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Xbox Live may be getting free-to-play games next year, unnamed source says

xbox liveIt’s generally a good idea to steer clear of rumors, but this is a fairly juicy one and it certainly makes a lot of sense from a business perspective. There’s a report from IGN via a “trusted source” that sometime next year, free-to-play games like Dungeon Fighter Online will be making their way to Xbox Live. Microsoft has a clear edge over the competition in the video game space with regards to community building. Nintendo is mostly focused on creating a better at-home play experience and Sony… well we’re not really sure why Sony hasn’t implemented features like Party Chat on its PlayStation 3 console. Microsoft leads the way though, and largely community-driven free-to-play games would find a good home there.

No details are offered as to how such content would be rolled out or what titles we could expect to see. It’s not even clear if the plan is to bring in pre-existing games like Dungeon Fighter or instead offer first-party options. Kinect Joy Ride was originally pegged as a free-to-play release when it was first announced, with revenue for the publisher coming from the same place it does for all other F2P titles: microtransactions. While Joy Ride was ultimately launched as a disc release, Microsoft has obviously put thought into how alternative revenue streams might be better leveraged.

If Xbox Live does end up corralling in F2P titles, you can probably expect a mix of Microsoft-sourced content and third-party offerings. Some of the PC-based options are an easy fit, such as the recently launched Battlefield Play4Free from Electronic Arts. That said, EA might also not want to risk pulling users away from disc-based Battlefield games available for Xbox 360. Those games are also available on PC of course, but Play4Free is most appealing to those with computers that can’t necessarily run the latest games. This isn’t an issue at all with the Xbox 360.

Either way, it’s a win for Microsoft. F2P games certainly won’t pull anyone away from buying the latest Call of Duty or Mortal Kombat, and you can bet that the publisher will be earning some revenue from microtransactions on Xbox Live-based third-party F2P games. Fans will appreciate it too, being able to play games that they’re used to seeing in a browser window on a proper television, and with an Xbox 360 gamepad no less. Throw in some Achievements to unlock and the ability to voice chat with your friends as you play… yeah, this will go over well. Here’s hoping it’s true.