In an interview with Gamesindustry.biz, id Software co-founder John Romero claims the PC is decimating the console market. Romero notes that between free-to-play games and Steam games for five bucks, PC gaming is entering a new age in which the power has shifted to developers instead of publishers. Romero has high hopes for the future of free-to-play games and remarks that this new monetization model "has killed a hundred AAA studios".
"It's a different form of monetization than Doom or Wolfenstein or Quake where that's free-to-play [as shareware]. Our entire first episode was free - give us no money, play the whole thing. If you like it and want to play more, then you finally pay us. To me that felt like the ultimate fair [model]. I'm not nickel-and-diming you. I didn't cripple the game in any design way. That was a really fair way to market a game," Romero continued. "When we put these games out on shareware, that changed the whole industry. Before shareware there were no CD-ROMs, there were no demos at all. If you wanted to buy Ultima, Secret of Monkey Island, any of those games, you had to look really hard at that box and decide to spend 50 bucks to get it."
For the free-to-play crowd, Romero believes that the popularity of games that have done it right (like World of Tanks) will ultimately raise the bar for the model, and consumers will easily spot developers who make free-to-play titles the dirty way.
"Everybody is getting better at free-to-play design, the freemium design, and it's going to lose its stigma at some point. People will settle into [the mindset] that there is a really fair way of doing it, and the other way is the dirty way. Hopefully that other way is easily noticeable by people and the quality design of freemium rises and becomes a standard. That's what everybody is working hard on. People are spending a lot of time trying to design this the right way. They want people to want to give them money, not have to. If you have to give money, you're doing it wrong... For game designers, that's the holy grail," Romero said.
While Romero is optimistic about PC gaming, he isn't a fan of console gaming and believes they will be hurt a lot by the free-to-play trend. Romero laments the inherently closed nature of consoles and complains they aren't good at playing everything. With PCs you can add a faster video card or more memory but you just can't do that with a console, Romero commented. Additionally, he also points out that consoles have very limited backward compatibility, with PCs you have a lot more freedom and can still play DOS games made in the 1980s.