Electronic Arts and the free-to-play future of NBA Live

nba live free to play

“[We] made a commitment to deliver a high quality experience—this is what our fans expect and what we demand of ourselves at EA Sports,” said the publisher’s VP Andrew Wilson in the Thursday announcement of NBA Live 13’s cancellation, “But making great games is not easy, and we’re just not there yet on NBA Live 13.” For Electronic Arts, fans of the classic NBA series still holding a torch even as NBA 2K has risen to replace it, and especially Electronic Arts’ investors, the cancellation is a bitter pill to swallow heading into the holiday season. In 2010, when EA cancelled the release of Live successor NBA Elite after the game had already gone into production, CEO John Riccitiello pegged the ensuing loss at around $250 million. With two years of development on the new title wasted with no promise of return coming, what can possibly resuscitate EA’s demolished NBA gaming business?

Three simple words: Free to play.

While Electronic Arts’ announcement suggests that it will swing back around with NBA Live 14 for consoles next year, that isn’t a likely future for the series. Budget pricing and cross-platform play are NBA Live’s survival tools based on Electronic Arts’ current business strategy. Consider first Electronic Arts’ broad shift away from traditional pricing for its games. Command & Conquer: Generals 2, originally announced as a full-price retail game, has been transformed into a free-to-play only release. Star Wars: The Old Republic, EA’s struggling MMORPG, has also turned to free-to-play models to survive.

Consider also COO Peter Moore’s focus on cross-platform play experiences for EA properties going forward. “The company has a vision and a mission,” said Moore in June, “The mission is to build the world’s best digital playground with fun for everyone, anywhere, anytime. We think that the future of gaming is cross-platform play, always having something with that’s a gaming device, but everything you do connects.”

These changes in strategy are relevant to NBA Live because of the changing state of the broader video game market. By fall 2013 comes, Microsoft and Sony will be preparing to release Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4. If any work done on the current version of NBA Live is to be saved and used to create revenue for the company, it will have to support those platforms as well as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, in addition to accommodating PCs with modest horsepower. Since the game won’t be seen as a cutting edge product, it makes the most fiscal sense for EA to release the game as a digital only product that’s either free and supported solely by microtransactions (team equipment, player trades, etc.) or with a budget pricing augmented by microtransactions. There are hints that EA was already considering this path with NBA Live 13.

EA is committed to the NBA. “We want to be in NBA forever, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure we are a proper player in the space,” Wilson told ESPN in June. This is how EA will stay in the game.

Computing

Old Nvidia graphics cards to get ray tracing support in upcoming driver

Nvidia's RTX ray tracing technology will no longer be limited to RTX graphics cards. An upcoming driver update will add support for low-end ray tracing to GTX 10-series and 16-series graphics cards.
Movies & TV

Best new podcasts

Feel like you’re drowning in podcasts? In this weekly series we’ll help you pick out the best from the rest of the new and returning shows. This week’s picks include a culture clash and a death sentence.
Gaming

Make some room in your backlog. Here are all the games to look out for in 2019

2019 is already a huge year for video games, with a large number of series getting new installments, including some that have been dormant for years. Brand new franchises are also being created.
Gaming

From Combat Evolved to Guardians, here are the Halo games ranked best to worst

The Xbox and PC series Halo began in 2001, and 11 different games have released since then. These are the Halo games ranked from best to worst, including spinoff titles and expansions.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia lets you stream big-time games from nearly any device

At GDC 2019, Google unveiled Stadia, a game streaming service that lets you play games on PC, tablets, smartphones, and TVs. Stadia looks to open up gaming to everyone, removing the need to buy additional hardware.
Gaming

Here’s all the news from the Google Stadia GDC presentation

Google announced its new game streaming service Stadia during GDC 2019. Here is all the news from the event, including news on YouTube streaming and quickly accessing your favorite new games.
Gaming

From PUBG to Apex Legends, this is how battle royale happened

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in Twitch streaming and eSports.
Product Review

4K and 144Hz? Yup, the Acer Predator XB3 will max out your gaming PC

The Predator XB3 isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you have a system that can push over 100 frames per second in 4K screen resolution, this monster of a monitor might be the perfect match for your overpowered gaming rig.
Gaming

How to sync and troubleshoot your PS4's DualShock 4 controllers

Sony's Bluetooth-enabled DualShock 4 controllers for PlayStation 4 are some of the best on the market, but connection issues aren't unheard of. Here's how to sync them to your console.
Gaming

The best of the last generation: Our 50 favorite Xbox 360 games

The Xbox 360 thrived during a generation where games were plentiful. Here's our list of the best Xbox 360 games of all time, including all game genres and even a few special indie hits.
Gaming

The Division 2 is another loot shooter with a dull story. Does it matter?

The Division 2 has a story to tell. It's not a good story. It's not told very well. But by-golly, The Division 2 is going to make you sit your ass down and listen whether you want to or not.
Gaming

A new hope arrives as Disney revives the long-dead Lucasfilm Games

According to job listings on the Disney website, the company has plans to revive Lucasfilm Games. This comes as a surprise following the shuttering of LucasArts in 2013 and could potentially mean more Star Wars games.
Gaming

Last gen had some hits! Take a look at the best PS3 games of all time

Choosing the right PlayStation 3 game can be a conundrum, especially when there are nearly 1,500 titles to choose from. Thankfully, we've rounded up the best games to have ever made it to the platform.
Product Review

The Division 2 brings the most fun we've ever had to Washington, D.C.

After 55 hours with The Division 2, it’s clear that Ubisoft has improved on the original in almost every way. The world is richly detailed, the story missions are wonderful, gunplay and enemy design are great, and the endgame content is…