Gas Powered Games boss Chris Taylor refuses to spend $50 on a video game. For him, free-to-play games such as Age of Empires Online represent the "future" of PC gaming – and herald a new era for the industry.
Age of Empires Online, published by Microsoft Game Studios and created by Robot Entertainment before Supreme Commander maker Gas Powered Games took over development duties, is a "freemium" RTS.
Those who want to can expand their game by buying content packs, priced between $5 and $15.
GPG will continue to release content after AOEO's autumn release – and it's this model, as opposed to a subscription or a one off $50 purchase for a boxed product, that Taylor insists represents the future of PC gaming.
"When I have this experience, where I can get a 'freemium' game that's incredible, huge with arguably hundreds of hours of free gameplay, why would I go to the store and spend $50 in the old model?" Taylor told Eurogamer.
"I'm so done with that. It's fair to say I'm done dropping that kind of money. I want this in everything. Take any favourite game of mine.
"To me it's the future. Absolutely it's the future. If I had to make any prognostications about the gaming industry, that's the easiest one I will have made in 10 years. This model is coming. It's here to stay. It's good on every level.
"It's happening elsewhere, too. It's what's going to make our industry really, truly dominate as a form of entertainment."
Analysts, game developers and game publishers have all predicted the death of the boxed PC game for a number of years now, pointing to the shift towards digital downloads.
The likes of Blizzard's World of Warcraft and Valve's digital distribution service Steam show how popular PC games remain.
For Taylor, however, there's more to this shift than simply selling PC games digitally. Gamers now want to play for free, and spend as and when they see fit.
"We went through 20 odd years of boxed product," he said. "You went to the store to buy a game and it would come on some discs or a CD-ROM and you'd install it. In a couple of months, six months later, or maybe a year, an expansion pack would come out. You'd get some updates.
"But generally the team moves on to do the next big game. The B-team or C-team might make another piece of content for the game. But generally, the experience goes yay! And then it goes like this. And then you wait any number of years for something to happen. So you move on mentally, emotionally to some other experience, some other game. That's what we did for 20 years.
"Now it's changing."
Age of Empires Online, currently in open beta, releases as a digital download and a boxed retail starter kit at the same time in the autumn.
Players can buy three types of content: civilisations, boosters and empire extras. Civilisations include a free component and a premium upgrade, which allows access to restricted content.
"This is what RTS gaming has become: Age of Empires Online," Taylor stated. "It is online, it has community, friends, but that is the beginning. It means when the game goes out, you don't get a hump and you go down. When the game comes out it goes up infinitely.
"It means every month or so you see cool new things, rather than six months, a year, or maybe never. It's a continuous rhythm.
"We have turned a very important corner for the way we think about and develop software and the value proposition we give our customers. It's way up from where we were before."
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