Free to play games are everywhere from PCs to handheld devices. A lot of developers are benefiting from this model as they are cashing in on millions. King, the developers of Candy Crush Saga is raking in millions just because of this very model. Hey have aligned their games in such manner that they will never lack in funds as the games will continue to make them money in form of micro transactions. This model is based on the belief that once you get players in the game at no cost, they will likely spend some cash on the game if they like it. It works to some extent as well. If you are into some free game, you'd like to keep playing it till you get bored of it, because why not? It's free of cost after all. But that's where their clever strategy chimes in. What you presume to be free of cost isn't really free after all.
The issue with microtransactions
They want you to get a good taste of the game and then ask you for money if you want to progress further. Of course, you can complete the whole thing without paying a dime, but then you'll have to pay them in form of your precious time. So you got to choose carefully between these two resources. Both are precious to us. They are cashing in on mindset of PC as well as handheld gamers, because most of the time, we don't have sufficient time to devote to games. We want to topple everything as soon as possible. We don't want to spend most of our time in grinding. That's when microtransatcions come in handy. If you want to progress further, you'll have to purchase things like boosters and level skippers. It's ain't pretty at all, but hey, it's their only way to make money. And as far as it's not intrusive, I am really fine with that. Those who want to pay them by money are free to do so. But those who don't want to give them any money should be allowed to finish the whole game up without having to be compelled to spend anything. That will be a fair free-to-play model where everyone wins at the end.
Developers make their money back from the players who don't have much time but have some cash at their disposal. They are willing to spend some cash in the game. On the other hand, those who are willing to spend some time in the game rather than paying them in form of money, can play the game thoroughly without having to pay anything. It's really working for PCs and handheld devices like Vita, 3Ds, iPhones and Android devices.
Will free to play model work on consoles
They have never really experimented with this model on consoles though. There have always been questions and obstacles whenever someone tried to implement this model on consoles. But with the entry of next-gen consoles that are much friendlier to indie devs and are willing to incorporate new ideas, the chances of free-to-play thriving on consoles look brighter than ever. You see, free-to-play is the future of the industry as it's brimming with potential. I can't stress enough how indispensable this model is. And I am sure that both console companies understand this fact really well, that's why they have taken steps to ensure that they are not ignoring this model and making the same mistake as they did with their previous consoles. With PC and mobile gaming market thriving at this point of time, console business is looking patchier than ever. Gone those days when we used to pay $60 for a game in advance. Those days are going to be over now. It's time to embrace something new like free-to-play. That's why it's insanely popular with gamers. Thus the recent sudden surge in PC gamers. So it's only fitting that consoles are starting to adapt the same mechanics as well.
And unsurprisingly, it's starting to pay off really well for both the company, especially PS4. With games like Planetside 2 and Warframe being already launched in the previous year, they have indicated the fact that they are really serious about this model. Both these games are doing really well on PS4 right now. The proponent of traditional gaming model are supporting the notion that narrative based gameplay is still the best, but free-to-play and paid alpha models beg to differ. The recent success of Day, Rust and Starbound are testimonial to the fact that these new innovative meddles are here to stay. They are not going anywhere.
How to do it right
The caveat with free to play model is that there are virtually no limitations. Publishers and developers can go as deep and explore as much of this model as they wish. There is no one governing this model in like single player and multiplayer, so you have a lot of time in your hands as a developer to really explore and examine it thoroughly an mold it into something you'd like to integrate in your game.
But doing it is not as easy as it sounds. You need to be explicit about your strategy. That's why companies like Valve and Riot games have been really successful with this model in the recent past. They know that they are doing and how they currently and how they are going to operate in future. The thing is, unlike others, they are not all that greedy it this model and that's why, they are two of the most beloved free to play developers of this generation.
The only way to do free to play right on consoles is to not make those suffer who are playing it for free. So don't think that they are taking something for free. As Newman, the founder of Valve says, you need to keep an eye on everyone and respect everyone's decision. Should you try to compel people to spend money on your game, those who are likely to spend something, will be turned off. Again those who are not willing to pay a dime will not pay anyway no matter what you do. So, you should strive to provide a quality game that is worth a shot and everything else will work just fine.
Read Is Elder Scrolls Online worth buying on consoles?