Why are game publishers becoming increasingly gung-ho about free-to-play? According to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, piracy is definitely a factor at play.
In spite of its name, free-to-play is one way "to make sure you have revenue," Guillemot explained. "On PC it's only around five to seven per cent of the players who pay for F2P, but normally on PC it's only about five to seven per cent who pay anyway, the rest is pirated. It's around a 93-95 per cent piracy rate, so it ends up at about the same percentage."
Speaking to GI.biz, Guillemot added that "the revenue we get from the people who play is more long term, so we can continue to bring content."
Guillemot says the key to the F2P model is its adaptability. A game could cannibalize existing content to make the game production cheaper initially, and then iterate on it. "What's very important is that we change the content and make it a better fit to the customer as time goes on."
Another factor playing into the company's free-to-play strategy is the slow console transition. "People are saying that the traditional market is declining and that F2P is everything--I'm not saying that. We're waiting for the new consoles--I think that the new consoles will give a huge boost to the industry, just like they do every time that they come. This time, they took too long so the market is waiting."
In spite of Guillemot's bold claims, the publisher recently launched Uplay PC, it's own branded digital storefront for PC games.