Inside EA

I’ve just talked with the PR Manager for EA Games, Johnathan Goddard. (He was in my office for a presentation and I nabbed him after.) Remember that cheeky reference to the Pirate Bay in that trailer? I was wondering about that, so I asked him how much piracy affected the movement towards free-to-play.

“Massively,” he said. “Piracy is the single biggest force in the move towards free-to-play and the microtransaction model.” He said that effectively, the move towards microtransactions means that EA is providing an ongoing service, not a product – and you can’t pirate a service.

I think the game industry is doing well with this sort of thing. The music and movie industries have totally failed to capitalize on the potential of online distribution. Their failure is so complete, that music sales decreased 14% last year alone, following a whopping 20% drop the year before. Meanwhile, the music publishers are suing their own customers. Can you say FAIL?

Also, re: power-levelling. The interesting thing about the BFH multiplayer is that it auto-sorts players into online groups of equal skill. So you’ll never get pwned by the addicted 15 year-old.  You’ll always be playing with people the same skill level as you. Ergo, a good challenge level, ergo more fun.

Unless all your friends are in a different skill group. That’s where the power-levelling comes in. You can catch up to them.

Interesting. I’ll hold all further thought on this until I have actually played the damn thing.

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8 Responses

  1. Hm. My comment on the previous post may not stand up to this. Still, I’m not sure I see the point, at least from the player’s point of view; in order to play with your friends you need to level up at the same rate, or pay to do so later? I fail to see why this is good for the players themselves.

    It is good for EA, though, who get you to pay incrementally for their arcane group selection system. Am I missing something? Let it be said that I still have no experience of the game itself; it looks fun, and I still like the baseline idea of playing for micropayments, but I still worry about this “convenience items” system. Growing pains or new, evil paradigm?

  2. Ben Cousins describes BFH as a service, too:

    [T]his is a service, not a product. We’re going to have ongoing support. The live team for the game are almost as big as the dev team. We want to have people coming back to the game over time, but we also want the community to inform us what type of game they want to play.

    Also, I don’t know that I’d call the group selection system ‘arcane’, Rusty. Halo 2 and 3 use a very similar system for online Matchmaking, “levelling” players up as they perform well to keep them in games with players of approximately equal skill.

    The difference of course is that Halo also allows you to party up with your friends and go looking for trouble, even if the members of your group are of individually different skill levels. There’s nothing to prevent a Brigadier from forming a party with a Private and a 2nd Grade Captain, for example.

    This is where BFH stands to fail (though that might be deliberate). Since you might not be levelled up enough to play with your friends, you fork over a few bucks to quickly catch up. When you invariably fall behind again, you whip out the ol’ VISA and close the gap. And so on. Like Rusty said, good for EA at least.

  3. Some people do pay for hosting for their favorite online games, as a place to play with their buddies and keep their little community or clan up and running (e.g. TacticalGamer, TexasTeamPlayers). This seems fair, whereas requiring users to pay & play to keep up with other players might be a much.

    Personally I hate that world of warcraft requires that I spend 6 months getting to the same level as my friends and then that’s locked to a particular server! If I want to play on another server I need to move my character over or start again.

    Also matchups based on playtime/XP ranking is not that fun really, you always get people starting over just so they can pwn everyone.

    Leveling up to get better kit with more options == fun
    Requiring leveling up so you can play with friends != fun

  4. So I guess that puts WoW, EvE, EQ and other MMOs in a weird place for you, eh Tger? What I mean is that those games require you to invest time levelling up a character if you want to play with your friends who have already been playing for a while (which is not fun for you). At the same time, as you level up, you gain better equipment and more and different abilities (which is fun).

    As for Time- or XP-based playlists, I have found that in general, they work pretty well. Yes, you do sometimes encounter folks who start over so that they can crush newbies, but they typically advance so quickly that they’re only a short inconvenience to people who are genuinely levelling up. Also, I have found that people become heavily invested in their rank and focus on maintaining and improving it.

    I think that such playlists are better than totally open servers like the ones you play CS:Source on, where you can run the full gamut from “I just installed the game to” to “I can headshot you with a Glock from 80 yards while bunny-hopping.” When the game makes an effort to set you against people of approximately equal skill, the end result is a better experience.

  5. All this is fine and good until someone writes Battlefield Heroes server emulator which allows people to level up fast and get items for free. Not that I want this to happen of course, it would be quite sad if EA to declared this a failure due to piracy. But such emulators exist for almost every popular online game out there. 😦

    I do hope they consider allowing people to run (non-itembased?) private servers though. Heroes looks like it would be great at a LAN party.

  6. I really like the idea that you have to play against equal players…but i do not like the fact that ea is giving the option of paying to advance..that does not make it fair…like all other battlefields you should only be able to earn your advancement….not fun if you do not earn it….

  7. […] blijkbaar beter omgaat met piraterij dan pakweg de muziekindustrie. Bijvoorbeeld door micro-payments, waar de gebruiker een dienst koopt in plaats van product, en je kan geen piraterij plegen op een […]

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