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EA Building Microtransactions Into All of Its Future Games 303

An anonymous reader writes "Develop reports on comments from Blake Jorgensen, Electronic Arts' Chief Financial Officer, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference. As you may have guessed from the name of the conference, the business aspect of EA was the topic. Jorgensen said, 'The next and much bigger piece [of the business] is microtransactions within games. ... We're building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way, either to get to a higher level to buy a new character, to buy a truck, a gun, whatever it might be, and consumers are enjoying and embracing that way of the business.' This is particularly distressing given EA's recent implementation of microtransations in Dead Space 3, where you can spend money to improve your weaponry."
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EA Building Microtransactions Into All of Its Future Games

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @08:55PM (#43029933)

    Any time you can buy your way to victory is a quick way to lose any hardcore fan base, and most likely the audience that will keep playing your game after release-hype

  • RIP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zlives ( 2009072 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @08:55PM (#43029943)

    Alas, poor EA! we knew thee well

  • $60 for the game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @08:56PM (#43029945)

    $5 to unlock the start menu

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @08:57PM (#43029959)

    Pretty soon you will be able to tell if a person is rich by the gun they have in a game. The poor will walk around with pistole's the rich will drive tanks.

  • by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:01PM (#43029991)

    The problem with this is that it undermines the community aspect of games. SimCity 4 has 10 years worth of community-built content, all built for free. It's amazing, truly.

    But SimCity 5 most likely will not have this sort of thing, seeing as how you must be online the entire time. What developer wants to make the Empire State Building with their own spare time if EA is going to put it on their store and sell it as a micro-transaction?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:12PM (#43030121)

    The stuff you buy from Blizzard is cosmetic, it doesn't affect gameplay.

    I guess you haven't played Diablo 3.

  • by ductonius ( 705942 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:16PM (#43030151) Homepage

    EA Effectively Discouraging Me from Playing All of Its Future Games

  • by __aaqvdr516 ( 975138 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:26PM (#43030229)

    It takes a good game developer to make a micro transaction model work for a single particular game.

    It takes an EA exec to force that model upon every game a publisher makes.

  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:32PM (#43030265)
    Five years ago I was researching in game purchases by opening a browser within the game. I saw it as a way to make purchases within a game. Personally I see micro purchases as a major negative if you need those purchases are needed to actually complete a game. If where we are headed is needing to spend even more money to complete the game I just bought I will stop buying games. Enhancements are one thing but I see greed driving the sales and the in game purchases being a part of the game.
  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:36PM (#43030297)

    so its a reality sim?

    No. In a reality the poor drive around in tanks at the direction of the rich who are too busy playing with pistols at an exclusive game reserve.

  • Hollywood (Score:4, Insightful)

    by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:43PM (#43030339)

    The game industry is mirroring Hollywood in more ways than budgets. We have 90% of the content being released by just a few very large studios, who seem averse to anything that isn't a sequel or a remake. What really sucks is that we spent the last 20 years trying to improve the gaming experience enough to really get players immersed in the game, only to have the whole concept of immersion take a back seat to shareholder earnings.

    In hindsight, it's no wonder the gaming industry has been so paranoid about piracy; I think they've purposefully been using the Hollywood model for inspiration.

  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:43PM (#43030349)

    More likely, EA would let community developers create an Empire State Building, then sell it via EA's microtransaction site for $6.99, with EA taking a $2 cut.

    Then, with huge records showing what items sell best, EA can create their own version of the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building and Lolcat Statue, etc., ban the third-party "copies" from the marketplace, and take all the money then on for themselves for those items, all while letting the community developers make pennies on the rarer stuff to keep the "marketplace thriving".

  • Re:RIP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omestes ( 471991 ) <omestes@gmail . c om> on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:46PM (#43030367) Homepage Journal

    Just give it up and accept that you're no longer a part of the lucrative video game market you once were when you were a kid.

    Despite the fact that I now have a disposable income? When I was a kid I had to beg for game cartridges, and I might have, if I was lucky, gotten one for Xmas and one on my birthday. For the PC I generally only got them from the bargain bin, or used from places like EB (before they were bought by Gamestop). I remember saving like hell for Blizzard and Interplay titles, then beg the remainder from my parents.

