EA is Givng Away a Game, But is That a Good Thing? Print E-mail
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Written by Thomas "CigDangle" Balistreri   
Monday, 21 January 2008

[News] [OpEd]

Today EA announced the forth-coming Battlefield Heroes, a multiplayer, online, multifaceted FPS in the vane of Battlefield: 1942.  From the very limited coverage, and single screenshot, it looks to be an amalgamation of Battlefield and Team Fortress 2.  And although I’m a Valve-Head (as SuperGuido describes me), I think the idea is a good one.

But the game’s release isn’t the real story.  EA is giving gamers the game for free, and that is the story.

Under their new all-new Play 4 Free program, gamers will be able to freely download and play the DICE developed title this summer.  (Additionally the title will have a built-in matchmaking system, to help gamers find opponents at similar skill levels.)  According to today’s press release, “…Battlefield Heroes is leading EA’s new web-focused free to download, free to play business model which generates revenue through advertising and micro-transactions. With zero barriers to entry, now anyone can be a hero on the battlefield!”  And here in lies the problem.

“Problems” to be more precise.  First, unless the game receives an ESRB rating of “E for Everyone”, which seems unlikely based on the subject matter, how does EA plan to control who downloads the game?  Simply adding a birth date check is a useless control mechanism.  A common method of age verification is to have customers enter their credit card information, but since the game is supposed to be free, some gamers may resist doing so.

But this is simply a question of logistics, and I’m certain EA will find a method that works well enough.  The thing that concerns me about the game is not the distribution method but the distribution model.  As previously stated, the game will be funded by “advertising and micro-transactions”.  My concern is just what that will entail.  Will Battlefield Heroes install some sort of adware on to a gamer’s system that is authorized by the acceptance of the EULA?  Or will EA be resorting to a heavier concentration of in-game ads than we first suspected?

Please don’t misunderstand: I’m all for a free game and as I said, I’m even excited by the title and the new model.  But there is a problem here.  Consider the cost of development of a current generation videogame.  Considering these costs run in the millions of dollars, there would need to be an inordinate number of ads to cover them all.

So where does that leave us?  Will developers be forced to reduce the production qualities of these games?  Will we be forced to endure games on par with made-for-TV movies instead of the Hollywood blockbusters and artistically made independent films to which we have become accustomed.

I can only hope the “Play 4 Free” program affords developers and publishers the opportunity to produce quality games, like something akin to HBO or Showtime produced television, and not the crap that people who only own a pair of rabbit ears have been forced to watch for years.

 

One person has commented on this article.
 1. Untitled
snorkle256, Registered
I too am excited for this release! I love free games in any way shape or form. I feel that the advertising in game will equalize the cost and not be a distraction/hindrance to players. Hopefully the microtransactions doesn't end up seperating the players into two different types of players.
 Posted 2008-01-22 11:26:34
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Last Updated ( Monday, 21 January 2008 )

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