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'Free-To-Play' Model Arrives On Steam
'Free-To-Play' Model Arrives On Steam
June 14, 2011 | By Kris Graft

Valve Software's Steam platform is getting into the "free-to-play" business model with publishers such as, which is bringing its Unreal Engine 3-powered FPS A.V.A. to the digital storefront on Tuesday.

While it's not the first time that a game has been available to play for free on Steam (the platform hosts promotional free-to-play weekends, for example), this marks the first time Steam will host games that are free to download and keep, and are supported solely by microtransactions.

Ijji is the first out of the gate with its announcement of free-to-play games for the 30 million-strong Steam, but a rep for the publisher suggested other free-to-play publishers will also be bringing their games to the platform.

A.V.A., or Alliance of Valiant Arms, is a military-themed FPS developed by Redduck out of Korea, where the free-to-play business model is prevalent. The game originally launched in 2007, and will be available on Steam at 10 a.m. PST today.

A.V.A. is also the first free-to-play title that is fully integrated with Steamworks, which will enable A.V.A. players to purchase the game's virtual currency, G-Coins, through the Steam store. With that currency, players can buy premium virtual items.

Steam A.V.A. players can also play against A.V.A. gamers who use's portal. The game was licensed to for North American and European distribution by Neowiz.

Valve itself has implemented virtual item buys through Steam, namely through Team Fortress 2's "Mann Co. Store," which sells everything from virtual hats to bazookas.

[UPDATE: Valve confirmed a total of five free-to-play games that are launching on Steam today, including Ijji and Redduck's A.V.A., Perfect World's Forsaken Worlds MMORPG, Atari and Cryptic's Champion's Online Free For All, Hi Rez Studios' Global Agenda: Free Agent shooter, and Three Rings Design and Sega's Spiral Knights MMORPG.

"The introduction of free-to-play games is another example of the constant evolution of Steam," said Jason Holtman, Valve's director of business development. "Free to Play games offer new game genres and game experiences for customers, while offering developers and publishers new revenue opportunities and the ability to reach customers in areas of the world where the traditional packaged goods model is less popular than F2P."]


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Adam Petrone
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Alien Swarm, along with its SDK, has been available on Steam for a while.

Kris Graft
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Yup, but the story here is about the F2P, microtransactions-based business model, not giving away games for free.

Daniel James
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Also featuring Spiral Knights, our collaboration with SEGA:

Kris Graft
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Thanks Daniel, I just updated our story with more information from Valve.

Shawn W
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About time. I expect to see several more additions in the free-to-play category very soon. I wonder what the revenue split is between the publisher and steam. Can players on the ijji servers play on the steam ones with the same virtual currency they purchased from ijji?

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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It seems Im in the minority but I really cannot enjoy a Free-to-play-with-microtransactions games. I feel like Im playing with salesman looking over my shoulder all the time. But overall, different business models are good for the industry if they allow us to increase the size of the market, so this is good news.

Jerry Pritchard
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Funny. Alien Swarm is pretty damn great, hell I would have even paid money for it and I would have certainly paid some funny-money for some equipment DLCs for it also.

As a professional in the games biz, I worry about how all these F2P games are going to irreversibly harm the industry by undercutting and overly competing with the pay-full-price games. I understand how the F2P economies work and all that, its just unsettling in terms of stability.

On the flip side, the gamer (and freeloading cheapskate) inside of me rejoices every time a new F2P game releases. But the old saying, "You get what you pay for" is more true than ever.

Michael Thornberg
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As alluring as "free" games are, I really hope this doesn't catch on. I fear watered out games with little or no content. I don't see why computer games have to follow the "mobile"-trend, with cheap crappy games. See how it is now.. The market is littered with so many crap products, that you have a hard time finding passable ones. I think the industry really shot itself in the foot there.

steve roger
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Jerry I hope that gamers will continue see the difference between the quality of Free to Play versus the quality of a retail game. I think they will. The customers on Steam are a pretty savvy bunch.

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That's funny, because I've played some F2P games that are of higher quality than retail games.

League of Legends anyone?

Runescape has been pretty big, as well as Runes of Magic.

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Can't wait to see where this goes.

Jerry Pritchard
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I play Runes of Magic instead of WOW and really enjoy it a lot. I think full-priced titles could learn alot from the F2P market on how to attract players and keep their games fresh. But the counter argument is certainly that the quality is hit-or-miss and rarely do F2P games maintain their updates as often as they should. I think Runes of Magic is one of those great exceptions, although they are far from perfect.

The biggest impact F2P games have is on the consumer's perception of value. This is esepcially true on iOS because when nearly every game is F2P, asking someone to pay 99c to $2.99 is almost impossible because the market overall is so devalued in the player's minds. (why would I pay 99c for an app when their is a similar-but-limited version for FREE?)

Steam already has some absolutely insane deals going on discounted game titles, then you throw F2P games into the mix and it's going to devalue the higher-quality and higher-priced games in the eyes of the consumers. The only saving grace for some of these titles is that they are super-popular and known franchises (like COD, Battlefield..etc) that some of these players have on their "must have" lists.

I still haven't seen major publishers make F2P work well, giving something away for free is a concept that is too foreign to them still and they don't quite understand how to handle it.