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EA Considers Service-Based Business Model For Sports Games 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the friend-or-foe-depends-on-price dept.
Andrew Wilson, head of development for EA Sports, spoke at the Develop 2011 conference about an unusual business plan the company is considering for future games: "[Wilson] raised the subject of Amazon's Whispersync feature, which allows customers to download a digital book for one price and then read it on whichever format they like from PCs to smartphones and Kindle, without having to pay again for each platform. He suggested that eventually EA Sports may well move toward the same model with its own games, even providing all of its titles, from FIFA and Madden to Tiger Woods PGA Tour golf, for one fixed price on multiple platforms – all linked by the same social gaming ecosystem. 'It's about handing over control to the gamer,' he said. 'Ultimately, what we want to get to is this concept where we break down the barriers between the franchises. John Riccitiello, our CEO, says it seems like such a waste – we spend $20-40M making each of these games, but most gamers only ever play one, because the business model is an impediment. So how about we drive toward a model where every gamer can experience everything we make without paying that much more money. You've got to recognize that given the opportunity, the consumer will play and they will bring their friends.'"
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EA Considers Service-Based Business Model For Sports Games

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  • Wouldn't this idea be immediately squished by the console manufacturers? I'd imagine they quite like the idea that people are reluctant to drop significant money on several versions of the same game since it more or less provides a nice market lock in. I think it's a good idea, I just get the feeling greed will kill it dead in no time though.

    • I'd think Microsoft would be all for this as they are going to great lengths to join up Xbox, Windows Phone 7 and probably Windows 8. A unified ecosystem would be much stronger and more influential. Sony would probably be good for bleading gamers to levels just below fatal though.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        Actually Sony has been more open to developers updating their games through their own services than Microsoft has. (see: Portal 2)

    • by delinear (991444)
      Rockstar already did something similar with the Rockstar pass for LA Noire - buy the pass and you get all the DLC updates. EA could use a very similar model - buy a pass valid for one year and get all the content releases throughout the year, renew it next year, don't buy the pass and you can still pick and choose the DLC you want. This will succeed or fail on how well supported the titles are with updates and bonus content throughout the year - if it amounts to "pay X just to play for a year" it just won't
      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Well I'd say the bitch is the sports nuts are so hooked on their favorite games that EA pretty much has a free pass to do whatever they want on this and the sports guys will still buy. They are probably hoping this will let them get folks to play some of the less popular sports games in the hope of creating another Madden license to print money.

        But I used to live next to one of those sports nuts and while a hell of a nice guy the devotion these guys show to their favorite sports is just a little nuts. He ha

        • I love sports, I currently play in our city football league and our 30 and over basketball league. However, I haven't purchased anything from EA since NCAA Football 2009. I simply don't see enough of a graphical difference to warrant upgrading every year, if the developers could focus on creating a compelling, and fun version of the games and simply charge a small(ish) fee at the beginning and end of each each season to update stats, rosters, and records I think they'd win the penny-pinchers like myself b
    • by wjousts (1529427)

      Lock-in is a delicate thing. On the one hand you want to lock-in your own users, but on the other hand you want to unlock your competitors. You're assuming this threatens a console manufacturers lock-in, but it also opens up their opponents and could potentially grab a few new users.

      Sometimes it isn't about grabbing a bigger piece of the pie, sometimes it's about making the pie bigger.

  • Subscription anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cbope (130292) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @05:46AM (#36832924)

    Pure marketing spin on this one, what they are really trying to do is roll out a subscription-based service where you pay-to-play. Stop paying your subscription? Sorry, you don't get to play our game anymore.

    No thanks EA.

    • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @06:01AM (#36832986) Homepage
      Isn't that effectively the way it is anyway with the Madden and FIFA series? If you want to play the latest "content" (I refuse to call every iteration a different "game"), then you have to pay for it at almost constant intervals. All this will do is increase the "resolution" of the payments. The question to ask is: over a period of (for example) 3 years, how much would playing the latest version cost?

      And yeah, they're probably going to push for pay-to-play, and they're not the only ones. Evey company would like a WoW on their hands so they can have a constant stream of revenue rather than "pulses" of cash every time they release a title (accompanied with very expensive advertisement and PR for each one). When that eventually (almost inevitably) happens, then I hope people will vote with their wallets.
      • I don't think it is just the business model. Whenever I heard about software vendors asking people to pay subscriptions, I get suspicious that they are getting tired of working for their money.

