Microsoft and Lionhead today made a slightly surprising announcement; the forthcoming Fable Legends, a 4v1 game where a team of heroes battles a player-controlled villain, is going to be free-to-play.
Here’s how the cross-platform Xbox One and PC title will play out: at launch there will be four heroes available, and every two weeks those four heroes will be swapped out for four different ones. If you want to unlock a hero to play as whenever you want you can either buy the character with real money or spend silver coins which are unlocked by playing the game. Neither Lionhead or Microsoft have commented on how much these heroes may cost officially, but speaking to Eurogamer a member of Lionhead reckoned that it might take a fortnight to earn enough silver to buy a hero, fitting in with the 2-week rota.
As for the villain players will be able to buy monsters. As the villain you also have a campaign of sorts, and in each level of that campaign there will be native creatures you can use for free. However, when you replay a mission you can opt to have non-native creatures at your disposal by either buying them with silver or with real money. Traps and such can also be purchased this way, too, as can treasure chests which contain armor, weapons and augments. Treasure chests can also be found in the levels.
Lionhead intend on expanding the game in seasons, adding more levels, monsters, heroes and gear in an episodic structure. The intention is to keep the game going for years to come, assuming of course enough people are willing to stick around.
Speaking to Eurogamer Lionhead Studio Head John Leedham said,
nvoke anything vaguely like buyers remorse. I want my players to feel like, oh, I bought something cool. I don’t regret that purchase. That’s what matters to me.
“When I’ve played my 30th hour of Hearthstone, at some point I decided, I should probably give Blizzard some money. I felt like I owed them something because they’d made such a great game for me to play, and I didn’t need to spend money in the game, but I thought I should. So I bought some card packs. I did the same thing in Team Fortress and eventually in League of Legends.
“That’s the kind of feeling I want to invoke with our players. I want them to have such a fun experience that some percentage of them go, okay I’m going to buy a hero that just came out, or I’ll get Winter a new hairstyle and a cool-looking hood. That’s the kind of feeling we want to generate in our players where, we’ve offered them such a good time that they’re spending time in it that they feel valuable.”
Personally this is a complex issue that leaves me feeling very mixed. You see, at my core I actually like the idea of free-to-play games as they’re a fascinating business model. However, I love the idea, not the reality often born of it. As we all know the free-to-play model is a treacherous, horrendous genre at times, and so often pushes developers to deliberately unbalance their game to encourage folk to spend cash. In Fable Legends, for example, being able to buy monsters could be a tricky slope if not very carefully balanced, else those who spend big cash will always win by having accessing to more powerful beasts.
Fingers crossed Lionhead can pull this one off.