Freemium games coming to Xbox 360 starting with Happy Wars

Freemium Xbox Live games have gotten off to a rocky start on Windows Phone. Bug Village is sort of ho-hum and Glu’s two follow-up titles Gun Bros and Contract Killer sadly released in extremely buggy states. Hopefully the low quality and/or bugginess of those three games hasn’t completely soured our audience from the freemium business model... After all, iOS and the PC overflow with high quality free-to-play games.

The reason I’m talking up the freemium model is because Microsoft has finally started allowing free-to-play games to come to Xbox 360. Several such titles are in the works (including one extremely promising action-RPG that I can’t name just yet), but the first will be an online multiplayer-oriented XBLA title called Happy Wars from Japanese developer ToyLogic.

No cake but lots of fighting

Happy Wars is basically the Xbox 360's answer to Fat Princess, a popular Playstation Network game. Teams of up to 15 players can compete against each other in 30-player versus matches, or team up in co-op against AI enemies. Combat involves hacking, slashing, and shooting at each other in a comical fantasy setting.

Dress up too!

A key element of the fun in Happy Wars comes from its extensive customization options. You can mix and match your character’s head, body, weapon, shield, and accessory, creating a staggering variety of appearances. Some of the game's vast assortment of items can be earned during gameplay, while others will cost Microsoft Points to purchase. ToyLogic plans to regularly release new items and customization parts as well - a key component of most successful freemium games.

Going for the Gold (members)

All that's required to download the game itself is an Xbox Live Gold subscription. That should be music to Gold members’ ears. See, Xbox Live Gold subscribers pay something like $60 a year (less if they’re savvy) for the privilege of online multiplayer and access to other perks like Netflix. Happy Wars marks the first time in a long while that the Xbox Live Gold subscription plan has actually added a new gaming-related benefit. With future freemium games likely limited to Gold members as well, the Gold subscription fee becomes more justified.

An online game with staying power

While Silver Xbox Live members won’t be able to join in on the Happy Wars fun without paying, there are an awful lot of Gold members out there. That guarantees Happy Wars a thriving online multiplayer community even though all but the most popular Xbox Live Arcade games have tiny or nonexistent online communities. Make a game free and suddenly everybody’s downloading it.

Happy Wars’ matches can hold a massive number of players, and with no financial barrier to entry other than the Gold subscription many of us already have, you can bet matches will be full at all hours of the day. If those matches are fun enough, people may even want to spend their Microsoft Points on premium items.

Happy Wars is due out on Xbox 360 this fall – we’ll have more impressions soon.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Looks good n worth it
  • "(including one extremely promising action-RPG that I can’t name just yet)" Ascend was already confirmed for FTP, just saying! :P Great article. Keep up the good work Paul.
  • Only note, the no cost version of Xbox LIVE Gold is not "Silver" it is now Xbox LIVE Free.  Name changed a bit it was more obvious to noobs as to how much the non-Gold people had to pay, haha.  Love this annoucement though.  I think it is silly to buy XBLA shooters/MP games since the communities die SO FAST!
  • Nice for my Xbox 360
  • Sounds great
  • Nice. I'm "savvy" . ;)
  • So that's a no go for me, as I only have the free account. No xbox, only use Games For Windows Live.
  • im all for free but  most facebook games are crappy so i hope they bring games like family feud to xbox
  • Paying for Xbox gold sucks. I don't get it how they can scam people to pay for this. Absolutely not worth it.
  • you have a very compelling argument. I think I will stop paying the $3 per month I pay for live.
  • You sure showed us! Not. :P
  • Go cry somewhere else
  • I like Live Gold service quality, performance, features and security wise compared to other similar services, and fortunately I can afford it, so I'm happy with it. I'm also comfortable with people choosing a lesser service.
  • +1
  • It is nice to see this begin relatively soon "fall". I am always down for free, and if the game is fun willing to drop some coin for extras. Plus, this is a huge plus for the gold argument, if there is one. There are some very vocal complainers about paying for LIVE so this may silence them..a little
  • I think that it is exciting to be in the infancy of freemium content. We the consumer can either support or reject a developers view of what is going to be worth our money. Either way...THE GAME IS FREEEE!!!!
  • I'm not a fan of the model, like it or not the need to monetize the experience will have an impact on the game (pay to win), and most games will become mp games which will lack the complex narratives of sp experiences. That said I know it has the appeal for casual gamers who don't think games are worth money. I'm sure core retail games will continue to exist for core gamers, for many years.
  • I would argue that there are many core F2P games out there already, including Happy Wars. Multiplayer-focused and core are not mutually exclusive. The model seems particular suited for multiplayer games because those games thrive on large player bases, and free games have no barrier to entry. I don't think F2P games will be a threat to retail offerings for many years yet, but I still feel they're a great boon for multiplayer gaming in general.
  • It's not pay to win
  • I agree that F2P games gives strong advantages to those who pay, the GOOD ones also give those same advantages to those to PLAY a LOT!  So, time or money, your choice.  Halo will be your best bet for a level playing field, unlocks wise.