'There's power in free-to-play' says EA CEO

Publisher's top executive keen on F2P, says company is considering "different models" to help bring more players to Star Wars: The Old Republic.

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Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello believes free-to-play games are a force to be reckoned with. Speaking to CNBC from Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado this week, Riccitiello said, "there's a lot of power in free-to-play" when addressing competition from free-to-play games impacting Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Will The Old Republic go fully free-to-play?
Will The Old Republic go fully free-to-play?

"Our conclusion was we had a great product in Star Wars, but that the subscription model in the world of free-to-play was challenging," he said.

Riccitiello then explained how the recently announced free trial for The Old Republic--which allows users to play the game for free until level 15--was intentionally designed as a means to hook players on the title.

"What's exciting about content as great as Star Wars, is that when we expose it to people, they really want it," he said.

Riccitiello also chimed in on the recent report that BioWare was considering adopting a free-to-play business model for The Old Republic. He confirmed that EA is exploring "different models to bring more users into the game," but stopped short of saying such a change was in fact in the cards.

Star Wars: The Old Republic launched in December to a warm critical reception, and the game tallied 2 million in sales and attracted 1.7 million paying subscribers by February. In May, EA revealed the game had shed 400,000 users, falling to 1.3 million.

Elsewhere in the interview, Riccitiello teased that new consoles from Microsoft and Sony may be shown as early as next year. Outlining his plan for the company moving forward, he said "the most important catalyst [for EA] moving forward is visibility on next-generation consoles," which he said be may unveiled as early as 2013.

Lastly, Riccitiello claimed that investors are relying too heavily on the monthly NPD reports, which have been dismal of late. He made clear that these reports only factor in packaged goods in the United States, which leaves out the company's booming digital business.

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