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EA Goes Free-To-Play: Battlefield Heroes' Producer Speaks
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EA Goes Free-To-Play: Battlefield Heroes' Producer Speaks

March 31, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

It's difficult to wrap your head around that concept, "the new EA". I mean, I was at the DICE Summit, and I saw Riccitiello's keynote speech, and not only was I watching it and saying, "Yes, and..." I immediately talked to some highly placed developers after the speech, and they were like, "Whatever."

BC: Yeah, I mean, it's difficult to get it across to people -- but I've only ever worked for the new EA, because I've only been at DICE for just over a year. And I just don't recognize the company that people have been describing over the years.

So, in the city-state model, then, as he described it, you feel that DICE has its place, and its culture, and it works.

BC: Yeah. And you saw two games today which wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the city-state model -- Mirror's Edge and Battlefield Heroes.

Yeah, I mean it's funny, because Battlefield: Bad Company looks extremely competent. I'm not going to say that it looks like there's anything wrong with that game, because clearly not, but... But the other two, I'm actually interested. And I'm pretty jaded, so...

BC: I would give Battlefield: Bad Company a chance, because it's a really awesome game, and the use of destruction is really revolutionary in that game. I've done things in that game which I've never done before in a previous game. And it's a real tangential shift for shooters, to suddenly not have cover, and to be able to shoot your way through cover.

And the other way in which they're really innovating is with the story. We talked about the incredibly serious war setting? This is a bunch of dudes cracking jokes. And if you look at the movies that the guys on YouTube are sending from Iraq?

Guys in the field of war make jokes! And that's their way of dealing with it. So, Bad Company is really doing two interesting, kind of revolutionary things as well.

Army of Two is another EA product where they've said, "Look, this is actually how it is. If it doesn't seem right to you that the dialogue isn't all serious, but that's how it is."

BC: Absolutely. And like I say, these movies you see on YouTube have got guys on tours of duty in Iraq, there, dealing with this with humor, and that's a fascinating thing.

Another thing that it makes me think about is, it seems most people at game developers are working on serious, dour, extremely overly-dramatic type games, but most developers I know are pretty casual, and actually pretty cool people that you could have a conversation and have a beer with. You know what I mean? So it doesn't jibe all the time.

BC: I think you're right, and the great thing about DICE is, we have the... not "freedom," but we just have a kind of irreverent attitude. Maybe it's because we're stuck out in this backwater in Europe, and we feel kind of disconnected from the world, but we always want to approach things from a different angle. Absolutely.

Obviously, this game is unusual from a couple of different angles -- aesthetically, and being a free-to-play game from DICE. It seems like we're at a crossroads right now, where people aren't sure where the future lies. Packaged software is getting more and more expensive; you can have great success, but it costs more up front, and you need to know that you have a blockbuster. There are lots of different online models, and no one's sure which is right. People are thinking that the subscription model is not going to pan out in the long run, and so they're taking models from Asia and trying to make them work.

BC: I think you saw a huge growth in the industry when the NES came out, and then again when the PlayStation came out. I mean, people didn't realize that -- people felt that all of the growth had been done, but it really feels like, to me, that we're on the cusp of another expansive period of growth, between the DS and the Wii audiences, and there's also an opportunity on the PC now.

PCs are everywhere -- there are hundreds of thousands of internet cafes in India, and this is a poor country that soon will have a completely global, online connected world, for which games will be completely different.

There comes a point where you don't have to own a game to play it. And that's going to become more prevalent. And the thing is, maybe not in every territory, but there are ways you can carve out these chunks. This game could potentially be profitable in Korea, even though you're based in Sweden. Or India, or wherever, and it's an interesting way to carve up what's there.

BC: And that's the web, you know. People like to talk about which platform is more successful, PS3 or Xbox -- well, I mean, the real key platform is the web itself. Never mind PC or Mac or whatever runs the web. That's where we're going to see the next revolution in gaming, is with web delivery, and web gameplay.

That's what people are really realizing, I think, and getting excited. But, of course, that brings the glut. You know, in a year or two we're going to be swimming in absolutely awful free-to-play games.

BC: Yeah, but the beauty of it is you'll have the opportunity to play the game; if you don't like it, you don't play it; if you do like it, you continue to play it. So, for the consumer, you've got all this choice, and all you need to do is just spend a few moments trying each one out.

Spoken as a confident man, though, I think.

BC: I think we're in a really good position with Heroes, because I honestly think that we are the highest quality game out there, within this sector, and I don't think there's anyone else moving into that sector with that kind of commitment and quality. I mean, this is a fantastic game, and we're offering it for free, and I don't think anyone else is doing that.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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