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EA’s new ‘Skate’ is a free-to-play live service game

It’s been just over two years since we learned that the first entry in the Skate series since 2010’s Skate 3. Although the publisher isn’t quite ready to announce the release window, it revealed some more details, including the fact the game is just called .

It’s a free-to-play live service title with microtransactions, though there will not be any pay-to-win elements or . You won’t need to fork over cash to unlock areas of the map (the action is set in a new location called San Vansterdam) and there are no paid gameplay advantages. “We are taking inspiration from games like Apex Legends or other popular titles that are free to play, where spending money is totally optional, and it’s mostly about cosmetics and convenience,” Isabelle Mocquard, head of product management at EA, said

EA plans to support Skate for years to come with additional gameplay features, balance changes, more content and seasonal events. “We’re in this for the long haul. That means we’re not an iterative title,” creative director Chris “Cuz” Parry said. “There won’t be a Skate 5 through 10. We won’t be pumping them out all the time.”

The publisher invited fans to playtest “pre-, pre-, pre-alpha software” and provide feedback to help make the game as good as it possibly can be. It will soon welcome more players to try early versions of the game .

EA opened a new studio in Vancouver to take the reins on Skate, though it’s a mostly remote team with developers based all over North America. Some veterans of the Skate franchise are on board too, including Parry.

Skate will be available on PlayStation and Xbox (including the last-gen consoles), and the series will . Full Circle is also working on a mobile version, which is in the early stages of development. There will be cross-play and cross-progression across all platforms as well.

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‘Soulframe’ is a free-to-play MMO from the studio behind ‘Warframe’

After nearly a decade of work on  and more than five years since it canceled its , Digital Extremes is working on a new game. On Saturday, the studio , a free-to-play MMO set in a fantasy world. Outside of an enigmatic teaser trailer, Digital Extremes has shared only a few details about Soulframe.

In an interview with , creative director Geoff Crookes said the game draws inspiration from classics The NeverEnding Story and Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. Like the latter, Soulframe will explore what happens when humans collide with the natural world. “The conceit [in Soulframe] is that the world itself is a little angry about what’s been done to it, and the grounds underneath tend to shift throughout the day,” Crookes told The Post. “So there’s going to be proceduralism within the cave networks and crevasses and so on underneath the world.”

From a gameplay standpoint, Soulframe primarily focuses on “slow and heavy” melee combat. Despite including “Soul” in the title, Crookes told The Post his team didn’t set out to create a Soulslike when they began work on the project – though it became impossible to ignore FromSoftware’s latest masterpiece. “ has absolutely been a subject of some conversation — maybe to do with camera, maybe to do with how excellent their combat pacing is,” said Soulframe co-lead Steve Sinclair. “And you know, screw those guys, because damn, [Elden Ring] was absolutely fantastic.”

Soulframe doesn’t have a release date yet, and both Crookes and Sinclair emphasized the game is still early in development, but like with Warframe, Digital Extremes plans to involve the community in the creation process. So expect frequent behind-the-scenes Twitch streams. Moreover, some fans could receive early access to the game within a year.

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‘Overwatch 2’ is going free-to-play with early access starting on October 4th

Activision Blizzard isn’t owned by Microsoft just yet, but the publisher still had a presence at Sunday’s Xbox and Bethesda showcase. There was a trailer for Overwatch 2, along with some major news. The game will be free-to-play and early access will begin on October 4th on all platforms (the Overwatch blog calls this the game’s launch). There will be at least one more beta before then, with details to be announced at a reveal event on Thursday.

The clip showed a glimpse of a new hero that’s been part of the game’s lore for years, the Junker Queen. It seems likely that the character will be playable as part of the next beta. They have a shotgun and a melee weapon, and it appears that one of their abilities involves rampaging forward. Junker Queen is a tank character. The sequel already had one confirmed new character, damage hero Sojourn. 

The trailer also included a quick look at a new Zenyatta ability, which allows the omnic to knock back an enemy with a melee attack. Naturally, it invokes the movie 300, since you can kick an opponent into the Ilios well. In addition, there was a glimpse of a mysterious fox that was leading a team into a fight.

