation organizing events, leagues and prizes or something. It's not like the enthusiasts community can't do their own games today.

    My 2 cents.

    • Because online gaming is about shared culture. It's having the same experiences of lots of other people. It's no fun to play a game when there aren't enough other players, and you see the same ones over and over. It's not as much fun when you're the weirdo at school talking about a game nobody has ever heard of while they share conversation about the game they're all playing.

      What the mega software corporations have is an advertising budget. And far too many people just buy whatever they're told to buy, and

      • It's not as much fun when you're the weirdo at school talking about a game nobody has ever heard of while they share conversation about the game they're all playing.

        Unless you're a hipster.

    • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday May 04, 2018 @03:19PM (#56555592)

      Ex professional game developer here. (I've shipped games on PS1, PS2, PC, Wii, DS, and helped numerous companies with their PS3 engines and toolchain. Left the professional industry in 2011 for a stable paycheck but I do my own (indie) game programming and design now, am a hardcore gamer, and help fellow game developers with advice.)

      Sorry for the LONG read, but think I can lend some information that will be insightful and not inciteful. =P

      > why we still haven't seen modders, foss developers and artists get together to build their own games.

      We have, but on a limited scale.

      TL:DR;

      * Tech Hurdle
      * Too many cooks in the kitchen
      * Co-dependency upon the Game Engine and everything else
      * Theory vs Implementation
      * The "good" modders get "poached"

      The LONG answer:

      There are numerous reasons for this:

      * Tech Hurdle

      The first hurdle was the tech hurdle. Up until recently writing a "general purpose engine" was folly. Was the game 2D or 3D? If 3D, you HAD to optimize for indoor or outdoor environments for the most part with various kludges to support the other. If you notice both Unity and Unreal now offer a "2D" mode -- Unity with 2D Game Kit [unity3d.com] and Unreal with Paper2D [unrealengine.com]

      Examples where tech matters:

      Trying to do "dense jungle environments" in a 3D shooter was basically a recipe of framerate FAIL until Crysis came along:

      Doctor, it hurts when I do this.
      Don't do that!!

      We "solved" this problem by basically throwing more money at hardware (GPU / CPUs)

      How does the engine handle the "contradictory" nature of transparency?

      * Opaque objects can be rendered front-to-back using the hardware's "Early Z Test".
      * Transparent objects need to be rendered back-to-front so you get the correct colors.

      How does an engine handle thousands of lights?

      * Deferred rending "solves" this problem but doesn't work for transparency. DOH!

      People are using hybrid approaches of Forward Render vs Deferred Render. If the "big boys" are STILL figuring this out, Unity 2018.1 [unity3d.com] with their High Definition Render Pipeline (HD RP) (Preview) -- what chance does amateurs have? Yes, we see engines like Irrlicht [sourceforge.net] but that is a steep learning curve for non-technical people.

      We've seen SOME limited success. Back when Quake 2 was popular we Cube 2: Sauerbraten [sauerbraten.org] as a good example of the community coming together to produce something "good."

      Open Source engines have typically performed like crap. I've posted in the past [slashdot.org]

      how Mike Acton reviewed Ogre 1.9's OrgreNode.cpp [bounceapp.com] pointing out its horrible design and performance.

      As a result Orge 2.x game up with a gameplan -- they put together a PDF [mediafire.com] of how OOP screwed their performance over.

      Turns out, Mike Acton was right. [yosoygames.com.ar] They ended up with a 5x performance increase by ditching OOP and using DOD.

      How many people own Jason's quintessential engine development book Game Engine Architecture [amazon.com]? How many understand it?

      * Too many cooks in the kitchen.

      C++ is "good" example of "Design by committee." Everybody has their favorite pet peeve bloating the core user experience until it is an over-engineered clusterfuck.

      You'll notice that almost all of the

  • And I am only 30. What the hell.
    These games aren't even fun to play once you have the system figured out.
  • "There's a sucker born every minute", 2018 video gaming editon.
  • Welcome to 10 years ago, people who don't give a shit about videogames.
  • This F2P with microtransactions model has been going on for quite a few years now.

  • Oh, hell. The "Fortnite" you now call "Fortnite" is a completely different game than what we thought we were getting, those of us who helped crowdfund its development.

    The early Fortnite was a tower defense game (which is still there, called the "Save the World" mode, just horribly neglected.

    They charged several hundred dollars for founder's packs, and then upsold you in-game too, and then slowly let you figure out for yourself that all progression is gamble-to-win. You would have to buy lootbox (loot llama,

  • Microtransactions have been a thing for a long time. So has free to play. So has free to play with microtransactions. Exactly how is Fortnite changing anything, except the transactions aren't so micro anymore? That's hardly revolutionary. Price gouging at it's best. (Which incidentally has also been around for ages).

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