EA Games: Future in Freemium?


September 19, 2012 by oliviavolarich

Olivia Volarich

Article Review

September 19, 2012

EA Games: Future in Freemium?

            Within the last year, mobile gaming has drastically overtaken the video gaming market. Electronic Arts, one of the largest mobile game developers for both Android and iOS, has announced that they will begin a seismic shift away from premium games. EA’s mobile and social worldwide studios manager, Nick Earl, said, “we started to see that freemium was going in, and it took us a long time to move over”. Now, EA has announced that their most dominant model will be “freemium” in mobile gaming. This means that players can download EA’s games for free, but then will be charged a fee to buy virtual goods or attributes to continue playing and enhance the game. According to Earl, freemium will be the new norm in mobile gaming.

Electronic Arts has been one of the last standing companies when it comes to holding out to freemium. Other companies have found that by making their games free, they can actually draw in a larger audience by first letting the player download the game for free, and then having them pay for virtual goods. This causes the players to get hooked on a certain game, and then end up spending more money on virtual goods than they would have paid for the original game. So why did EA hold out for so long? Earl said its because creating freemium games requires, “a different skill set to build a one-time download [game]…[these] act like a live service, which have to be able to support thousands of daily active users”. Now all of EA is focusing on creating fewer games, but games that are bigger and better: moving from console to mobile and social. All of which will be adapting to freemium. This shift is just one of EA’s efforts to becoming an entirely digital company.

EA introduced a new platform at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas that is currently under development. The idea behind the new platform is to enable gamers to access their same identity across mobile, social, console, and PCs. EA is projected to spend over $250 million on this platform over the next four years.

The shift that EA is going through is a concrete example of how the gaming industry is changing. In our first week of class, we discussed how interest in console games is rapidly declining. Video games in July fell 20%, and have been falling for the last 9 months consecutively. Mobile gaming, however, continues to attract audiences and gamers. Like I stated before, many companies have transitioned into freemium because it is attracting a greater audience and therefore increasing income. It is also important to note that gamers are spending even more money on freemium games in order to continue playing: more money than they would if they had simply bought the original premium game. As we discussed in class, many companies are also trying to change their consoles into new platforms. EA is doing both of these things: moving to freemium in mobile gaming, as well as developing their new platform to incorporate multiple kinds of media with one login or identity.

I feel a downside to switching to freemium could be that companies will end up spending more time and energy on developing each game, but actually ship fewer games due to mobile devices and consoles. I also worry that a portion of people will become frustrated with freemium because when a consumer reads the word “free”, they expect free. Then they will come to find that in order to continue playing the new game they are hooked on, they must actually spend money. Especially with technology today, it is so easy on a mobile device to delete a game, and search on the App store for something new if you are frustrated with one game. This could only be a very small percentage though; I myself am one of these unhappy people.

As Earl said, it takes a different skill to create a one-time download game. I feel that this could cause a slight lull in production due to the extra time and energy needed. The format of the games also will be different because they are being played on a mobile device: meaning a cell phone! It is strange to think how far technology has changed because now I can do almost anything and everything on my phone. Gaming now can be on a 5 in by 3 in display screen unlike using a television or computer.

Gaming on mobile devices is also changing the way people are experiencing the game. In my opinion, it is a little more difficult to become fully immersed in the game on a mobile device, or truly enter the Magic Circle. Therefore, I would not choose to play a full-blown game, such as Tomb Raider or The Sims, on my phone because I cannot enjoy it in the same way. Often times the controls are different, actions are limited, and the narrative is altered. However, the types of games most people play on their phones: Temple Run, Doodle Jump, or even Fruit Ninja, are brilliant because they are specifically meant to be played on a mobile device.

I hope games that have been developed for mobile devices will continue to flourish, which is why I feel it was very smart for EA to convert to freemium. EA has full-length games such as Madden, Need for Speed, and Tiger Woods for mobile devices, and now that they will be released in freemium, I am certain they will be successful. I prefer not to play games like that on my mobile device. But, not to worry, I will continue to play on my phone; I will just be playing simpler games developed specifically for my mobile device.



Behind the Curve: EA Finally Making Mobile Games Free This Year




Thank you, EA Mobile Games!





2 thoughts on “EA Games: Future in Freemium?

  1. ross1004 says:

    While I think it is likely that we will continue to see growth in the freemium model, it is exceedingly improbable that model would ever exclusively dominate since simply not being fremium would become a marketable alternative for other gaming firms. Your concern about the possibility of fewer games and greater development times is definitely a valid one, because if a freemium game succeeds in its central objective of creating a thriving in game economy, certain numbers of game firm employees must continually monitor for inflation, develop new virtual goods and services, and, often build extension packages to satisfy base game users and ideally expand the number of people who play the game. It will also be interesting to see what games play that exploit the mass proliferation of mobile software and increased global smartphone literacy.

    -Ross Slutsky

  2. Xiaoxin says:

    I agree that freemium model is a big trend in the market. However, I would not be too worried about the sales of full-length games that cost a whole lot of time and money to develop. The market of full-length games does not necessarily interfere with that of mobile device games as you’ve said towards the end of the blog. However, there is another platform called OUYA that has launched a platform development project that is similar to freemium. OUYA is just a new gaming console that you can plug to your TV and have fun, yet it is innovative in a way not only because the console itself is really cheap(99, really?) comparing to its competitors Wii, PS3 etc, but because all the games come free and the code is open source. Future in freemium is totally possible, but companies will have to find a way to sustain themselves. Future in freemium and ads implant maybe?

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