EA Doesn't Want to "Nickel and Dime" Players With Microtransactions

"A lot of mobile games don't allow you to have fun unless you've paid for it."

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EA is purposefully designing its games with microtransaction, subscription, and expansion programs to keep people playing as long as possible, but the company wants to avoid "nickel and diming" gamers. EA CFO Blake Jorgensen spoke about the subject this week at the UBS Global Technology Conference.

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Asked for his take on how microtransactions and subscription-based services factor into EA's plans, Jorgensen said discussions around monetization happen after new features are designed.

"Our game teams are all thinking through, 'What's the engagement model to keep the consumer, to really entertain the consumer for a long period of time?'" he said. "When you think about that, it's not really the economics; the economics come afterward. There might be multiple models of ways to engage people."

Jorgensen used Madden's Ultimate Team mode as an example, saying this new feature--which allows players to draft fantasy teams and pay for players with real-world money--has proven wildly successful in keeping Madden players in the game for a year instead of a few months.

"What we want to do is give the consumer a great value for their money and keep them deeply engaged in something they love to do" -- Jorgensen

"The fundamental way that we as an organization think about [microtransactions and subscriptions] is all around engagement," he said. "How do we engage the consumer as long as possible? In the old days, people played Madden for a few months and then stopped playing. When the Super Bowl finished, they were completely gone. Today, with Ultimate Team, they engage for 12 months, all the way up until the time you start playing a new season. "

This kind of year-long engagement has been a big boon for EA, which also operates an Ultimate Team mode for its FIFA franchise. During EA's latest quarter, revenue from Ultimate Team modes rose 64 percent.

Right now, EA games are monetized in a number of different ways, but they all have the same goal.

"It could a subscription, a subscription that has extra content as part of it, or a sole subscription, or it could be simply an upfront payment to a game that has extra content coming over time," Jorgensen said. "What we want to do is give the consumer a great value for their money and keep them deeply engaged in something they love to do."

Jorgensen did acknowledge that microtransactions have a controversial reputation, something he hopes EA can address in the future with its own games.

"I do think there's a bit of consumer fatigue around feeling like they're getting nickle and dimed all the time. And a lot of mobile games don't allow you to have fun unless you've paid for it," he said. "So we're looking at new models of ways to try to alleviate some of that fatigue that's going on. Some of those might come in the form of subscription-style, but some of them might simply come in different ways to play games over time so you don't feel like you're always getting nickel and dimed."

Most of EA's mobile games are free-to-play, supported by microtransactions. Meanwhile, the company's console games are typically operated through a mix of paid expansions and microtransactions. There are exceptions, however, as the new Need for Speed will has no paid DLC at all.

For more on Jorgensen's presentation this week, check out the stories below.

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