Designers have to own, love and define free-to-play, says Peter Molyneux

Rethinking the process

Designers have to own, love and define free-to-play, says Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux seems unable to escape criticism and controversy.

The veteran British game developer's well-meaning tendency to overhype often lands him in trouble with gamers.

It's perhaps unsurprising then that Molyneux's latest release, Godus, has caused another upset, with Molyneux finding himself in the firing line by making the decision to go free-to-play, including having time gates, only months after blasting EA's remake of his Dungeon Keeper IP for taking the same route.

To find out more about the famed designers' decision, and to give him a chance to clear the air, we borrowed a few minutes of his time at the GDC Europe 2014 conference.

F2P Betrayal

Molyneux wasted no time in setting the record straight, explaining that, despite what people wish to believe, he hasn't betrayed anyone.

Instead, he insisted that the decision to go free-to-play was dictated by the nature of the mobile market. 

“The fact that we are doing a free-to-play game, they think that's that is a betrayal. The simple fact is that if you want to do a game on mobile it's [F2P is] like doing a video on YouTube,” explained Molyneux.

“People will not pay for games on mobile. They are not used to paying for games on mobile - especially the audience that we want to find. Why would they want to pay for a game?

“There are some paid games like Monument Valley  for example that have been successfully, but they've had about a million downloads. Godus  achieved that in a few days because it was free.

“Designers in this industry have to own free-to-play and have to love free-to-play and have to define free-to-play and not run away from free-to-play.”

Godus  has struggled to win over critics

Molyneux now believes that the only reason to find an audience on mobile is to make your game available for free.

After all, 'hardcore' gamers might be willing to pay for their games, but titles such as Candy Crush Saga, Flappy Bird,  and Clash of Clans  have ensured that casual gamers are more than happy to stay in the free-to-play camp.

“I have always said that I want to bring gamers and casual people together. The only way I'm going to reach those casual people is free-to-play,” added Molyneux.

“And it isn't as if the fre-to-play version of the game has introduced some tragic new mechanic. Actually, if you go and play and PC version today it's as similar as ever before to the mobile version.

The only way I'm going to reach casual people is with free-to-play.
Peter Molyneux

“So, I think it's as true as my skill can make it. I have never been the sort of person to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and say, "There's the design, go and make that game".

"I've always involved myself in the game, and played the game, and tried to make a great game from experimenting with things.”

Balancing the scales

Free-to-play, however, doesn't always need to be synonymous with extortion. Molyneux believes the 22Cans team have found the right balance, insisting that, if asked, he could prove that his system is a fair one.

"I don't want Godus  to ever feel like a game where a lot of free-to-play games make you say, "Well if I spend £5, it will be about ten minutes later I'll spend another £5," said Molyneux.

"I can show you the analytics where people don't spend money like that in Godus. They spend £5 and then they don't spend any more money for a long time. I can prove that it's fair in that sense.

"So I prefer invest-to-play. But I feel now I am universally hated by the gaming people. I was bullied at school. Badly bullied at school. And I feel some of that emotion bubbling up inside me again now.

"But I live and die by what comes out in the press, and I have to accept that."

To read the full interview head on over to our sister site,

What do you call someone who has an unhealthy obsession with video games and Sean Bean? That'd be a 'Chris Kerr'. Chris is one of those deluded souls who actually believes that one day Sean Bean will survive a movie. Poor guy.