Given that Blizzard will move all current Overwatch players to Overwatch 2, the original game will be going free-to-play as well. Those who own the game before June 23rd will receive a founder’s pack, with a special icon, two skins (General Doomfist and Jester Sombra) and more goodies. You’ll need to log in by December 5th to receive the pack.

It’s worth noting that only the player-vs-player (PvP) side of Overwatch 2 will be available on October 4th. The co-op missions will arrive later. The PvP overhaul will feature new maps and heroes, the Push mode, reworks of current heroes, an upgraded game engine and a move from teams of six to five vs. five.

It’s unclear whether the player-vs-environment side of the sequel will be free too. Overwatch 2 will herald a shift to a seasonal content format, which suggests there will be a battle pass of some kind. That means there should finally be content updates on a regular cadence. Blizzard also says there will be premium cosmetics and (at last) cross-platform progression. 

“We can’t wait to roll out the beginning of the Overwatch 2 experience on October 4 and introduce an exciting new competitive vision, featuring a reimagining of the iconic heroes, maps, and gameplay that made the original game so compelling,” Mike Ybarra, president of Blizzard Entertainment, said in a statement. “This is the beginning of an always-on and always-evolving era for the franchise, and a recommitment to serving players with frequent and substantial updates planned well into the future to keep Overwatch 2 fresh and fun for many years to come.”

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Ubisoft’s free-to-play ‘Roller Champions’ heads to PC and consoles on May 25th

After it first unveiled the game at E3 2019, Ubisoft will finally release Roller Champions on May 25th, the publisher . The free-to-play title will be available on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – as well as Xbox Series X/S and PS5 through backward compatibility – to start, with availability on Nintendo Switch, Stadia and Amazon Luna to follow later. Roller Champions supports both cross-platform play and progression, so you can not only group up with your friends no matter where they download the game, but your progress will also carry over between systems.

Roller Champions pits you and two other players against a competing team of three in a variation on classic roller derby. Going into each match, your goal is to be the first team to score five points. You earn a single point or more by skating around an oval track and maintaining control of a ball before taking a shot at the goal. Complicating things is the fact that the players on the opposing team can tackle you to take possession of the ball. Each match lasts about seven minutes, and there’s an external progression system where you can earn gear for your in-game avatar. Ubisoft will sell premium passes players can complete to earn cosmetics that aren’t available through the game’s item shop.

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Is free-to-play the future of fighting games?

When it comes to video game genres, fighting games tend to be a step behind the curve. The fact that it took an entire pandemic for developers to finally look into better netcode for fighters speaks volumes.

At an even more basic level, the way fighting games operate has been called “archaic” by players who feel that the genre is in need of a switch-up to make them more accessible to modern, mainstream audiences. One of the fighting game community’s main talking points at the moment is free-to-play (FTP), a popular business model that fighting games have largely shied away from, even as games like shooters find success with the practice. If the genre wants to remain competitive in today’s modern landscape, it may need to make that pivot soon — but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

The barriers of the genre

A part of the perceived “need” for the change comes from the sheer number of fighting games out there right now and on the horizon. Maximilian “Dood” Christiansen, a high-profile fighting game content creator, has studied and enjoyed the genre for decades and follows this mindset.

Christiansen has previously noted that older fighting games were able to stay relevant due to a lack of options in the past, which meant one game could hold a player’s attention more easily. Today, there’s a larger variety of quality titles to choose from. However, each brings its own extra costs, from the price of the game itself to DLC to subscriptions that allow players to fight online. Fighting games are expensive enough as is, so your average player isn’t likely to invest in several games simply out of curiosity.

“Most fighting games are gonna result in the same problem until there’s big sales, expansions, or a reason to check out an old thing, because a new thing is really cool,” Christiansen states in a video titled “Please make fighting games free to play“. “But there’s always the barrier, right? You have to pull out your wallet and spend money. If you didn’t have to do that and shit was just free and you can just fire it up and try it, then of course you’re going to find people. That game will always have people playing.”

That paralysis of choice leads to another major problem that Max also brings up: Massive skill gaps. If you’ve ever gone online with older fighting games as a new player, there’s a 90% chance you’ll run into a veteran who can destroy you as they make a sandwich, brush their teeth, and update their LinkedIn account at the same time. For many, it can make games feel “unfair” for new players, creating a barrier to entry.

