Quake Champions, the latest iteration of the decades-old, fast-paced arena shooter franchise, finally has a business model. Creative director Tim Willits tells Polygon the game will be a free-to-play, but with a for-pay option.
In an interview last week, Willits said that players who want to can play a single character, a Champion named Ranger, for free. Or they can buy the Champion Pack and get unlimited access to Ranger and all his other friends for a fixed price.
The reason for this approach is simple, he said. The gaming world has changed since the launch of the original Quake in 1996. It’s gotten bigger. There are more players from more parts of the world than ever before. Some markets simply have different expectations of how — or if — they pay for their games. By making Quake Champions both free and for-pay, his team can get it in front of as many players as possible.
“At its core, it’s a free-to-play game,” Willits said, “with the option to buy the Champion Pack and just get in and play with all the Champions. There are a number of Quake players that just want to play their Quake, right? And they are familiar with the business model of our previous games, and they are totally fine. ‘I want to buy the game. I want to start playing. I want to have access to all the Champions.’
“But then we also understand that we want to get as many people into the game as possible, especially outside of North America and Western Europe, where we have a massive fan base. So we want to have the flexibility to have a free-to-play option for those people.”
Both for-pay and free-to-play players will share the same maps, and compete in the same brackets, Willits said. The only difference will be how they access Champions other than Ranger.
Players who buy the Champion Pack — the de-facto full-price version of the game — will get Ranger and all the other Champions that the game launches with. Everyone else will be able to pay the in-game currency, called favor, to play other Champions for a finite period of time.
“I don’t want to use the word rent,” Willits said. “You do spend favor to have access to them for a limited amount of time, yes. But you don't spend any real money on it.”
Just how long you get to play other Champions, like the recently announced Nyx, is up in the air. It’s one of the many questions Willits and the team at id Software hope to answer during the closed beta, which is now open for sign-ups.
The goal is to minimize that sense of grind that comes in other free-to-play titles. Favor will be easy to earn, and trading it in for other Champions will be a frequent and fun way to spend it. But, there’s other ways to burn off excess currency as well. Players can spend favor on backpacks, which will enable them to take on rune challenges. Succeeding at a rune challenge will grant players reliquaries, which they can open to reveal new Champions and new skins.
Ultimately, the free-to-play community will be competing on an even playing field with paying players. Each Champion’s skills will be different and complementary in a rock-paper-scissors kind of way, but they’ll be available to everyone. That will help make sure that Quake Champions retains the kind of skill-based game play that made the franchise one of the original esports.
“We do feel it's more approachable,” Willits said, “and we feel that with our team game modes, and then especially our dual mode, that we can fill a hole that's missing in esports today.
“We do have a really nice advantage, because lots and lots of the pro players got their start playing Quake. And yeah, they're playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive now and, Overwatch, but their first love is Quake. So we want to get that critical mass where you have enough players and then we want to ... expand our competitive play, our league play as we move into late this year and next year.”