Starting today, Steam, the online games distribution service from Valve, will be starting up a new service of sorts, free to play games. Steam normally sells games while offering demo downloads for free, but does not support actual free games. This is most likely down to a certain fiscal element not being provided for the bandwidth. So, how can Steam provide free games without the burden of costs? Micro-transactions of course!
Over the next 5 days, Steam will be releasing a new free to play game each day with certain ‘in-game’ exclusives, with the first game being Spiral Knights. The following days will see the release of Forsaken Worlds, Champions Online: Free for All, Global Agenda: Free Agent, and Alliance of Valiant Arms (AVA), and they all carry a certain familiarity about them… Massively Multiplayer Online-ness… Each game is already free to play in some capacity, but only through their respective websites.
The integration with Steam will give each game the opportunity to appeal to a wider audience than they could have on their own. Finances are covered through that love/hate deal of micro-transactions, but this time powered by Steamworks, to which Steam will take a small percentage of each in-game transaction. This is the same system introduced with Team Fortress 2.
While micro-transaction supported free to play games may not be for everyone, the fact that Steam has started to bring together the diverse world of F2P is a good step; there are so many out there now, it’s hard to keep track. All that’s left is to integrate Facebook and Flash based games – to which I just shuddered violently at the thought…