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EA to launch free, downloadable Battlefield game

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

Video game giant Electronic Arts is taking a step way from the retail sales model for PC games and moving into ad-supported online gaming, with plans to introduce a free downloadable version of its Battlefield series.

Battlefield Heroes is expected to be available online in Western markets later this year. It follows the company's experiment with free online games in South Korea, where EA introduced a free version of its FIFA soccer game, the NY Times reports.

From the article:

Gerhard Florin, E.A.’s executive vice president for publishing in the Americas and Europe, said it has signed up more than five million Korean users and generates more than $1 million in monthly in-game sales. Players can pay not only for decorative items like shoes and jerseys but also for boosts in their players’ speed, agility and accuracy. Mr. Florin said that while most users do not buy anything, a sizable minority ends up spending $15 [US] to $20 [US] a month. With Battlefield Heroes, E.A. hopes to bring that basic system of “microtransactions” to Western players, along with increased advertising.

The new game is marketed to a more general audience than the retail versions of EA's Battlefield series. Heroes will feature simpler, cartoonish graphics and be easier to run on older PCs.

Battlefield Heroes could be just the beginning for EA's move to add so-called "casual online games" to its repertoire.

Last week Gamasutra, citing a report in Korean publication Digital Chosunilbo, said EA would open a development studio in Korea to produce "three or four" online games. Digital Chosunilbo cited an EA source saying an online version of NBA Street, along with Battlefield, was one of the projects.

It will be interesting to see how this business model takes in North America and Europe. We're also curious to see what other mainstay titles EA plans to convert into scaled-down online games. The Sims? NHL? How about a simplified version of some of recently acquired Bioware's games? Neverwinter Nights light anyone?

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Comments

Garet

Winnipeg

I guess they didn't want the same thing to happen with this game as happened to Crysis. Maybe they realized PC games don't sell well when you can just download them for free.

Posted January 21, 2008 01:48 PM

Jordan

Winnipeg

It's worth noting that Battlefield is not their best WW2 FPS game, a new one hasn't been put out in years, and they were usually trash when they were put out.
As far as microtransactions are concerned, I prefer to buy the entire game at once and not in chunks.

Posted January 21, 2008 03:49 PM

Fixerdave

Victoria

Online sports games, especially racing, are a natural fit for in-game advertising. Why should all those billboards around the arena/track be fake? Why don't people pay for spots there? There are already organised racing leagues based on car simms, all someone needs to do is offer the client for free, set up a spectator system to get more people in (or watching the replays over and over), and start selling all the advertising space.

It is a simple and real-world proven marketing system. If it works in the real world, why not in a simm?

David...

Posted January 21, 2008 05:42 PM

Andrew H.

NL

I agree David. I am a huge motorsports fan, and I own games from NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, which i bought brand new for 40-50 bucks 5 years ago, and now is worth well over $100 still, to NASCAR 08 on PS3, and from the cars itself, to the billboards to the walls and the infield grass area..there are real sponsorships that the game makers pay money to use the Rights to place them into the game for realism, except for Tobacco and Alcohol sponsorships. There are people out there who take Sim Racing seriously. There are many different kinds of Sim Racing Leagues out there, with their own sponsorships to pay to have a server to hold about 30-40 people to race at once, with minimal lag. You can tell which servers are the well funded ones, and which are not.

Posted January 22, 2008 12:59 PM

Stephen D

Calgary

We bought my son an EA Battlefield game for the PC, but once we opened it, we were warned that there was additional advertising software bundled with the game. EA claimed no responsibility for how the adware operated.

That doesn't sound like EA is very reliable in this area.

Also, the Battlefield game says you must be 14 years of age to play, but I question how old you need to be in order to judge whether to load adware on the family computer or not.

There is a nagging question of gaming violence in the industry, but EA seems to be using kids to open the backdoor on family computers.

Posted January 23, 2008 01:57 PM

Jason

Halifax

Well, this is probably going to kill the game. I also think EA is coming into the 'free game' era just a little to late. This will not bode to well. Already, their are two big online sport games that are free; Free Style Street Basketball Online, and Kicks (An online soccer game) which seem to be managing very well. EA's Battlefield going free swing is also going to cause a stir, but having some dear and almighty competition, as there are MANY free online WW games, and combat sims. I really think EA shoul;d just stick with the regiment their with, and 'going free' is more of an independent move then mainstream, which is what EA is. Stop trying to 'do the right thing', because 8.7 out of 10 times; it's wrong!

Posted January 24, 2008 08:11 AM

Barkley Pollock

Ottawa

What about xboxlive?

Posted January 24, 2008 04:03 PM

Jason

What about xBox live? ...?

Posted January 28, 2008 12:13 PM

Jason

Halifax

What would be the point of putting Battlefield on Xbox live for free? Xbox wouldn't make any moolah from it, which seems to be Xbox Lives motives. I just don't se that happening anytime soon.

Posted February 5, 2008 08:22 AM

Garet

Winnipeg

...Jason, that is how a business works.

Posted February 5, 2008 09:09 AM

Jason

Halifax

I could see it coming from another company, but from EA, hell no. They make you pay for everything. Not to mention I have not seen a single free game on the PC produced by EA. If you can, please direct me, and not mention most of their Online implied games are done through subscriptions. If they were smart they would stay with what they are doing.

Posted February 6, 2008 08:31 AM

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