Crytek: 'The future of consoles is free-to-play'

Insight: CEO offers his two cents on "the biggest issue in our industry"

Europe's gaming giant Crytek is most famous for delivering super-high-end shooters for PC and consoles, but more recently the company has focused on a business model that its CEO believes will shape the future of gaming; free-to-play.


CEO Cevat Yerli believes triple-A experiences on par with its Crysis games can work under the free model - not just on PC, but on consoles too.

For this to happen platform holders need to solve what the Crytek boss calls "the biggest issue in the industry right now," the tug-of war between the digital world and traditional boxed retail.

Speaking to CVG, Cevat argues his case for a digital - and free - console future...

Cevat Yerli, CEO and president, Crytek:

Why are free-to-play online games not widespread on consoles? You should ask Microsoft and Sony this question. We see the future of consoles as free-to-play - ideally focussed on free-to-play. That's what I want to see in the future. But unfortunately not everybody shares this vision due to many other reasons.

"That is the biggest issue in the industry right now, because any change implies pressure from retail."

Eighteen months ago we talked to Microsoft about doing a free-to-play version of Warface, and then again 12 months ago, and then again six months ago. It was the same with Nintendo and Sony.

Hardware manufacturers are reliant on distribution and retail businesses, and those companies who are not reliant on third-party retail business such as Apple can go 100% digital. They don't have the problem of retailers saying, 'I will not sell your hardware if you do not give me boxed games too'. That is the culprit of the problem.

Apple says, 'screw you, if you don't sell my hardware I will sell it anyway in my own stores'. So really the number one issue that needs to be resolved is how companies like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo become independent from retail so that they can go fully digital.

That is the biggest issue in the industry right now, because any change implies pressure from retail.

Look at it this way; the margins on games are high, but the console margins are very low. Why do you think shops that sell Xbox 360s are selling them bundled together? Why does a shop sell an Xbox at all? To make money from boxed games.

Retailers will never sell the Xbox hardware if the games are all digital, because they would never make any money. They would have to sell the hardware for double the price and that's not sustainable either.

Warface is described as 'AAA4Free'

It's an industry problem that needs to be overcome and somebody just has to say, 'I'm going to cannibalise it, I don't care, there's a risk of burning some relationships, but we're changing the world for good.'

I think that's the solution, but I don't think anybody is going to do it... apart from Apple. Because Apple can; they don't have to burn bridges because they don't have any bridges to burn.

I believe firmly that the next-generation of tablets are going to be close to current-generation consoles. So if the next-generation consoles don't ship very soon, the tablets are just going to run over them. That's very clear.

I've believed for about a year now that as soon as tablets can stream on to TVs, then there's no reason why you should buy a console anymore.

We're still pushing the tablet game market ourselves, and you'll see both casual and hardcore titles from us.

Cevat was speaking to CVG's Andy Robinson at E3. Read the full Crytek interview for more.