Though it’s never been a staid subject among gamers, Electronic Arts ignited a rather heated controversy last week when chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, appeared to suggest that microtransactions would be incorporated into each of the publisher’s upcoming games.
“We’re building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way, either to get to a higher level to buy a new character, to buy a truck, a gun, whatever it might be,” Jorgensen announced last week. And naturally — perhaps due partly to the weapons crafting system in Dead Space 3 — many construed “ability” as the gamer’s ability to pay for additional content “along the way,” which of course would require an active microtransaction system to already be in place.
Jorgensen attempted to clarify that picture today, however, while addressing the Wedbush Technology Conference in New York City. According to Polygon, the CFO explained that he was referencing broader technology being developed by EA that would merely support the facilitation of credit card payments and digital downloads. Microtransactions wouldn’t necessarily be mandated for every game, platform-wide; the publisher would simply be better aligned to “manage a world in which there are more and more micro-transactions as part of what we offer.”
Part of what EA intends to offer is, in fact, microtransactions across all of its mobile games. Jorgensen says this distinction from EA’s console and PC agenda might have given his comments last week a mixed message:
“I made a statement in the conference along the lines of ‘We’ll have micro-transactions in our games’ and the community read that to mean all our games, and that’s really not true. All of our mobile games will have micro-transactions in them, because almost all of them are going to a world where they are play for free.”
In either case, it’s hardly a secret that more developers and publishers in today’s industry are condensing around the model of content dilution, of spreading payment opportunities throughout different portions of a game and throughout different periods of its life cycle. Jorgensen acknowledged this as a future strategy of EA’s console and PC offerings, citing the way Battlefield 3‘s post-release expansions (Back to Karkand, Close Quarters, Armored Kill, Aftermath and, this month, the final addition, End Game) will have allowed the shooter to stay fresh and relevant in the mind of its audience for a solid two years. (Battlefield 4, however, is slated to replace it this Fall.)
But whether a microtransaction (like a buzz saw attachment in Dead Space 3) or a macrotransaction (like a season of DLC) the general questions are the same: How much are we willing to invest in experiences we’ve already become partial to? How much do we crave what we already love? Jorgensen never downplays EA’s ambition to burgeon its games with more transactions, but maintains that player value is always a consideration:
”It allows someone to take a game that maybe they played for 1,000 hours and play it for 2,000 hours. We are very conscious that we don’t want to make consumers feel like they’re not getting value. We want to make sure consumers are getting value.”
Ranters, how do you view EA’s position on microtransactions? How should companies balance the initial cost of a game with content that extends it later in the life cycle?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.