World of Warcraft Lead Designer Interview

GamesIndustry is offering an interview with World of Warcraft lead designer Rob Pardo, which touches on his career, the difficult balance between the new and the reimagined in the World of Warcraft expansions, his opinions on the viable business models in the industry, and more.

I think the more interesting snippet by far is this one on single-player and free-to-play titles:
Q: Do you think that the big-budget single-player game is an endangered species at this point?

Rob Pardo: I do. I don't see there being a great business model for it these days. It's really sad, there's just a lot of elements out there that conspire to make those games difficult to make now. Between pirating or the ability for people to rent games, it's hard for publishers to pour millions and millions of dollars into a game and not necessarily see the return they need to make those budgets realistic.

Q: One of the things that's been changing in the industry is the business model. In addition to classic retail sales and subscriptions we now see free-to-play, ad-supported and other variants. Do you think these new business models will affect the game designs and the design process?

Rob Pardo: Definitely. I'm personally a big fan of game designers being involved in the monetization design, because that's what will ultimately make for the best game. A lot of times I think those become very disconnected in the industry. Someone that's more business-oriented or production-oriented will graft a business model onto a game because that's what they think is going to drive the most revenue, but the game doesn't really support it. That's one of the things you've seen a lot with the subscription-based business model. I personally think subscription-based business models can still work, but you can't over-value your game. There's been some games in the past where they've put the subscription model on it because they thought they could get away with it. The reality is if you're going to do a subscription model you need to deliver an immense amount of premium content over time, because people are going to be looking at as 'If I'm going to be $10 or $15 per month, what am I getting month after month?' If I'm not spending enough hours in your product, it's just not going to make sense as a value proposition.

Free-to-play is a much more friendly business model for a lot of people to try out. People can try these games with no risk, and then only decide to pay for games that they really see the value in or want to spend on. I think that is a really strong model. 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.