EA DICE embraces retail-free business model

EA DICE embraces retail-free business model
Michael French

By Michael French

January 21st 2008 at 10:05AM

New Battlefield game is digitally distributed and free-to-play, making money via in-game ads and item transactions

EA has announced a new Battlefield game from its DICE studio - and with it, has introduced the publisher to a brand new business model.

The game will be available for free over the web, not sold via retail, and is supported financially through in-game advertising and item sales.

Called Battlefield Heroes, the game is designed to capitalise on the booking online market - which EA has struggled to stake a major claim in - plus the exploding demographic for gaming, by offering a more accessible game experience. The game also boasts a more cartoony look (pictured).

“The existing Battlefield games are fairly deep; you have to be pretty good or you’ll die pretty quick,” the New York Times quotes Gerhard Florin as saying. “Now we’ve toned down the difficulty, shortened each game session to 10 or 15 minutes and made the visual style more cartoony.”

EA is still developing traditional Battlefield games to be sold at retail, however, with Battlefield: Bad Company, the next version set for home consoles.

The New York Times says EA hopes the game "can help point the way for Western game publishers looking to diversify beyond appealing to hard-core players with games that can cost $60 or more". The firm had already dabbled in the business model via a Korean version of its FIFA franchise.

The move is also the latest step in CEO John Riccitiello's plans to revamp the company, and keep it in tune with current gaming trends and business models.

Florin added: “I’ve always envied the movie industry when they put a film out in the cinema, then they go to retail with a different business model and then to pay television and then free TV. They have the same content reaching different audiences with different models, and we could never figure out a way to do that. Now with higher broadband penetration, we can use the technology to reach a broader audience.”

If Battlefield Heroes is a success EA will follow suit and create similar experiences for its other brands, although Florin did not name which of the firm's popular titles are in the frame to get the online treatment.

[Image: New York Times.]