EA: Freemium is the future, ‘humans like free stuff’

Monday, 30th July 2012 11:59 GMT By Dave Cook

EA believes that freemium games are the future. But don’t expect all of the company’s output to suddenly become free overnight. Full quotes after the jump.

Speaking with MCV, EA interactive senior VP Nick Earl explained, “The future is not about one-time payments, the future is about freemium. A decent number of people convert to paying and they may not pay a lot but most of them actually pay more than you’d think.”

Earl’s statement comes as streaming services such as Gaikai and OnLive are becoming a very real prospect for triple-a content delivery on consoles and PC. Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai suggests that EA isn’t alone in its digital ambitions.

But Earl suggests that while the freemium model might not be a good fit for consoles yet, it could work eventually, “I don’t know if freemium gets to console but I do know that humans like free stuff. I also know humans who will pay for something if they’ve tried it out and they like it.”

“I’ve wondered if freemium expands beyond the tablet, Facebook and smartphones, and out into consoles?” Earl concluded, “I don’t think it’s impossible for that to happen.”

What do you make of the freemium model? Let us know below.



  1. GrimRita

    Interesting just before EA investor call on July 31. TORtantic heading this way then?

    I find the whole ‘freemium’ model an interesting one.

    As a gamer, I dont mind paying for servers(for our clan/guild etc), buying Riot Points in League of Legends and probably GEMS in Guild Wars 2.
    If its something I spend alot of time playing/enjoying, I get value for money and as such will support that developer/publisher.

    The interesting part for me, is if you look at some of the game apps – so many people hate this model. Maybe its due to some of the costs, or because the time it takes to achieve anything is SO long and spending even more money is the only way.

    Overall, providing it doesnt have a direct impact on game play by creating a world of ‘the haves’ and the ‘have nots’ I am fine with it because I dread the day that some people cant afford to purchase (insert name of super dooper weapon here) to remain competitive since that isnt what gaming should be about.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 well said. I’m the same. I don’t mind paying for content as long as the price matches the actual value of that content. I’m keen to see how EA would approach that balance however.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. GrimRita

    @2 Remember EA tried and failed big time with the original Bad Company, when in yet another moment of stupidity, wanted to charge for weapons. Needless to say, after plenty of protest, they ditched that idea.

    Knowing EA it will all end in tears first, before they strike the right balance.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. DSB

    Sadly I think it’s a common rule that once you start dividing content into smaller and smaller packages, you usually end up paying more for less.

    Very few games are really providing a rewarding F2P experience for all comers. Even if a lot of people are neurotic enough to buy in based on that deprivation.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. GrimRita

    I think thats one of the reasons why League of Legends is just SO popular. Almost everything in game can be earned by building up your XP. Then you exchange this for champions,runes, spells etc etc.

    I think its only skins that cost actual money(riot points) and they arent too expensive and of course, have zero impact on game play. If developers looked closely at how Riot have struck the correct balance, they could learn alot.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. DSB

    Yeah, absolutely. The same thing goes for Team Fortress 2, even if you get random items instead of currency.

    I don’t mind F2P as long as I’m not just a gimp for the wallet warriors to slaughter, but that’s really the case in 90% of these games.

    World of Tanks could be pretty amazing if they were giving out a small amount of premium ammo or gold like they did back in the beta.

    #6 2 years ago

    The problem with freemium is that it necessarily affects the gameplay by turning it into such a grind-fest that you feel that spending money will actually save you time.

    I’d rather save money and time by avoiding freemium products like the plague.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. TheWulf

    This is exploitative, of course. I’ve seen EA’s freemium efforts on the iPad and they’re an absolute joke. What he really means is that due to human nature and greed, ‘free’ is the worst price of all.

    The best thing is to have a price, a straight transaction from money to product. You pay a price up front and then you can enjoy the game, if you have to pay further to enjoy the game, then it’s not a game but rather a virtual shopping mall. It’s worse than Second Life in many, many ways. The freemium model either guilts you or pressures you into paying more for the game than you would have if it had had a price.

