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Free and free to play are different, says Valve

By on October 25, 2011

Is “free-to-play” fundamentally different from “free”?

Valve’s Gabe Newell thinks so.

“We made products available for free on numerous occasions, without significantly impacting the audience size…our user base for our first product that we made free to play, Team Fortress 2, increased by a factor of five.”

In other words, consumers were, in the past, given the option of downloading one of Valve’s games for free for a limited period of time. Newell suggests that this did not fundamentally increase the audience size.

When Team Fortress 2 was made free-to-play, the audience increased five-fold. In a fortnight when the vitriol against free-to-play games has reached a new height, it’s fascinating to see players voting for free-to-play not with their wallets but with their attention.

Maybe not all gamers think free-to-play is a bad thing.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: