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Company of Heroes developer Relic has not given up on free-to-play

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Company of Heroes developer Relic Entertainment is still interested in experimenting with free-to-play business models for its long-running RTS series despite its troubles with free-to-play title Company of Heroes Online, game director Quinn Duffy told RPS.

Duffy described the free-to-play model as being part of publisher THQ's "vision going forward" as well as the vision of the studio. Describing the challenges faced throughout the ongoing development of 2010's real-time strategy MMO Company of Heroes Online, he explained timing and a small team were both factors.

"To a degree, it was timing," he said. "There's a real challenge in building a studio to create games for that infrastructure. We had a small team working on it, but a lot of live support. There was new content on an almost monthly basis. That's hard on a team. That's like having a constant milestone process. But in doing that, we got some great insights into the markets and how different they are. China vs Korea vs North America - radically different. And one game probably can't service them all.

"In a market like China, you see a lot more games that do charge for power and accessibility. The psychology they apply to their game development is years ahead of where I think we are. So I think it goes back to that: you really want to tailor a model to suit the market you're delivering for."

Duffy adds that Relic is working to determine what "meaningful" free-to-play should look like for Western markets, stating:

"[Western markets] are a bit different. I'm really not sure what players are completely comfortable with - from a personal basis. That's really part of the development and growth we would do [before taking on a free-to-play Company of Heroes again]. Because you can't just do customization and skins and things. It needs to be more meaningful than that. At the same time, though, I don't think there's a willingness to pay-to-win. Or people say they don't like it, but some would take advantage of it anyway."

Company of Heroes 2 is due out early next year for PC, and is available for pre-order through Steam, Origin and THQ's website.