    It’s social engineering bullshit at its finest. I’ve called social engineering before, like Blizzard using peer pressure in raiding to keep people paying for subscriptions. I don’t like it. I just don’t like it. It’s bullshit and we should call it as bullshit. This is exactly the same reason why I dislike subscriptions, they are out to exploit you, and if you buy into it and you become a whore for their money-farming schemes, then you’re a disappointment to us all. And if you later discover what a fool you’ve been, you only have yourself to blame.

    Freemium models, subscription games, and anything of the sort are all designed to exploit the naive and gullible. And since consumers are so easily taken in, we really need laws to deal with this. It’s like a capitalistic Wild West at the moment, with nothing to regulate nonsense designed to exploit those who don’t know better.

    We have laws to stop this sort of thing being exploitative in regards to normal, physical products, but because the Internet is so new, capitalism does reign supreme and completely unchecked.

    I worry to think where this’ll go from here.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. TheWulf

    The only way you’ll actually stop this sort of thing from happening until there are regulations in place is voting with your wallet and making a stand, or making a noise at least. ArenaNet showed us what they planned to do with the cash shop in the beta, and some things were so disliked that they removed them. This is because Guild Wars 2 fans are a vocal lot. That’s good, because that means a better game for all of us.

    The difference between an ArenaNet fan and a Blizzard fan is that Blizzard doesn’t even really want you to think for yourself, and people just go with that. But the atmosphere of Guild Wars 2 is different. I’m fine with cosmetic items, and the ‘convenience’ items in Guild Wars 2 are so low end that you just don’t need them, and the benefit for having them is trivial.

    That’s how things should be. Sometimes you just have to make a stand against what you dislike. The cash shop of GW2 has become a much nicer place because of it. What that means is that what’s there isn’t needed to enjoy or play the game, and if someone wants to blow their money on it, then that’s their choice.

    Now compare this with Blizzard: A subscription AND a cash shop with non-cosmetic game upgrades (mounts).


    People really need to make a stand for what’s fair. Otherwise… well, if they’re raped for their money like the hopeless whores they are, then it’s their own fault.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. GrimRita

    @7 It doesnt feel like a grind, if you are enjoying doing it. LoL is a good pointer. Playing the actual game and winning yields XP, which you trade in for champions.

    Yes you need a lot but if you’re playing alot, its not a grind :)

    I am still not sure on how MTs work on app games. These are small quick fixes and people simply move on to the next big thing to play. Unless you take advantage of software faults (Like Capcom did with Smurf Village) and make a small fortune in doing so, I cant see it working.

    It will be interesting to see how this translates on to the console. ‘FREE’ Fifa 2013 but you have to pay 400 MS to get a ball

    #10 2 years ago
  11. DSB

    Seriously, the range of TheWulf is just amazing.

    Here I was thinking he was going to talk about something that wasn’t a repeat of the last multi-post tirade about Blizzard and ArenaNet, and then he just pulls a 180 and does it anyway.

    That guy has all the angles!

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Giskard

    @Wulf Since you’re on repeat about 99% of the time you write, I skimmed through your post, and was surprised that I was completely right!

    Anyway, Blizzard run a fair business model. There is no pay to win, and the “social peer pressure” you’re talking about is people who like to be social, and have friends. It’s not a concept Blizzard invented, it’s called being a human being, and enjoying spending time with others, sometimes at the cost of 15$ a month.

    Personally, I hung in there for a while, just for the guys I played with. Now we’ve all quit, but continue to hang out and play other games. Without Blizzard, that wouldn’t happen. So get off your high horse. If you don’t like Blizzard, don’t buy their games, but Guild Wars 2 does not do anything to warrant your “second coming”. Yes, there is no monthly fee, but you will purchase character slots. I see no fault in either company’s business strategy. With WoW, I get the entire game right off the bat, with Guild Wars 2, I’ll pay some extra money if I want to make another character, but won’t have to pay a monthly fee.

