Warframe is finding success by avoiding crunch and being open with their fans

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Warframe should not exist in its current state. Somehow, developer Digital Extremes haven’t just managed to come up with a great game that plays like Destiny if it were designed by Terry Gilliam, they’ve managed to expand on the idea and grow it with several new expansions over the years. Which have all been free. Free.

I have to repeat that point, because in addition to this year’s Empyrean expansion which throws more co-op, proper space battles and even more fashionable frames into the mix, Warframe is still entirely free and somehow still manages to regularly deliver on its promises. It’s like Star Citizen but without the lies and vague deadlines.

So how does Digital Extremes manage to create such a game in an industry that is rife with exploitation and abuse that leads to talented developers being regarded as disposable assets? By focusing on the bigger picture and working in a manner which that defies the crunch culture which is so pervasive in the game development scene today.

“Our perspective is we’re very blessed to have a situation where we only have one immovable date every year, and that’s TennoCon, so we just want to make sure we have something that we can deliver for our fans so we know where we’re going with the game,” Digital Extremes chief operating officer Sheldon Carter said to Eurogamer.

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Every other day other than that is fluid. Warframe is a game that’s been around for seven years and the reason why we’ve been around for so long is that our development team – generally speaking – take the idea that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If we sprint, it’s not going to work, it’s not even a comment on crunch or the industry, it’s literally for our business model to work, we have to treat it like a marathon. If we did treat it like a sprint, we’d be dead. If we start losing our key developers because it’s too hard to work on this game, we wouldn’t.

That attitude extends towards the Warframe fan community as well, as Digital Extremes has an open policy on internal development and features that are on the horizon for Warframe, as Carter explained:

I think the relationship we have with them allows us to say – “oh sorry, this isn’t going to come”. We have dev streams with them every two weeks where we update them on things, and all the time it’s like “I’m sorry, it’s not going to come right away” – but we’re still going to try to give you new stuff that’s interesting and cool, it just might not be that crazy update you wanted.

There’s more in the original link regarding cross-saves, melee refresh and having an in-game economy that feels absolutely fair to the consumer. Beyond that, it’s safe to say that Warframe still stands proudly as the defacto example of freemium gaming done right.

Last Updated: July 16, 2019

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