Electronic Arts used to be on top of the gaming world; now it’s not. To reclaim its throne, the publisher is on the hunt for new forms of revenue, and its newest target happens to be the oldest gaming market still around: PCs. In an interview with Gamasutra, Frank Gibeau, president of EA Games, said that a focus on PCs may bring EA back to its former glory. Social games on Facebook are a part of its plan, but MMORPGs and other PC games are a huge focus for EA.
“The user base is gigantic,” said Gibeau. “PC retail may be a big problem, but PC downloads are awesome. … The margins are much better and we don’t have any rules in terms of first party approvals. From our perspective, it’s an extremely healthy platform. … It’s totally conceivable it will become our biggest platform.”
Gibeau believes the PC free-to-play “freemium” model for games may eventually make it to next generation consoles as well, which he thinks will have a heavy focus on new types of controllers and, more importantly, online play.
“What’s interesting is the displays are maxed out already,” he said. “Once you get to 1080p, it’s not about increasing resolution. Obviously, more computing horsepower is nice, but to be honest, the Xbox 360 and PS3 still have a lot of horsepower that hasn’t been tapped. I really think the next innovation is in the input device, but even more importantly, what will the online experience be like?”
While a variety of games on a variety of platforms is a step in the right direction, the idea that more and more games will adopt the freemium model is somewhat disconcerting. Though social games and MMORPGs are fun, they are almost non-games, utilizing social mechanisms and small rewards to get players to continue to play indefinitely. Many of them offer incentives to pay real money to buy game items, somewhat breaking the entire concept of a game, which has traditionally been about earning said items. There have also been major complaints in regard to children playing freemium games, which make it easy to buy in-game content.
Still, it’s hard to complain when EA is planning to offer a new Battlefield game for free this April. Are free games full of ads and in-game payments a good trend for the industry?