That’s not to say this issue wouldn’t be a thing with free-to-play fighters as well. However, the nature of this “try before you buy” model would lead to a greatly diverse and potentially ever-growing pool of players at different skill levels. This means more beginners can match up with other beginners instead of being pitted against veterans of the game.

The future of fighters?

A free-to-play model is a proposed solution to those hurdles. Players like Christiansen see going free-to-play as a way to not only keep the initial investing audience around, but to welcome in new players too. That could theoretically reduce the dramatic difference in skill level that new players experience.

Fighting games are expensive compared to a lot of modern multiplayer games (many of which are free-to-play in some way). There’s a chance a new player won’t enjoy the game, but not find out until spending hours learning. One might have the only character they enjoy locked behind DLC, meaning not just paying for the game, but additional content as well. All these barriers are pushed to the sidelines with the FTP model.

While not the most popular with the fighting game community, there are titles that have gone this route. Killer Instinct and the Smash Bros-esque platform fighter Brawlhalla embraced a FTP model. I personally have invested tons of hours into Killer Instinct and found that I love how it handles its model.

When I booted up Killer Instinct for the first time in years, I knew there were only a few characters I was interested in. After researching them, I bought those characters and quickly found my main at a much lower price than purchasing a full fighting game and its DLC. Killer Instinct even allows players to access non-purchased characters as training dummies, which is an ingenious move and something I wish all fighting games would do. It means I don’t have to waste money buying characters I don’t want to use, but need to practice against if I want to stand a chance online.

While it seems similar to the standard fighting game DLC practices, it stands out in an honest manner by allowing curious players to test out two characters for free to learn and find out if they like the game’s engine and mechanics. There’s also a third free-to-use character that rotates throughout the roster on a weekly basis. Implementation such as this gives players the ability to try before they buy. Instead of purchasing an entire package, they can buy the pieces they want. It’s a smart formula for a genre where many only want to play as three or four different characters.

Good implementation of FTP in fighting games can be seen in Brawlhalla, which still boasts 10,000 players online daily, according to Steamcharts. With the upcoming Warner Bros. crossover fighter Multiversus being an FTP fighter with mainstream characters, it may even break those numbers and more records of the genre.

Free-to-play, but not flawless

It all sounds like a slam dunk in theory, but the reality isn’t so simple. Traditional fighting games like Killer InstinctFantasy Strike, and Dead or Alive 6 that have gone FTP still haven’t been able to hold on to a consistent player base despite the model. Brawlhalla has found more success, but it features a more casual playstyle akin to Super Smash Bros. rather than something “hardcore” like Street Fighter.

Free-to-play could introduce new issues for the genre too. Professional fighting game analyst, commentator, and once competitor Sajam talks about how games like Fortnite seemingly drop a never-ending well of skins, wraps, effects, emotes, and more to keep players in their wallets and spending in the item shop. While not the case for every fighter, certain fighting game studios just don’t generate the revenue needed to keep up with such a model. The FTP model has also been poisoned by games that tried, and failed, to make the model work.

Wasn’t Tekken Revolution Free to Play In a screwed up way? We had stats that we can improve which changed the gameplay. We also had randomly occurring critical hits that we had no control over

— Rauschka (@Rauschka_tk) April 5, 2022

Games like Tekken Revolution and Dead or Alive 6: Core Fighters left sour tastes in the mouths of community members when they exposed how scummy the model can feel. Tekken Revolution featured pay-to-win stat boosts and only allowed players to fight in five matches at a time unless they bought a ticket to continue. A general lack of content and support for DoA:6 led to its quick death.

There’s also the fact that fighting games tend to be harder than the other competitive games out there. They aren’t made to be easily digestible to a casual audience like Smash Bros. and its clones like Brawlhalla and Multiversus. Just because you make it free to pick up and learn how to do a quarter-circle forward to half-circle back motion, doesn’t mean many will still want to do so. The genre just isn’t as approachable as, say, a shooter — and that’s another hurdle that many fans used to write off FTP.

While there are issues that can come with going free-to-play, it’s still an approach worth exploring. The positives outweigh the negatives and many community members are on board for a game like Street Fighter 6 taking a Fortnite-like approach. Will developers be willing to upend a classic genre so easily? If the long-archaic past and present of fighting games is anything to go by, probably not. But if a major release ever did, it’s possible that others could follow suit.