    In the end, to each his own. I however, like both.

    And now more OT:

    If EA get F2P right, I can see them succeeding. They should however never have Pay-To-Win options. An FPS should be a battle of skill, not of wallets.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Gadzooks!

    In cash-per-hour terms I have never has as good value from a game as I did when I played WoW.

    Oh, and citing a mount as an evil pay-to-win item? What a tool! Its a cosmetic item and equivalents can be bought with ingame cash.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. vaalix

    Games that use the free to play model just mean they can’t succeed with a traditional 15/month sub cost. So they can’t be very good products to begin with. Just because they make those games free to play doesn’t mean they will make better profits.. In fact, these companies are going to be in a world of financial hurt when they shift to free to play models. And not only that, but the end users (us gamers) are going to be in a world of hurt as well when the games ship with stripped down versions of content and features, and these companies decide to put a $$ amount on quests, content, things that would normally be in a launched product or game.. not just cosmetic items fluff items.. Think of xbox live and those games that sell map packs and content packs… Yes, you will be nickel and dimed to death with these games. wake up..

    Guild wars 2 won’t be as successful as some think. It will be like every other new mmo that is launched with huge amounts of hype and interest, then interest fades once people figure out how shallow the game actually is, and how badly they will get nickle and dime-bagged through a cash shop.

    If we, as gamers, support this freemium model, we might as well shoot ourselves in the foot. 15/month is roughly .50 cents a day… If you think you will be playing these new pay to buy, free to play with cash shop models, without spending any money, you are sorely mistaken… Sorely mistaken.

    So you like to raid and pvp you say? Well wait till they offer you 1 raid zone, and 1 pvp arena free and then sell 5 raid zones and 5 pvp zones in the cash shop.. each at a premium price of 5 bucks a pop. So one or 2 rich kids in the guild buy them with mommies credit card, and essentially force their friends into buying them, then the whole guild needs to buy it or you can’t do the content.. so you need to purchase 10 items at 5 dollars a pop = 50 bucks.. and thats being generous they may charge $10 a pop per zone/content.. You guys wait, this is where the supposed free to play is heading.. Ya free to install and log in, but you won’t be playing these games for free.. think again..

    You think Arena net is doing you a favour with the free to play garbage model they are offering? You think they won’t be gouging you like all those big bad mmo developers did in the past with their .50 cents a day cost? Think again.. And think long and hard about what it takes to maintain these games back end servers, bandwidth, content production, and expansion, not to mention peoples salaries.. They will all come with a price tag. .50 cents a day will seem like a dream compared to this new model they want to shift us into too…

    I will bet my bottom dollar, Arena Net has 2 years of content packs all lined up and ready to sell every 3 months for 40 bucks a pop… It won’t be till around the 3rd or 4th one people realize, hey we’re spending more on these free to play games than we ever did on the old .50 cents a day model…. Then the F2P model will crash and burn. I think these companies think most of us are stupid, and in fact, if you support this type of freemium pay model, you are in fact very ignorant.

    The only companies who can get away with a free to play cash shop model, are the companies with little over head and interm type talent fresh out of game dev school. Triple A companies, with huge amounts of over head and big salaries will go belly up or churn out garbage products which we as end users have to deal with.

    The point is, its not the 15/month sub model that is a failed model.. Its the quality of the shit you developers are putting out every year or two. Fix your quality and make your games fresh, exciting, addicting and fun like old school mmo’s were, or go bankrupt. Thats the future of mmos.. and that is the bitter truth you all will experience over the next 5 years.

    Anyways, I won’t be supporting Gw2.. and I told my GF if I see a single charge on my credit cards for that game, I will stop payment and proxy block the login servers… so you better hope it really is free to play and not what I think it will be..

    #14 2 years ago

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