BioWare’s Command & Conquer: Generals 2 becomes part of EA’s free-to-play empire

command & conquer free to play

How do you modernize Command & Conquer properly? Free-to-play.

Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances, the debut free-to-play, browser version of the series, opened for business in May. On Tuesday though, EA announced that Tiberium Alliances is just the first salvo in what it hopes will become a free-to-play empire. Next up: The BioWare-developed Command & Conquer: Generals 2 will be free-to-play as well.

First announced in December 2011 at the Spike Video Game Awards, Generals 2 was confirmed to be in development at BioWare Victory (formerly Victory Games) and would release exclusively on PC in 2013. On Wednesday though, Electronic Arts announced that Generals 2 would be one of the games marking EA’s broad transition into free-to-play gaming.

“It’s not just Generals 2 that we’re talking about. We’re trying to create an entire universe of Command & Conquer, and make that as an online destination,” Jon van Caneghem, EA vice president, told Gamasutra, “And the first game that we’re highlighting under the new paradigm is Generals 2. Initially the Generals product was really online-focused, so much that shifting the business model, and removing the barrier of entry of purchasing a box just made so much more sense. Letting someone play a triple-a game for free was something that I think was pretty cool.”

Command & Conquer: Generals 2 is expected out in 2013.

EA has slowly but surely been expanding its free-to-play library. What started a few years ago as an experiment with Battlefield Heroes has expanded to include Need for Speed World, FIFA Online, and soon Star Wars: The Old Republic. Even as EA grows into a free-to-play publisher, its still finding other ways to price gouge players with for-pay add-on content. Look no farther than the DLC for Mass Effect 3; that is the true nature of EA’s free-to-play future, a world in which its games need to purchased piecemeal.

The plan a few years back was to transform the Command & Conquer into something profitable in the modern age. Blizzard had a lockdown on the real-time strategy market with StarCraft II on the horizon. So EA did what any big publisher does these days: It turned Command & Conquer into a first-person shooter with solo and multiplayer components. Tiberium was in production for a couple of years when EA, in a rare stroke of rational thinking, realized that its plan was stupid and it killed it off. EA saw moderate success with Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 later that year, and again in 2010 with Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, but it still wasn’t the money making engine it could be. Free-to-play may succeed in the effort, but whether or not that’s good for players depends on just how much of the game is actually free to play.