Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore says connectivity and free-to-play are going to be "part and parcel" of every major franchise in the company's stable.
There was a time, long, long ago, when a studio made a game and released it, and gamers purchased the game and played it, and if all went well they looked forward to the sequel and played something else in the meantime. It was a simple system, for a simpler era; but times have changed, and Moore says the days of "fire-and-forget" game development are over forever.
"The ability to be able to interact with [Battlefield and FIFA] on a free-to-play basis has got to be part and parcel of every major franchise we do now," he said in an interview with Engadget. "That's very important to Electronic Arts now, to be able to bring more consumers into our world of FIFA and Battlefield, the two that I think point out what we can do on a 24-hour basis, regardless of how much money you've got in your wallet, how much time you have to spend, what device you're playing on [or] where you are in the world."
The same thing holds true of always-on gaming, which Moore said is now a part of everything EA does. "We don't ship a game at EA that is offline. It just doesn't happen," he said. "And gamers either want to be connected, so that your stats and your achievements and whatever you do certainly reflect who you are, or you want the full multiplayer experience on top of that. We don't deliver offline experiences anymore."
Like them or not, free-to-play and always-on gaming can succeed or fail depending on their implementation, as illustrated quite nicely by Mass Effect 3. The multiplayer component implemented a free-to-play mechanic that allowed hardcore fans to dive in without punishing more casual players, but the forced integration of multiplayer as a part of the single-player experience could be frustrating and even infuriating for people who couldn't, or didn't want to, jump into the action. The idea of broad-based free-to-play doesn't bother me, in other words (and of course, your mileage may vary) but EA will have to step very carefully if it wants to avoid dragging broad-based closely outrage behind it.