In a recent interview with Games Industry, Blizzard's Chief Creative Officer Rob Pardo agreed that the traditional, big-budget single-player game is an endangered species. He said that between piracy and the ability for consumers to rent games, it's now extremely difficult for publishers to dump millions of dollars into a single player game and not see the financial return they need to make the investment realistic.
"One of the bigger trends is there's a lot of smaller games able to be created, so you are seeing a lot more innovation that isn't possible in the AAA space because of the money and the risk involved," he said. "You'll see a lot of these really innovative indie games, mobile games, social games, that people can try out and test new and innovative ideas."
Some of those ideas, he said, will eventually turn into AAA games. They'll also become an "experimental hotbed of gaming design."
He goes on to defend the subscription-based game model, saying that it still works when games aren't over-valued. That means publishers and developers need to design a game to keep the player engaged on a daily basis. Some have slapped on a subscription model because they thought they could get away with it, and failed. Players looked at what they received for $10 to $15 per month and didn't see any value.
Pardo actually moves on to defend the free-to-play model as well, calling it a strong, friendly business that lets potential customers try a product with no risk, and then lets them pay for what they want (such as gear, locked continents, extra characters, etc).
"I think that is a really strong model," he said. "Free-to-play is almost like a genre of business models, there are so many different ways you can apply it. I think for free-to-play to work really well it has to be deeply integrated with the game design itself. What is it that people are going to buy, and how much are you going to pay for this versus the other thing? One of the biggest issues with free-to-play models these days is the feeling that a lot of games give me: That for me to progress in this game, or to really have a deep game experience, you have to pay. That's where free-to-play gets a bad rap. But that's more the game design than the model."
The full interview can be read here.