EA: Free-to-play will threaten console business

Next generation of online games will make consumers question the need to buy the next Xbox or PlayStation system, says Battlefield Heroes head Ben Cousens.

Electronic Arts has been going through a torrid time of late. Having addressed criticism from gamers about churning out sequels with little effort or imagination, it's now dealing with the wrath of investors who think that the firm isn't making enough money and is spending too much in unproven markets and new intellectual properties. Talking at the London Games Conference today, Ben Cousens, general manager of EA's EASY studio, talked about what the company has learned and how free-to-play games such as Battlefield Play4Free will shake up the marketplace further, hinting that the newly announced title will add to this learning experience.

Consumer behaviour is leading the industry, he said, and within two to five years the market is going to be seriously disrupted. That time period for publishers such as EA will be all about how to "grab the TV screen away from the console manufacturers" and will use new technology to break down the barriers to entry. In this time frame the quality of free-to-play titles will make players ask: "Do I really want to buy a new console?"

The one thing that may act as a "parachute" for console makers is opening up their platforms, Cousens said. "Anyone who thinks in terms of walled gardens is in trouble," he explained, talking about the enclosed and secure nature of both XBLA and the PlayStation Network as the only way to play downloadable titles on Microsoft's and Sony's consoles.

The market here is huge, Cousens emphasised. He said he feels the market is changing so fast that there is a gap large enough for a shift as big as the original PlayStation. This could be filled by something like Google TV or Apple TV, he said, or it could be filled by a new device entirely that acts as an open platform for online Web-based gaming that allows publishers to easily reach gamers' TVs with their free-to-play offerings.

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Discussion

68 comments
theshonen8899
theshonen8899

I think people need to start understanding that they don't need to pay for expensive consoles when they can buy a desktop computer that not only plays the games they want with the best graphics and does their...computing stuff, for $500. Consoles should be for console-ish games, like Mario or Final Fantasy.

mpeg3s
mpeg3s

Yes, I will leave console gaming forever. Develop MORE PC games!

Pete5506
Pete5506

Why would he make up stories

gijas
gijas

@ fark, true but who in the world wants to give their money away each month for patches anbd updates? Not me. I hope something comes along to change the direction the gaming industry is going in. What we need is more intelligent games. Not dumbed-down crap we see today. Ha, even the original NES had more challenging games like Legend of Zelda, Russian Attack, etc. I play on the PC but PC needs a boost and quick which this may be exactly what it needs..

ZoTrAcK
ZoTrAcK

EA is totally disconnected form the gamers reality... it's too much about exploiting the market... Play4Free sounds like a scam to me... They probably give you the base package and then offer DLC for a cost. They should concentrate only on making good games, because gamers are willing to pay a price, but for a GOOD game!!

_fark_
_fark_

The problem with free online games is that a LOT more people will play them than they would if they cost money. The same principle applies to copied games, thousands of copies probably get played but only a small percentage would actually buy the game if the option to play for free was not available. Another point is that most people who play FarmVille are females, everyone I know are middle aged women. They are not the the kind of people who would ever buy a console or pay for games.

Avenger1324
Avenger1324

How ironic for this statement to come from the company that introduced the Online Pass designed to charge gamers extra to play online for buying preowned titles. If you think free to play is such a danger, then charging more for your content is hardly the way to counter that threat.

BiGG_SMiGG
BiGG_SMiGG

@ Gruug, I take it you haven't playe Minecraft then.

Nuggetol
Nuggetol

@Shinkada Also people want something new every once in a while. Also those games have tried doing things different things and have sold loads.

Shinkada
Shinkada

@Freezezzy Final Fantasy 13 and whatever numbers Mario and Zelda are up to disgaree with you. Gamers want safe, no-thought recycling just as much as the investors.

Shinkada
Shinkada

C'mon EA, you had such a winning streak last year with awesome underappreciated games. DON'T LET THE INVESTORS RUIN YOUR TURNAROUND!

skilfulgary
skilfulgary

note to ea,stop worrying about investors and start worrying about the endless rereleasing of the same game,make a new decent game for a change. you would think a company with the game making experience of ea could come up with a decent title.

Frosty192
Frosty192

Why do they let this guy speak in public?

just_nonplussed
just_nonplussed

all of the best games i've played this generation have been either very cheap, or free.

Deaf_Zeolot
Deaf_Zeolot

jeffreee Posted Nov 6, 2010 12:56 am GMT LOL, he said "consoles" and "quality games" in the same sentence. Ha ha, yeah....right. LOL sorry dude, unless you're a 14-year old noob, a quality console game simply doesn't exist. What stone you been living under, there are plently of good games on any console. Metal Gear Solid, God of War, Call of Duty 3, Resident Evil 4 Command & Conquer 3 just to name a few.

jeffreee
jeffreee

LOL, he said "consoles" and "quality games" in the same sentence. Ha ha, yeah....right. LOL sorry dude, unless you're a 14-year old noob, a quality console game simply doesn't exist.

DeViLzzz
DeViLzzz

I currently play zero free to play games and that won't change anytime soon. I will say I have tried them but when it came the time for me to invest money into this item and that I didn't feel like sorting through all that is in these item stores. I also don't like playing a game where gameplay experience is affected by this.

