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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Battlefield Heroes: Trailer, Evil?

There’s a trailer, folks:

The trailer is a bit lame, if you ask me, but it does explain the game concept fairly well. I laughed at the reference to these guys.

And there’s an article in Gamasutra where the designer talks all about it. Turns out there’s more to it than just buying customizable character bits, people – you can also buy power levelling. Here’s a quote from Ben Cousins, senior producer on Battlefield Heroes:

we think there are two areas where people would be interested [in buying things]. First is your customization items, to change the way your character looks. Maybe you want the gold helmet and a huge mustache, or something like that; maybe a monocle. Those will be micro-items.

The other thing is what we call convenience items: So let’s imagine that the two of us are playing the game, and you’re playing the game every night for four hours, you’re leveling up your guy really fast, but I’ve got like a wife and kids, and only play the game a couple evenings a week.

But I want to catch up with you, so maybe I’ll buy an item which gives me double the experience points for a couple of days. So I’m still playing the game, I’m still having to be skilled at the game, but I’m just leveling up my character slightly quicker. So those are the two categories.

Hmm. Powerlevelling for $$$? What do you say to that?

EA Microtransactions display worrying signs of Evil

We’ve posted about microtransactions before on Objective 514. That post spawned quite a bit of discussion. Most of you seemed cool with paying for stuff – snazzy hats, for instance – as long as the stuff you bought didn’t actually affect game performance.

Well, guess what – the barely-established taboo has already been broken. By EA, no less. Same guys who are bringing us the free-to-play, financed-through-microtransactions game Battlefield Heroes.  Now they’re taking one more step – charging for special, unlockable weapons in the upcoming release Bad Company. See the full story in Xbox 360 Fanboy magazine. Comment here!