Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is a well of quotables and this time is no different. In an interview with GamesIndustry International, he posits that for Ubisoft it is just as effective to create a free-to-play model as a PC boxed product because the there is a 93-95% piracy rate for PC titles.
That sounds extremely controversial… until you realize that he's talking about "other territories":
We want to develop the PC market quite a lot and F2P is really the way to do it. The advantage of F2P is that we can get revenue from countries where we couldn't previously – places where our products were played but not bought. Now with F2P we gain revenue, which helps brands last longer.
It's a way to get closer to your customers, to make sure you have a revenue. On PC it's only around five to seven per cent of the players who pay for F2P, but normally on PC it's only about five to seven per cent who pay anyway, the rest is pirated. It's around a 93-95 per cent piracy rate, so it ends up at about the same percentage. The revenue we get from the people who play is more long term, so we can continue to bring content.
Considering that free-to-play MMOs, when marketed and tailored properly, have lower costs than full boxed titles, this really isn't a surprise. I would even say that it's really the only way to go… for places like, say, Malaysia.
I remember walking through a large outlet mall in Malaysia, just like any other town mall in the country, and nearly every row of stores I saw, there was at least one vender (if not the entire row of vendors) selling bootleg video games. They were selling binders full of copied Dreamcast and PlayStation titles for about the equivalent of $1 US per title.
So when Ubisoft says there's a 93-95% piracy rate for these kind of countries, I believe him. Free-to-play games are probably the only PC titles that are viable to make incredible amounts of money there, as anyone with an okay computer can run it. Just be a lucky that we live in a country where many people can afford paid MMOs like World of Warcraft.