Adapting to the biggest wave of change in the game business, Big Fish Games is launching its first free-to-play game on its global PC and Mac app store today.
The free-to-play title — which lets users play for free and pay real money for virtual items — can be played in a browser or downloaded to a PC or Mac. Seattle-based Big Fish Games is a big contender in casual downloadable games, but to date it has been charging money upfront for many of the games in its catalog of 3,000 titles.
Big Fish is very late to the free-to-play party. But the change should have a big impact as Big Fish Games has 14 million monthly visitors to its games, which are offered in 10 languages and 150 countries. But Big Fish is starting slowly. The first free-to-play game is Big Fish Casino, one of the top 10 grossing games on the iPhone and iPad, year-to-date.
“F2P games are increasingly popular with gamers who have been introduced to digital games over the past few years via the rapid growth of social and mobile platforms,” said Paul Thelen, the founder and chief executive officer of Big Fish. “It is a natural extension to both our PC/Mac app store and to our mobile publishing business.”
Big Fish said it expects its free-to-play business to grow much like its new mobile-game business, which doubled the number of titles in the past year to more than 200. Game companies like the free-to-play model because it allows them to have a direct-to-consumer relationship with players. It can tap free-to-play games from more than 550 developers as well as its own in-house game studio. And free-to-play allows hidden-object games, a mainstay of Big Fish’s business, to change from a linear experience to a continuous online one.
In the next year, Big Fish will announce several new free-to-play games a month on its PC and Mac app store.