Many are looking to Riot’s upcoming fighting game, Project L, as the litmus test of the model in the genre thanks to the company’s past with FTP. With its reach, knowledge, and possible support from the fighting game community, it could easily be the game to revolutionize fighters going forward. However, there are a lot of “ifs” in that argument, so we’ll have to see if it can win over the skeptics.

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‘Assassin’s Creed Infinity’ game won’t be free-to-play

Assassin’s Creed Infinity won’t be a free-to-play online game, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has confirmed during the developer’s latest earnings call. Bloomberg first reported about the project’s existence back in July, and the company has shared details about it bit by bit since then. The publication said that AC Infinity, which is the project’s name that could change upon release, will be a live online service similar to Grand Theft Auto Online that requires you to own the base game. According to Gamespot, Guillemot also said:

“This game is going to have a lot of narrative elements in it. It’s going to be very innovative game, but it will have what players already have in all the other Assassin’s Creed games, all the elements that they love… right from the start. So it’s going to be a huge game. But with lots of elements that already exist in the games that we published in the past.”

Unlike other Assassin’s Creed games with a single narrative story, Infinity will reportedly have multiple settings that will feel and look different from each other but will still be connected in some way. That means Infinity could have several games in one package, though how that will resonate with long-time fans remains to be seen. The original Bloomberg report also called it a massive online platform with room to expand in the months and years after its launch, so we may see new content hit the service as campaigns or seasons. 

Ubisoft pooled its resources and unified the Montreal and Quebec teams, which previously worked on separate Assassin’s Creed titles, to develop Infinity. Guillemot said it’s still in its very early stages, however, and previous reports said its soonest possible release won’t be until 2024.

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PUBG’s latest free-to-play promo lets you really sink your teeth in

PUBG is rather unique among battle royale titles, perhaps because it sparked the whole frenzy that led to rise of games like Fortnite and Apex Legends. While many battle royale games are free-to-play, PUBG actually asks for money upfront, potentially prompting some battle royale fans to give it a pass. This week, the developers behind PUBG are giving those holdouts a chance to try the game without plopping down cash first.

PUBG has gone free-to-play for the next week, giving (mostly) complete access to the game to anyone who wants it. Normally, PUBG runs $30, but from now until August 16th, it costs nothing to download and play. Krafton, the studio that makes PUBG, is even giving players some rewards for trying the game out during this promotion.

In a post to Steam, Kraton reveals several missions that will grant players a collection of in-game items upon completion. Most of these quests are ones that will be completed just by playing the game. For instance, one of the quests has you traveling 600m total in a parachute, while another tasks you with looting 300 items in total across all of your matches. Additionally, Krafton says that players who create a Global Account through the PUBG website and then link it to their Steam accounts during the free PUBG week will also get a free in-game item: Traditional Glasses (Round).

During this free-play week, all rewards – whether those are Pass, Mission, XP, or BP rewards – can be collected normally. In addition, mission progress and gameplay statistics will be recorded and put toward achievement progress if players wind up buying the full game. It seems that the store won’t be available to free players, but it will unlock as soon as those free players purchase the game.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem like there’s a sale associated with this free-play week, as PUBG is still listed at its normal price. The weeklong promotion is only available on Steam, which means console players will have to sit this one out. PUBG‘s free-play week wraps up on August 16th at 2 PM PDT/5 PM EDT.

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Two Point Hospital gets Sonic the Hedgehog items alongside free-to-play weekend

Sega has revealed that two big promos are launching in Two Point Hospital today. With the first one, we’ll see a variety of Sonic the Hedgehog items go live in the game in celebration of Sonic‘s 30th anniversary. The second is a free-to-play promo that will allow newcomers to the game to check it out without paying for the privilege first.

As you can see from the trailer we’ve embedded below, probably the biggest draw of these free Sonic items is that you can now dress your staff up as Knuckles, Tails, Sonic, and Amy. The costumes aren’t all that’s included in this free pack, as there are also several decorative items for your hospital, whether that’s a Sonic statue of the palm trees from Green Hill Zone.

The game is also going free-to-play this weekend on a number of different platforms. On Steam and Xbox, Two Point Hospital will be free-to-play until Monday, August 2nd. On Nintendo Switch, the free-to-play promotion will last until Tuesday, August 3rd, so Switch owners are getting even more time to play the game before they have to pony up some cash.

