Electronic Arts continues to be a juggernaut in the video game business, between both its traditional game titles and its lineup of sports hits like FIFA and Madden along with charming puzzle adventure games like Unravel. While we wait to see what the company will reveal at its forthcoming EA Play event in June, there is one interesting note in its business model: free content.
Sure, the company still relies on Season Pass content for some games, like Star Wars: Battlefront and Ultimate Team-themed goodies for FIFA and Madden, but lately the company has been experimenting more with free content updates for games, along with goodies offered through both EA Origin and EA Access. And it’s a move that’s certainly paid off for the better–even with “freebies” involved.
Today marks the release of free updates for a pair of the company’s bigger titles, Star Wars: Battlefront and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. It’s a smart business tactic to help keep players involved with games, and possibly lead them to purchase premium content like in-game currency, items and cosmetic upgrades. While many of these items can be earned by playing, and none are required to win, getting players to stay with fresh content encourages more investment in the game.
While the original Garden Warfare saw an abundance of free content with its release, it’s great to see “bigger” games like Battlefront, which proved to be one of the company’s top sellers last year with 13 million-plus copies sold, grasp onto the formula. And chances are the trend could continue with other big games on the horizon for the next year, including a new Battlefield game for the holidays and a sequel to the multiplayer shooter Titanfall. Mass Effect 3 experimented with a similar model with its multiplayer mode, with the release of three free updates in addition to offering premium content to encourage players to return. It’s a feature repeated with Dragon Age: Inquisition, and is likely to return with the upcoming Mass Effect Andromeda.
Outside of content updates, the company has also been experimenting with free game offerings. On the PC, Origin offers an “On the House” program, with a select classic being available free of charge or obligation to consumers. This entices consumers to adopt the platform, and perhaps stick around to shop for games to go along with their free copy of Jade Empire or Plants vs. Zombies.
But that’s not to say that the free content is needed for every situation. Players still engage with blockbuster sports games like FIFA and Madden without any extra incentive. Both still rake in a ton of money with their Ultimate Team modes, which are almost certain to return when Madden NFL 17 and FIFA 17 release next year.
Sometimes it pays to offer a little something for free. Perhaps other companies can learn from the example.