Media Molecule’s lovable little platformer has certainly been quite a success for Sony. The LittleBigPlanet series has sold millions of copies since its inception back in 2008. However, things could have been very different. When the title was originally pitched to Sony, Phil Harrison — President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios at the time — suggested that LittleBigPlanet be offered as a free-to-play downloadable title.
“[He] said it should be free to play, it should have a new business model, it should be downloadable, it should do DLC, it should do user-generated content. Phil was basically raising the bar on what we were pitching.”
Aside from initial thoughts of making LittleBigPlanet free-to-play, the title also went through numerous changes before becoming the LittleBigPlanet known today. Its name changed several times — from “Craftworld” in prototype to “LittleBigWorld,” and then “LittleBigBang” — with the former incurring legal troubles and the latter sounding a bit too vulgar.
To date, LittleBigPlanet has become a very successful IP for Sony, with the “Play, Create, Share” mantra inspiring other games such as Modnation Racers and generating millions of dollars in revenue from both retail sales and DLC. Though the team at Media Molecule have signaled that they are ready “to focus on some new ideas,” the LittleBigPlanet universe continues to thrive.
In fact, not even the PSN attack could bring it down. Since the outage, LittleBigPlanet has seen 1.5 million new users (after all, the game was offered as part of Sony’s Welcome Back program), and currently there are roughly 4.7 million levels published in LittleBigPlanet, with many more coming each day.
It would be fascinating to know if things would have turned out differently had LittleBigPlanet been free to play. It’s possible that a system based exclusively on micro-transactions could have damaged the game’s online community — particularly after the PSN outage. However, the result could also have been the complete opposite, as making the game free-to-play could have opened up it to millions more people.
Do you think LittleBigPlanet would have succeeded as a free-to-play title, or was keeping it a retail title the correct choice?