Rumor: Xbox 360 getting free-to-play games next year

The free-to-play games model that become popular in PC development circles is starting to creep into consoles, and may make its way Xbox 360 in the near future. Microsoft plans to introduce F2P games next year through Xbox Live, according to an undisclosed source speaking to IGN. Microsoft had planned to make the casual racer Joy Ride follow this revenue model, before it transformed into a Kinect launch title.

The sales model, true to its name, lets users play a game for free, but allows them to purchase cosmetic or game-altering items as well as micro-transactions. It's become particularly popular among massively multiplayer online games and Facebook titles like Farmville. Recently larger publishers like EA have taken notice, experimenting with f2P games like Battlefield Heroes and the recently launched Battlefield Play4Free. Meanwhile, Sony has beaten Microsoft to the punch by utilizing one of its own established properties, launching Free Realms on the PlayStation 3 in March.

As usual with rumors, take this with a grain of salt. If it proves true, E3 seems like the place for Microsoft to announce such a plan, as the event serves multiple roles in attracting game fans, stockholders, and developers.