EA Talks Microtransactions, PS3 Network

EA Talks Microtransactions, PS3 Network

Electronic Arts CEO Larry Probst discussed the current state of microtransactions, the PS3 network and defended EA's record for innovation.

Games like Madden 2007 and Need For Speed Carbon have drawn fire for their microtransaction policies in the past few months, having users pay money for features like extra jerseys and stadiums that would normally have been included with the games in previous years. Probst admits some mistakes were made, but claims that EA is on the right track with Need For Speed Carbon.

"With some of the initial titles, we did hear complaints from consumers, but I think we learned. We did a better job on Need for Speed Carbon, and we're not hearing those same kinds of complaints or negative feedback about that product. It's generating a lot of money through microtransactions," he said. "So it's a learning process, it's iterative and we'll get better about it as we go. Need for Speed is the first example of getting smarter about it."

EA as a whole has been working toward fewer licensed games and more quality in general, but recent releases like the new Superman have people wondering if the change is real. "Last year, about 40 percent of our business was wholly owned intellectual property, and our goal is to move that up to 50 percent or better. We've got some great things in the pipeline. You mentioned Spore, there's Army of Two. We're resurrecting the Command & Conquer franchise.

"What else have we announced that I'm allowed to talk about? Skate is a really cool-looking game. That should give Tony Hawk a run for his money. Tony's getting old," Probst said, taking a shot at Activision's cash cow.

Finally, Probst mentions plans for smaller games on Xbox Live and potential games on the PS3 network. Why only potential? EA has a different plan for how they would like to handle online content for Sony. "They have one model in mind, and we have something else in mind," he said.

Source: Newsweek

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Microtransactions are something that really rubs me the wrong way as a gamer. People are paying $60 for current generation titles and companies want to fleece them for more money? It is ridiculous. I just hope that any great games that come down the pipe in the future will not have a microtransaction system implemented. I would hate to miss out on a great game, just because the publisher wants to squeeze the consumer for every penny they got. I'm looking at you Halo 3! As if expansion packs and episodes weren't enough.

heavyfeul:
People are paying $60 for current generation titles and companies want to fleece them for more money? It is ridiculous.

Compare development costs from a couple of generations ago to development costs now and you'll see why: development costs are rising a lot faster than retail prices.

I don't love the idea, but I can understand why they do it. In and of itself, a microtransaction system probably won't keep me from buying a particular game.

I don't have a problem with microtransactions when they are truly "micro." I mean, a quarter here, a dollar there, sixty cents for this, that, and the other. Five bucks is not a microtransaction. Five bucks is a plain old regular transaction.

I'd be less concerned about it, except the things that EA has offered in exchange for these macro-microtransactions are not things that they can reasonably charge money for. The way I see it, if it's on the disc, and it's designed to run complete and whole in and of itself, there's simply no excuse to charge people extra to access it. If the game costs you more to develop, then just charge me more for it at retail. I won't mind. Honest.

New models and items in a single-player game? Sure, why not? Something to show off in an online game? I can see that. Opening up the cheat menu you already put in? You best think again.

I don't have a problem with microtransactions, or even "not-so-micro" transactions, as long as the content is proportionate to the cost. Most of EAs have not been.

They removed cheats from the Xbox 360 versions of their games and then sold access to it over the marketplace. That's not downloadable content, that's a scam. So it's not surprising they haev received less complaints about their Need for Speed content - it's down to half a scam by wrapping a little bit of 'new' content with content that you'd normally unlock during gameplay. I would't be surprised if the 'new' content was already on the disc to begin with, and the download just gives you access to it.

I guess if you really want content downloads from EA, you'll need to get Coca-Cola to pay for it.

On the other hand, a $5 or $10 downloadable mini-expansion is completely cool with me - if the game was good, and I want to keep playing, I'd be happy to fork over a couple of bucks for a few more hours of fun.

I can understand mini expansions or episode content for a good 5-20USD but when it comes to little extras like skins and models I think it's a rip off just like a collectors edition will have the same kind of things such as an extra skin or a middle of the road goofy power up for a price of 55$ instead of the regular 50$. I really hope this doesn't become the norm for online RTS or FPS games because I won't be paying a couple extra dollars to use the weapon that will let me kill more effectively.

Ajar:
Compare development costs from a couple of generations ago to development costs now and you'll see why: development costs are rising a lot faster than retail prices.

I don't love the idea, but I can understand why they do it. In and of itself, a microtransaction system probably won't keep me from buying a particular game.

Just because they employ a poor business model, does not mean I should pay for it. As consumers, we support several gaming platforms, thousands of titles, and god knows how many other ancillary businesses (technology, magazines, accessories, etc.) Not to mention the rapid growth the industry has sustained. If established players cannot figure out how to make money in an expanding and diverse market then they need to do some serious re-evaluation.

heavyfeul:

Ajar:
Compare development costs from a couple of generations ago to development costs now and you'll see why: development costs are rising a lot faster than retail prices.

I don't love the idea, but I can understand why they do it. In and of itself, a microtransaction system probably won't keep me from buying a particular game.

Just because they employ a poor business model, does not mean I should pay for it. As consumers, we support several gaming platforms, thousands of titles, and god knows how many other ancillary businesses (technology, magazines, accessories, etc.) Not to mention the rapid growth the industry has sustained. If established players cannot figure out how to make money in an expanding and diverse market then they need to do some serious re-evaluation.

I second this, the "Development costs" that people claim are rising so quickly are largely bull. Their model of creating "bigger is better" games is going to continually spiral into larger budgets, but a quality game can still be made for far less by concentrating on what matters at the start and sticking to a design document. Focused small teams still create some of the best games.

TomBeraha:
Focused small teams still create some of the best games.

Agreed. I'd really love to see a large developer split their 40+ man team into 5 smaller groups and let them loose on more small (if you can call it small) budget games. What would happen? Would the games sell for less to the consumer? Would the quality of the games be lower? Would we see more developer "rock stars" emerge? Would more games create more revenue than a large single title? Will there be less content in a small budget game? Will innovative game designs be less risky with small budget titles?

I really can't think of any arguments to defend the long development cycles and large teams required on games today. Sure, there are some truly epic games that couldn't be possible with a small budget, but the vast majority of games don't justify the big budget methodology for the end product.

When I worked on software, the most enjoyable projects were the smaller, more manageable ones. When you have to show up at work every day for 3 years on a game that doesn't interest you or you have little say in how it comes together... well, that lack of inspiration shows in the end product. Keep the teams small and talented. Sweatshops stifle creativity.

 

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