This week, Naughty Dog will try its hand at the free-to-play market by making the multiplayer component of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception available for all to download.
As a standalone PSN download, the free-to-play version of Uncharted 3's multiplayer introduces a host of microtransactions for players to compile the online version of Uncharted 3 they want to play, with the first 15 levels of competitive multiplayer available for free.
Naughty Dog lead game designer Robert Cogburn told Joystiq that the studio's plan to go free-to-play is an attempt to accomplish two goals: reinvigorate the pool of Uncharted 3 players and test the freemium waters.
Some of the transactions available, according to Cogburn, include raising the level cap to 25 or removing it completely. Cooperative content won't be included in the free-to-play version of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, rather the 'Co-op Arena' and 'Adventure' modes have been split into their own separate pieces of premium downloadable content in the new free version.
For game owner completionists, the 'Game of the Year' edition of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception will be available to purchase digitally, eschewing the franchise's adventure into the world of microtransactions all together. Free-to-play users will have access to all content available within the first 15 levels of Uncharted 3's multiplayer, including level-specific weapon mods, perks and unlockable characters with in-game currency. Characters will also be made available as separate purchases for players that desire to rush through the free-to-play version as a later-level character skin.
Naughty Dog's concept of free-to-play tries to make the most of the time and effort players put into the game, retroactively rewarding players that surpass the free-to-play level cap if they decide to purchase a the level cap remover.
"The interesting thing that we're doing with the free-to-play is: say you're at level fifteen and you've accumulated hours and hours of experience points; once you actually purchase the rank unlock – the level cap removal – your rank automatically hits the level that you would be at with the playtime you've invested," Cogburn told us.
Removing the level cap restriction increases the rank to 75, and also includes all of the legacy level unlocks, thereafter. Naughty Dog says it is still committed to offering updates to the Uncharted 3 multiplayer experience, maintained by a two-man development team.
When Joystiq spoke to Cogburn earlier this month, pricing was still being solidified. At the time of our conversation, the breakdown of some of the microtransactions looked like this:
- Competitive MP with Level 15 Cap: Free
- Raise Level Cap to 25: $4.99
- Co-op Arena (W/Shade Mode): $9.99
- Co-op Adventure (W/Fort Co-op): $11.99
- Level Cap Removed: $19.99
- Uncharted 3 GOTY Digital Version: $39.99
Naughty Dog will also offer Uncharted 3's single-player campaign as its own separate, premium download.
"We've looked at some models for other games, though nothing really played too great an influence on us," Cogburn said. "We kind of just broke down the game a la carte. You can get the single-player, or the competitive, or the co-op. Or you can get the 'Game of the Year' edition for all of it."
Microtransactions are not a new concept to Naughty Dog or Uncharted, with items and boosts already available for purchase on the PlayStation Network.
"The idea behind trying these different options – or business models, arguably – is we're just trying to see what people might gravitate to. We're going to be keeping a close eye on this and it will be interesting to see what type of model ends up being the most popular."
The free-to-play version of Uncharted 3 – coming in at a sizable 4.8GB – will be available on the PlayStation Network today.