As development budgets grow and profit margins shrink, a lot of video game publishers are turning towards the lucrative free-to-play business model in order to stay afloat. F2P games have already taken over the PC MMO market, and all of the big console manufacturers have announced plans to embrace “freemium” games as well. Today Tecmo Koei announced their plans to join the F2P bandwagon as well: the upcoming “Ultimate” re-release of Dead or Alive 5 will also be available as a “free,” microtransaction funded download in Japan.
In an interview with Famitsu, Team Ninja head Yosuke Hayashi revealed that the free-to-play version of Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate will launch on the same day as the retail version of the game in Japan. Players will be able to download most of the game’s single player and online versus modes for free. Free players will only be able to play as Hayate, Hayabusa, Ayane, and Kasumi, though they can unlock the rest of the game’s characters (including Ninja Gaiden’s Momiji, who’s making her fighting game debut in DoA5: Ultimate) for ¥400 (about four bucks,) each. The game’s single player story mode can also be unlocked for about $15. Of course, players who purchase the full priced retail version of the game will still have access to all of the game’s content out of the box. Free and paying players will be able to compete against each other online.
A lot of publishers have tried to shoehorn free-to-play or microtransaction-based business models into games that don’t really need it (*cough*Dead Space*cough,*) but it sort of makes sense for a fighting game — I mean, if you’re serious about playing competitively and you already know which character you want to play as and master, why not save some cash and just buy the characters you’re actually going to play as?
The free-to-play version of Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate has only been announced for Japan at this time, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Tecmo released it worldwide. The retail version of the game has already been confirmed for a US release, and it’ll bounce onto the Xbox 360 and PS3 this Fall.