On the PC gaming front, free-to-play is a good thing. Why? Because the economy still sucks. Because we've grown used to the small bits of game and expense on tablets and smartphones. Because Zynga showed that you can create a highly-lucrative franchise without requiring players to install software or spend money up front. In one sense, free-to-play opens up a world of opportunities to those who don’t have the funds to shell out $60 for a game and a possible added $15 per month.
In speaking about the free-to-play FPS Warface, Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli said that the notion of a single-player experience needs to go away. "I’m not saying that there will be no single-player experiences," he told IGN in an interview. "It could be it’s called Connected Single-Player or Online Single-Player instead."
His words seemingly echo Blizzard who insists that Diablo 3 be played with an always-on Internet connection. Due to social features embedded in the single-player campaign, the action-RPG title cannot be played offline. This factor has caused a lot of controversy for the past year, as the game becomes unplayable if something goes wrong with Battle.net, or if the player doesn't have access to the Internet.
Unfortunately, the success of Farmville has caused the industry to rethink about what a gamer now wants, and how publishers can make money from those needs. Even though Farmville technically isn't a multiplayer game, there are social aspects that seemingly make the gamer feel that they're playing with others in real-time.
"Online and social can reignite single-player in a new type of context and provide benefits that will make you want to be a part of a connected story-mode rather than a disconnected story-mode," he said. "Sure, if the technology forces you to play a traditional single-player game online, that doesn’t make sense but if it’s offering actual benefits to be online then you want to be part of it."
A good example of this scenario is The Walking Dead from Telltale. The user experience is "peppered" with simple but connected updates about the decisions other players are making.
Yerli is referring to Crytek's social platform, the browser-based Gface which is still in closed beta. He said it's not a distribution platform with tacked-on social features like Steam and Origin, but instead serves as a library of titles that friends are playing together. It's a gamer-focused social network with its own news feed, people cloud and more. Naturally Warface is the only highlighted game.
That said, Gface will initially focus on Crytek's free-to-play titles, but the company will open the doors to third-party offerings later down the road. As shown with the Walking Dead reference, not all titles offered on the social platform will be free-to-play multiplayer games, but offer some kind of single-player connectivity possibly spanning into full retail releases.