        Right now, the deal is that EA can release a new Madden game every couple of years, but they have to continually make improvements. I know people who spend tons of time playing Madden, and I've heard them complain, "Oh this year's version kind of sucks. I'm going to stick to last year's version." So they do still

      • Hehe I always find it amusing how the magazines and tech sections of the newspapers always hype the latest FIFA as the best bla bla bla, when from the outside
        I always geht the feeling that in 4 out of 5 iterations of the series they just change the textures and the names.

    • by Tridus (79566) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @06:09AM (#36833008) Homepage

      Sports games pretty much already do work that way. For the people who play these, paying $30/year for it to play as long as they keep paying is actually a far better deal then buying the new version every year.

      There's some genres of games where a subscription model actually makes a lot of sense. This is one of them.

      • by SeaFox (739806)

        Sports games pretty much already do work that way. For the people who play these, paying $30/year for it to play as long as they keep paying is actually a far better deal then buying the new version every year.

        Yes, but what's $30/12? $2.50 a month.

        Do you really see EA offering their new sports title subscription for $2.50 a month? I don't. In the end, the consumer will probably find themselves paying more per year than they were when they were just buying the titles outright. Plus, they wont be able to resell last year's title since they only paid for a license to play it on lease.

        More money and the death of the used games market is (once again) what this is about.

        • You can't really resell sports games like they're talking about anyway. Last year I went to go resell Madden and NHL 2010 in August (so it was almost the next season for both leagues) and got like 5 bucks for it. If they're talking all the games on all the platforms, up to $80 per year would be a decent enough deal that I'd take it. Since I normally only buy Madden, this gets EA/Microsoft/ whoever else $20 more bucks a year to split. And the ability to sell me DLC at what I assume to be full price.
      • There's some genres of games where a subscription model actually makes a lot of sense. This is one of them.

        I agree. I know a lot of people that would rather just buy a subscription to, say, an NCAA Football title, and get updates throughout the year than have to buy a new disc of what is pretty much the exact same game over and over again. They wouldn't even need to make physical discs, honestly, or if they did, they wouldn't have to make many. Most people can just pay their subscription fees and download it straight to their device, and I think a lot of people would adopt that for sports games. Certainly mo

  • How about making Madden games available on PC again
    • I imagine that if EA declined to make PC ports, it was due to disappointing sales that were not enough to outweigh the headache of making sure games are compatible with all variants of both homework-and-Facebook PCs (old Intel CPU, Intel graphics) and gaming PCs (newer CPU, AMD or NVIDIA GPU). Part of the problem might be that EA Sports games are intended to be enjoyed by multiple players in a single living room, and I've been told (citations available) that not enough people have a PC connected to their TV
  • I seem to recall another software house doing some experimentation on price and finding that the $60 price point is pretty far from the revenue minimax point....

    If most people only play your game once, then that is indication that the phrase, "fool me once..." is not working out in your favor...

  • FFXI is platform independent: once you have your codes linked to an account, you can use that same account on any platform that XI will run on at a time. That facilitated people shifting between PS2 to Xbox to PC without ever losing their characters, and also means you can pay $20 for a brand new set of codes and borrow someone else's used installation disks for the older version (very critical for PS2, where a "new" set of codes for the 9 year old game will cost $150 off eBay.) Most PC folks eventually b
  • From the article:

    John Riccitiello, our CEO, says it seems like such a waste â" we spend $20-40M making each of these games, but most gamers only ever play one, because the business model is an impediment. So how about we drive toward a model where every gamer can experience everything we make without paying that much more money.

    These pieces of shit are so transparent it's not funny.

    Most people will still only play on one platform, but they'll have to pay $100 instead of $60 because they'll now be part

    • by Raenex (947668)

      They're talking about letting you play all their games (at least all of EA Sports) for a subscription price, like Netflix does for movies. That doesn't sound like a bad deal to me, depending on price. If it was $10 month with all the benefits of online play on every platform, I'd buy it.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        They're talking about letting you play all their games (at least all of EA Sports) for a subscription price, like Netflix does for movies

        That's what the summary says, and it seems to be suggested by a guy who's paraphrasing another guy, but if you read the entirety of the article that doesn't seem to be what they're saying. They don't compare this plan to Netflix, they compare it to "Amazon's Whispersync feature, which allows customers to download a digital book for one price and then read it on whichever

  • Strange. Games cost 100 times more to make than 20 years ago, yet they are not 100 times as fun to play .....

    • by Shillo (64681)

      Well, EA games cost 100 times more.

