We’ve known for quite a while that Electronic Arts was gunning to bring back the Command & Conquer franchise but it wasn’t until December of last year during the Spike Video Game Awards where it was confirmed via an announcement trailer. There we got our very first look at the Frostbite 2-powered Command & Conquer: Generals 2, developed by BioWare Victory.

The game would be set 10 years after the most successful installment in the franchise, featuring destructible environments, in-game cinematics and “huge, massive armies.” Most importantly, it would offer a serious tone, dropping the camp factor seen in the Red Alert titles. As we’ve learned today, the game is no longer being titled Generals 2 and it’s going free-to-play.

Only days after the C&C: Generals 2 trailer reveal, EA announced another franchise installment in Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances, and online-only free-to-play game and another piece of content for EA’s growing library of Play4Free titles. For that reason, we’re surprised by today’s announcement that they have decided to transform and re-brand Command & Conquer: Generals 2 into Command & Conquer, a franchise relaunch of sorts not unlike 2010’s simply named Medal of Honor.

Jon Van Caneghem, VP/GM at EA:

“We are thrilled about this opportunity to transform Command & Conquer into a premier online experience. For nearly two decades, this franchise has existed as something you buy; now we are creating a destination where our fans will be able to access the entire Command & Conquer universe, starting with Generals and continuing with Red Alert, Tiberium and beyond. With Frostbite 2, we are able to keep an emphasis on the AAA quality our consumers expect while staying true to the RTS gameplay they know and love — all available online for free.”

Command and Conquer Free-to-Play with Frostbite 2

When Generals 2 was making headlines last year we quickly listed eight features we wanted to see in the next Command &  Conquer and outside of the online only requirement, the game appears to be following most of our tenants – and judging from the latest gameplay trailer seen above, it looks great. On the one hand, moving to free-to-play should bolster the player base to get more gamers online at launch and this would theoretically encourage a larger percentage of fans to try out multiplayer. On the other hand, free-to-play titles tend to offer less in-depth experiences and may not have the lasting appeal. The game will be heavily reliant on the continuous additions of content and the microtransaction model will be a large factor in keeping players.

An all-out war rages in Command & Conquer, as players take control of multiple factions, compete for resources, build up operation bases and lead massive batteries of tanks, soldiers and aircrafts into battle. With incredibly detailed units, fully destructible environments, dynamic physics and exhilarating visual effects, Command & Conquer is poised to re-define what gamers expect from a strategy game. Heralding feedback driven design, Command & Conquer will evolve and develop with an expanding array of new content based on community response.

Will microtransactions add more units, building-types and upgrades to some players and will that cause unbalances in multiplayer? For now we’ll have to wait and see, but the idea of a triple-A game using Frostbite 2 being entirely free is very promising. Let’s hope the campaign and gameplay live up to expectations!

For a chance to get in on the action early via the beta, sign up on the official C&C site:

Command & Conquer releases on PC in 2013.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.