Talking Global Agenda's F2P Shift with Todd Harris

Hi-Rez Studios recently announced that Global Agenda will be going free-to-play this month, so we sat down with COO Todd Harris to talk about the new payment model, Tribes Universe and more.

Hi-Rez Studios recently announced that Global Agenda will be going free-to-play with the launch of the Free Agent update, which is expected to launch in mid-April. Since the game currently does not require a subscription to play, this switch mainly removes the one-time purchase barrier that may have kept players from trying out the sci-fi shooter MMO.

UPDATE: Global Agenda's free-to-play update launched on April 14, officially making the game free-to-play.

We decided to go straight to Hi-Rez Studios COO Todd Harris to find out exactly what this free-to-play shift means for Global Agenda. He talks about the upcoming micro-transactions store, the differences between Free Agents and Elite Agents, Hi-Rez's upcoming Tribes: Ascend and Tribes Universe games and more.

Keep reading after the jump for the full interview!

ZAM: Hello there! Before we get started, I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to chat with us briefly about Global Agenda and your new free-to-play plans!

Todd Harris: It is my pleasure. The announcement about taking Global Agenda free-to-play has generated a lot of excitement and we appreciate the opportunity to chat about it.

ZAM: For the past few years now, the term “free-to-play” has become a bit of a buzz word for the online gaming industry, but in spite of its recent popularity, everyone seems to have their own idea of what free-to-play really means as it pertains to an overall company vision. What does going free-to-play mean to Hi-Rez Studios? What do you hope to gain from this shift, and how do you see this affecting the future of Global Agenda?

Harris: Everyone does seem to be putting their own spin on free-to-play - some companies support their game via advertising, some sell content, some sell more powerful items, and so on.

Specific to Global Agenda, fun gameplay has always come first and we're using free-to-play in a way that we think will best support our existing gameplay.

For example, a very critical element to us is PvP balance and the importance of player skill. Therefore we will never directly sell over-the-top, unbalanced weapons that allow a player to simply pay-to-win. A lot of games claim this but you really have to play the actual game to see which ones back it up.

Another key element within Global Agenda is playstyle diversity. A huge percentage of our players have multiple skill-set and equipment profiles for their main class in addition to multiple, alternate classes. Players who want to grow horizontally with multiple classes and a large inventory of devices can in fact do this by simply playing and winning enough missions. But many choose to accelerate that progress by purchasing an optional Booster which accelerates their exp, in-game currency, and loot.

When I go to a theme park these days I can choose to wait in the regular line or pay extra money to get in the Fast Pass lane and hop on the ride more quickly. Everyone enjoys the same ride but it is a choice between spending more money or spending more time. That time or money tradeoff is one of the main ways Hi-Rez Studios thinks about free-to-play and we're excited to offer this choice to gamers within Global Agenda.

ZAM: Regarding the differences between Global Agenda’s free agents and “elite” agents (those that made the one-time purchase fee), it was noted that free agents would not gain access to the end-of-mission loot reward that regular players are currently enjoying. Does this mean that new players will only be able to acquire new loot through exchanging tokens, with no other way?

Harris: It is important to note that both Free Agents and Elite Agents have a path to acquire any current GA item affecting gameplay. However there are definitely different paths toward acquiring those items.

Elite Agents - those who previously bought the game, or new players who decide to make that optional one-time purchase toward Elite status - do enjoy a loot reward at the end of instanced missions in addition to earning credits and tokens.

Free Agents will not get that end of loot reward and so will need to use their credits and tokens at in-game vendors to purchase most new items. Free Agents do actually get some starter loot within the Desert Open Zone, and they also collect crafting material loot that drops from bot kills, but beyond level 12 or so most of their new items will come through exchanging credits or tokens.

ZAM: There was also mention of a micro-transaction store that might see implementation. What sort of items do you think we’ll end up seeing, and do you already have some price points in mind?

Harris: Correct. Per your last question, if I am a Free Agent and do not feel like saving enough in-game credits or tokens to exchange for a particular item or armor piece, we want to give players the 'instant gratification' option of directly purchasing their desired item via an in-game micro-transaction. We have not yet priced the items but they will be competitive with other micro-transaction based games. We expect to have this micro-transaction support within the game by mid-May.

Continued on Page 2.

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