Programmer extraordinaire John Carmack threw cold water earlier this week on the idea that id's popular free shooter can survive without charging some users something.
Carmack made those comments on Thursday, during the id co-founder's QuakeCon 2009 keynote speech in Dallas (aka the event that spawned the Longest Liveblog In Kotaku History).
Early in his address, he admitted that Quake Live, the multiplayer in-browser web re-make of Quake III Arena that went into open beta early this year, was not up to id's standard yet. Leaderboards and more community functionality around the game need to be improved, he said. Later, he fielded a question from the audience about the future of the game.
Carmack said he did not think the game could survive on Internet advertising alone, the only revenue-generator currently in place. Instead, he believes it will be necessary for the financial well-being of the project to offer a premium version of the game, which might allow players to host games on their own servers. Web ads won't suffice.
The Quake Live project is grander than Carmack said he had envisioned, which may be as much a factor in spurring this need for player payment as a weak online ad market. But the game, at its base, will remain free, he noted.
Carmack said the "beta" tag will be removed from the game soon, as problems with leaderboards and other tech are resolved. Mac and Linux versions are planned to go live this coming week.
Early in his talk Carmack said that the next year would prove whether Quake Live is a success. Later, when answering that audience question, he said the game wouldn't be able to be deemed a failure for two years. He hopes such a pronouncement won't be necessary, of course.
He said the game has been popular, with half of those who register for it returning to play it at least once a month.
This experiment will continue, with some tinkering that users may need to pay for.