    Now I might buy a $60 game a month (I generally don't, since there isn't that many good games coming out each month), it isn't that big of a deal. I don't even want to know what I spend on cheap games at GoG and Steam. I can spend money now, I couldn't as a kid. I don't have as much time for bullshit, but I have more money to reward good developers and publishers with. I'm not alone in this, most of the people I know in my age group still play games, tons of them, and now have money. Further, they control the purchases of their children now.

    I'd say I'm still very much part of the market.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @09:53PM (#43030407)

    You are not buying things from Blizzard, you are buying things from other players and Blizzard get's a cut of the action.

    You are not buying things from other players, you are buying things from Blizzard and they give the players a cut of the action so someone plays their shitty game.

  • by sesshomaru ( 173381 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:02PM (#43030475) Journal

    Game Tester: Wow, you know the single player mode in this game is a lot of fun even without having made even a single microtransaction.

    EA Executive: Programmer, make it not fun unless the player pays for microtransactions.

    Programmer: By your command.

  • by codepigeon ( 1202896 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:03PM (#43030493)
    I was lucky enough to be around for the early days of PC gaming. I remember when the manual actually told you to make a backup of the floppy. (for you young viewers, manuals were small booklets that used to come with games giving you tips, backstory, art..)

    I guess it's good that I am nearing 40 and don't get into gaming as nearly as I used to. This stuff is just turning me off completely.

    Considering the typical audience here, there are probably not a lot of you that play EA's NHL (yearly susbscription game). They have already been testing the waters for this from at least 2011 when they indroduced a mode of play called "hockey ultimate team". In this mode you build a team by using "cards". The cards actually come in foil packs that you can buy (all virtual of course). They offer a way to pay for the packs with earned in-game points or real-world money. My son plays the NHL13 version of this game and it is obvious that the system is entirely designed to get you to need to buy more packs of cards to continue paying.

    As expected the good hockey players are "rares" (and i mean really rare), and you continually need to feed contract cards and injury repair cards to keep playing. The amount of points required to get the medium and larger packs are so high it is difficult if not impossible for a weaker player to ever purchase with earned points. I'm a software engineer, I see the patterns and thresholds and how they are clearly designed to maximize the need for more "cards". it is completely obvious to me; my son however is too naive to see are probably many other people under the age of 20 or 30. And that is why these microtransactions are "popuar". Mom drops $20 into the kids account and he blows it on virtual garbage. (I refuse to allow my son to buy with real money)

    F**k EA. F**k the industry for....well...becoming an industry with the corporate greed that comes with it.

  • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:25PM (#43030615)

    Here's why it's bad:

    They're trying to maximize revenue from every game, which on the surface seems like a good thing for them as a company. Unfortunately it's incredibly shortsighted.

    Given these assumptions
      - People only have so much money to spend on entertainment.
      - Given finite resources, if you spend more money on one title you have less to spend on another.

    There are two real possibilities that I see

    1) In a market with little/no competition where gamers spend their money in fewer games because they are concentrating their resources on the games they play most. This means that there will be fewer titles produced because fewer will succeed - the blockbusters will dominate. Fewer games = bored gamers or danger of a massive investment in a blockbuster flopping (see Too Human, Kingdoms of Amulur, etc)

    2) In a market with lots of competition they will make themselves less relevant. Smaller publishers do and will offer better deals on games that are just as entertaining. The big publishers are really backing themselves into a corner by rehashing the same game over and over.

    3) The free to play trap. Certain games do very well with offering a solid game with optional purchases, but then greedy companies like EA and Microsoft twist that to offer as little as possible to get a person interested and then try to gouge them on "optional" purchases. So called micro transactions running as high as $20 when full retail games can be purchased for less.

    By doing any one of these things they alienate their customers, shrink their market (not to be confused with their revenue), and the end result is fewer people playing fewer games. This has already happened to the movie industry where prices are too high to bother, sequels dominate, big budget movies are the name of the game and there are fewer and fewer every year. End result: The demise of the rental industry, fewer people in theatres, and rampant piracy.

    Study after study has shown: the more people do something, the more they talk about it with their social circles, the more people become involved. While you may not get as much out of each person, by keeping prices as accessible as possible and a diverse product line you safeguard against major losses and increase the chances of major successes.

