Cousins: F2P Will Lead to Games With Billion Dollar Lifetime Development Budgets

When we attended the Free2Play Summit in London yesterday, there was a clear buzz in the air – if the developers at the conference are to be believed, F2P will be the future. None hold this belief more strongly than Ben Cousins, General Manager at ngmoco Sweden, who shared his views during the event’s keynote, including a belief that F2P will herald a new era of billion dollar games.

Cousins explained that the nonexistent entry costs, ability to be cross platform and long ‘shelf’-life means that free-to-play games have a virtually unlimited potential. Currently, Cousins sees us as being in the ‘Monetization 2.0’ phase, where developers add “suck” to a F2P game and people have to pay to remove it, leading to an “average best conversion of $5”. In the next 3-10 years, he foresees the ‘Monetization 3.0’ phase, where “mechanics and goods which illicit emotions of excitement, delight, risk-taking and fun” as part of the F2P games, which will lead to an “average best conversion of $60”.

With a $60 conversion rate and hundreds of millions of players across the world, the games could have a billion dollar development budget and cause the studios to have market caps of $100 billion, Cousins said.

These billion dollar games will likely have proper voice acting, linear elements and high production values, he added, something that is lacking in most F2P games.

After the keynote, we caught up with Cousins and asked him whether he thought that the billion dollar games will come from the current big developers, or new studios:

If you look at the history of technology and these kinds of changes in marketplaces driven by technology, generally it’s new, small companies. IBM and Xerox weren’t able to capitalize on the PC for a long time, it was a small company called Apple that capitalized on that. And Microsoft were a small company who capitalized on PC software – there’s a load of examples within technology where it’s generally a kinda scrappy, rebellious young company that will become one of the big scary companies in the future.

We also asked him whether he saw ngmoco being one of those companies:

I don’t know whether I want to make a billion dollar game, that sounds like a lot of work, I’m getting a bit old for that. I’d much rather be a consumer of an incredibly global billion dollar gaming phenomenon. I love to play Call of Duty and Battlefield and Uncharted, really love to play those games, but I don’t want to be involved in a 200 man project – that’s too big for me.

The mind truly boggles at the thought of a billion dollar game, but if Sony was a part of this future, which franchise would you like to see get the billion dollar treatment? Let us know in the comments below.