Sadly, it seems that PlayStation 4 owners are being left out in the cold with this promotion, though they are still getting the free Sonic the Hedgehog items. On the platforms where Two Point Hospital is free-to-play, the game has also been discounted. On Xbox, the Jumbo Edition is down to $27.99 (compared to $39.99 on PS4). The Switch version hasn’t been discounted at the time of this writing, but we expect it to get the same discount that we see on Xbox.

On Steam, things work a bit differently. The base game is discounted to $8.74, while most of the DLC packs have been discounted by 50%. However, some DLC packs haven’t been discounted quite that much, such as the more recent Culture Shock and A Stitch in Time DLCs, but those are still discounted by 33% and 20% respectively. These sales will all be wrapping up next week, so if you’ve been thinking of picking up Two Point Hospital, it looks like now is the time to buy.

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Pro Evolution Soccer will become ‘eFootball’ in free-to-play shift

Konami’s cult Pro Evolution Soccer series is trying a new tactic in its endless duel against FIFA. To stand out from its bigger rival, the soccer franchise is adopting a new name, eFootball, and going free-to-play on consoles, PC and mobile. 

Clearly, this isn’t a one-off. Konami has rebuilt the game using Unreal engine as part of the shift to providing a digital service. The biggest change to gameplay is the new “motion matching” technology designed to make player animations more realistic. Gamers will choose from different movements in real-time during matches. Seeing as the original Pro Evo’s gameplay is what helped to distinguish it from FIFA, motion matching could prove a make or break feature.

As you’d expect from an F2P title, eFootball will regularly receive new updates after its launch this fall. Konami will have to tread with care, however. Free-to-play games have attracted the ire of players and regulators alike due to their exploitative nature, best summed up by loot boxes that cost real money to obtain. The last thing the storied developer wants is to sully Pro Evo’s name. Maybe, that’s why it’s changing it. 

But, the news will probably raise alarm bells for fans. Konami said that only “local matches” featuring FC Barcelona, Juventus, FC Bayern, Manchester United “and others” will be available for free at launch. While, certain game modes will later be sold as optional DLC, “giving players the freedom to build an experience” that matches their interests. It’s a major risk that Konami is banking on to restore the franchise as a regular feature in dorms and living rooms around the world. 

The game will land in early fall with cross-generation matchmaking between current and last-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Later in the fall, you can expect a managerial-style team building mode, online leagues, and a match pass system that rewards you with items and players. At the same time, cross-platform play will be introduced between consoles and PC. The winter will see the release of mobile controller support, full cross-play including mobile and the launch of professional and amateur eSports tournaments.

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Pro Evolution Soccer becomes eFootball and adopts a free-to-play model

There is no shortage of football, a.k.a. soccer in some countries, video games, but very few actually manage to stand out and stay on top of the others. Of these games, EA’s FIFA and Konami’s PES are probably the most renowned and purchased titles. That said, Pro Evolution Soccer or PES will be no more, at least not in the way we know it. Not only is Konami renaming it into a more generic “eFootball” brand, but it is also switching to a somewhat controversial free-to-play or freemium business model.

Konami defends its surprising decision by narrating how a change in the game engine changed more than just the visuals or the performance. It says that the new engine has gone beyond PES and has become a true virtual football environment, hence the unexciting name of eFootball. That game engine change, however, also opened new opportunities to unify the old PES into a single experience across all supported platforms.

eFootball will be available mostly in the same form on the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows, iOS, and Android. More than just availability, however, the new game will also offer cross-platform matches, but not immediately. Konami shares a roadmap where those matches will open up slowly between generations of the same console platform, between consoles and PC, and finally between all devices.

The bigger news, however, is the switch away from a paid release to free-to-play. That term often makes some players and regulators uncomfortable, especially given the recent controversy around loot boxes. Of course, Konami promises a fair ecosystem where most of the game is available for free and only optional modes are sold as DLCs.

It remains to be seen how successful Konami will be in that balancing act, and it might be a long wait before that happens. Konami’s eFootball will land in early Fall with basic features like local matches using famous clubs. It won’t be until Winter where the full promise of the next-gen PES will be available for all football/soccer fans to try out.

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