  • Re:And.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <> on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:31PM (#43030649) Homepage

    Oh that must mean its a free easily downloadable game then......huh no it isnt.

    You are paying to see ads. Its supposed to be the other way around.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:32PM (#43030659)

    That's not the problem. The problem is simple: Microtransactions give the game designer a monetary incentive to make the game grindy and unfun, with paid keys that unlock the grind. This is very clear in most modern games as the biggest selling items are XP boost items. Without them it can take 2 to 4 times as long to advance. What exactly is the publisher selling when they sell XP boost items?

  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:42PM (#43030709)
    You just described how people can pay to overcome crappy game design. Letting people pay to skip part of your game is openly acknowledging that your game is so crappy that people will literally pay to not play it. Even if that is just part of your game, that isn't a good thing.
  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:43PM (#43030717)
    They are telling you that their game is so crappy that you will pay them cash to not play it.
  • by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:44PM (#43030733) Homepage Journal

    EA ripped off the Weapon Blueprint system from Dead Island and then made it so you could create your own custom blueprints.
    That was a good thing.

    Then EA decided that they couldn't "give away the farm", so made it so you could not give other players special parts only available as DLC, which NO ONE PAYS MONEY FOR -- they use Ration Seals, which are found in-game.

    They also decided that any Blueprint you make that references advanced parts found in-game or DLC parts CAN NOT BE SHARED with other players, regardless of whether or not they have the part themselves.

    In this greedy, short-sighted bone head move, EA crippled a much touted feature, this so called "Blue Print Sharing" to be totally useless for anyone who has spent more than a couple days playikng, because as son as you're more than half way through the game, you're building guns that use special parts -- so this feature no longer works, with no explanation to why other than a unhelpful screen that says "THIS BLUEPRINT CAN NO BE SHARED!"

    I have never seen a company so blatantly throw their core product (gameplay) out the window in what can only be seen as a short-sighted cash grab.

    The irony of it is that no one in their right mind would pay CASH for this DLC when you can spend a few ration seals (hell, I have over 1,000 ration seals and can't spend them fast enough) so they aren't making any more money by pulling this shit.

    For what it's worth, I wrote in a request through support channels that they either uncripple this feature or remove it entirely. I doubt they wil change anything and I am rather certain they will cripple other gameplay features in future games with this BS, so I've resolved myself to never buy another EA title until I hear that they have stoppe pulling this crap.

    I'm not against them making money, I'm not against micropayments. I am against crippled gameplay features for obvious and petty reasons.
    As such, I no longer see EA as a game company, they are profit hounds who seek to disguise vending machines as games.
    Gameplay should be first and foremost for any game company. If the game is good and the game play is not broken, I will happily buy DLC expansions to add to my enjoyment.

  • by r0xtarninja ( 966463 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:54PM (#43030793)
    Diablo 3 is built around the assumption of an auction house. Whether you pay in time via the gold auction house, or in cash with the real money one, if you want to play the game to any appreciable level you WILL use that damn auction house. Drop rates in the game are abysmal to the point where you really cannot properly outfit a character with only items you acquire yourself. THAT is what ruined the game for me. I know people can argue that you are buying items from other players and not Blizzard under this arrangement, but even if you only use the gold AH or just don't participate at all, your gameplay experience is affected.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:23PM (#43030985)
    More than the AH, the game was just not good, and the things that made it not good (AH included) were terrible elements that seemed to have been lifted from WoW. I tried to remain skeptical (I'm weary of the internet loudly proclaiming that $sequel is officially The Worst Thing Ever and They Changed It Now It's Ruined), but after seeing it in action, the game really isn't good.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @04:23AM (#43032185)

    Now let's ponder for a moment why there is still such a huge market for desktop gaming when everyone and their dog has a mobile device and the games there are cheaper... hmm... could it be that a lot of people do NOT like that kind of game model?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @04:34AM (#43032219)

    A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2013 @04:47AM (#43032259)

    Yeah all those poor programmers who choose to work for EA or an EA owned developer and who choose not to unionize.

    They can go to hell. You can't have it both ways. Either unionize and get some muscle for bargaining or don't and get stepped on by the other party. There is no other option.

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