Hatemachine25
Hatemachine25

I still chuckle to myself that the guys who make Farmville and Mafia wars are worth more than EA, I just can't get over how laughable that is, and it appears EA can't either. Go free to play see how it works for ya, when people start selling every stock they have in the company because you have no idea what gamers want or how to support games Post release, see just how many people will suck up to that rancid Teat. Either cut the crap and get lost or fix your real issues, quit blaming your faults on others and looking for a quick fix cause it isn't gonna happen.

calebcop
calebcop

And all these "Free to play" games, aren't actually free at all. They're free for 1 gun and 1 map, but then you have to pay to get the rest of the guns and maps.

calebcop
calebcop

Like I am seriously going to play Flash Games and the like versus say, KillZone 3, Uncharted 2, or Castle Crashers? Yeah, right.

wrestlingdude
wrestlingdude

Screw free to play games. Consoles all the way!

Henu
Henu

So players will discard their consoles and quality games over some 10minute-thrill free2play games? Yea. Right.

SoNin360
SoNin360

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

campbell153
campbell153

We have an interesting future ahead of us with regards to the direction of the gaming industry! It all rests on how the new format will be delivered to us and whether it is going to be free? in-game advertising... LMAO could you imagine playing CoD MW9 or whatever is out by then and as you run around the multiplayer map with some camper hiding behind a chair in a McDonalds amd then throws an egg McMuffin at you with extra BBQ perk on!!!

Grovilis
Grovilis

@MooncalfReviews That was unfortunately canceled and you had to pay for gold membership to use is so it really wasn't free.

Freezezzy
Freezezzy

This is the part that gets me: In other words: Gamers want originality, while the investors want more of the same (as in safe, proven moneymakers). No wonder the industry is in the state it's in now.

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

Free to play my ass. It's free to play up until they force you to buy the next map.

clqtte
clqtte

Free to play.Actually, it's not Free to play at all.

Seifer-fx
Seifer-fx

Hate free to play, i dont mind paying if i get quality. Thats the whole point.

Evilnator
Evilnator

In other words.. Free to play might also provoke aliens to attack earth, so GIVE US UR MONEH!!!

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Either way, he's assuming that console makers can't also run free to play games. 1 vs 100 anyone?

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Free to play ... on your PC? I'm a bit confused about this. Maybe I didn't read it right?

Irsaan
Irsaan

@lindallison I'd watch that movie. Just keep Uwe Boll away.

Barighm
Barighm

What a joke. Maybe there are new technoligies emerging that will render traditional gaming obsolete-it's inevitable, such is the nature of technology-but F2P games are SO not the catalyst for this change. F2P's that actually allow you to jump in for free and then expect you to purchase new content are fair, but some F2P's still expect you to pay $50 upfront then have the nerve to ask for more money to access the rest of the content (this will annoy a lot of people). Console games may have DLC, but they still offer a complete game for you to enjoy. The DLC is purely optional and is rarely necessary. And EA should slap their investors in the face and tell them to be quiet. Blizzard didn't get to where they are today by bowing to investor pressure. "The game is finished when it's finished" they always said...proof that good games make good money.

majere613
majere613

I can't agree on this 'walled garden' idea that this guy is spouting. There may be things about PSN and Xbox Live that developers don't like, but to the consumer it keeps things simple and it works, which is a very big plus. Anyone who's gone through the rigmarole of trying to persuade the PC DLC on Dragon Age to behave reliably can attest to that. The very flexibility that makes the PC so potentially powerful is also the reason why digital distribution and DRM on it is such a nightmare compared to most other platforms.

Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

Everything this Ben Cousens guy is touting typical investor quelling and has been the obvious state of gaming for the last 3 or so years, which has mired EA in mediocrity and heavy criticism. BF Heroes hasn't touched the farmville demographic. If I were an EA investor, I'd slap this guy for doing little more than touting the obvious, and having a naive perspective on the internet gaming market.

ricardo-sene
ricardo-sene

"or it could be filled by a new device entirely that acts as an open platform for online web-based gaming that allows publishers to easily reach gamers' TVs with their free-to-play offerings" Well, On-Live do this, just not for free...

Kid2812
Kid2812

Here is a stupid idea that I should not ask but Why dont you just make really good games that us gamers want and add things that we didnt knw we wanted ???? (plus this will make you alot of money, more then you even think)

orinb
orinb

Just more excuses from EA! Some companies have figured out ways to support their customers and their product, and some haven't....

lindallison
lindallison

Wait is he suggesting folks will stop buying consoles in favor of playing facebook-esque microtransaction based games on their web-enabled TV? Sounds like a dystopian movie plot.

Blink3r
Blink3r

quit whining and blaming everything and make GOOD games... -.-

ziproy
ziproy

Good maybe console developers will work harder as apposed t just copiing each other

Saije
Saije

Sadly, as long as that potential customer (read: MONEY) base continues to grow that's also where the soulless money grubbing companies who care little for true gaming culture will aim their resources. Why make quality games for true gamers when you can spend 1/10th making a crappy F2P game that will make a mint on advertising dollars. It's amazing how money tends to ruin the quality of craftsmanship in every industry sooner or later... Why do you think our auto-industry is ailing (Speaking for America). Corporations need to stop sucking their own ***** and start catering to the creative talent in order to give birth to the next generation of gaming innovation. Not following a path sure to devolve gaming culture into the sum of worthless social-site games.