      Games that were relatively cheap to make and are (in my subjective opinion) incredibly entertaining are not hard to find. Recent examples, off the top of my head: Terraria, Star Ruler, Chime, Eufloria, Recettear.

      • Games that were relatively cheap to make and are (in my subjective opinion) incredibly entertaining are not hard to find. Recent examples, off the top of my head: Terraria, Star Ruler, Chime, Eufloria, Recettear.

        Thanks! I can add Aquaria, Braid, Osmos, Penumbra, Gish, and Trine to that list. I play quite a lot of games in a year, but I guess that between indie games and games from a couple of years ago I spend no more than about $120 on games every year.

        On a side note, can anyone recommend good indie/open source single-player FPSs which are not of the botmatch variety?

        • by xhrit (915936)
          I have been playing Global Agenda ever since it went f2p a few months ago and I am enjoying it quite a bit.

          It is not first person, open source, or single player, but it is a small indy online 3rd person shooter rpg with some pretty solid solo and co-op content. It plays a lot like Tribes, TF2 and Enemy Territory, but there is a huge open world zone with mmo style quests and a bunch of instances that involve blasting 100s of robots into scrap with a plethora of sci fi weapons. The missions get pretty insa
    • The games might be more fun if more of the $20-40M went to the people who actually design and make the games.

      The bigger games have circa 100 worker bees for 6 months, at least some of whom are contract freelancers or near/offshore (i.e., not all that well-paid), plus a few hot shots, so that's, say, $4-5M per game. Add another $1M to house and equip said workers, that's $5-6M, considerably less than EA claims to spend on each game (my estimate is rough, but not a whole order of magnitude wrong, methinks)
    • Actually the EA games of the 80s were way more fun than the streamlined shit they put out nowadays.
      Can anyone remember the time when EA called itself Electronic Arts and they put out titles like Pinpall construction set,
      seven cities of gold, Mule etc...
      EA back then was like whatever title they put out you can buy it without any reviews.

  • I actually think this kind of model makes sense for sports games, which release new content yearly. The problem is, I can already see the game companies extending this to other genres where it doesn't make as much sense.
    • I actually think this kind of model makes sense

      To you perhaps. Some of us just want to play a decent sports game and would be upset if their game stopped working once the subscription ran out.

      Subscription for any "game" makes no sense at all to me.

  • Even though I never played sports games I knew a lot of people in college who did. They all complained that it was just a big racket since it was just roster change 20xx. Granted every few years there would be AI or graphics updates, but it was mostly just changes in percentages, stats, and rosters.
  • I hope that MS says if you do this then YOU MUST MAKE A PC / Windows ver of the game.

  • "It's about handing over control to the gamer"

    Funny, most of the market seems to be heading in the opposite direction.
    If EA is serious about this, I'll start buying their games they do this with just to make a point.
    • "It's about handing over control to the gamer"

      If this is actually true then the game would be modable, roster changes etc would then be provided by the community. This is just newspeak.

  • EA is better off putting out roster updates. They practically own a monopoly on sports games (particularly the Madden series), and whenever they put out a new "feature", it's usually more-or-less something that benefits them and hurts the consumer. I'm sick of buying half a game, and EA is one of the biggest offenders IMO.
  • How about amazon provide ebooks in a format that works already on many more devices, then they wouldn't need to come up with a name for some technology that circumvents a barrier they themselves created?

  • I don't believe I'm going to say this about EA but This can be win win if done right.

    Say the subscription is $10 a month. That's the same as buying two games a year. Less actually if you include tax at retail. If you play 2 or more games you break even. If you play 3 or more you come out ahead.

    That's great for the player but how does it help EA?

    Opponents. It's all about multiplayer. There's an old add for GEnie that was perfect and I will always remember. It had a picture of a CPU and a crazy looking

  • It sounds very good for EA to be able to sell a game once and have the user able to play it on any platform. But in order to sell a game on any platforms, the platform owner tends to demand a price. There is no issue if the platform is PC or Mac or Linux. But Apple demands 30% of all iTunes store sales. There are licensing fee's to be paid for each console (Wii, Xbox360, PS3, 3DS, the PSP), the cost of which I am not sure of. Even if each platform holder was able to get its rights fees for the game, ho

  • Fantasy football is popular, the graphics for the sports games aren't all that bad, and the NFL is on strike. If the strike doesn't settle, EA might just broadcast their own games. They'd probably be better than the exhibition games anyway.

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