For anyone who may not have heard, EA’s Chief Operating Officer, Nick Earl, recently revealed plans to introduce a new premium DLC system, in which EA will charge a fee for an extended game demo, comparable in size and content to Battlefield 1943.
This could potentially be an innovating strategy for EA, providing gamers with early content of anticipated games, while giving EA valuable gamer reaction to said games. Unfortunately, it looks like there’s already a lot of potential downside to this system, and its success will depend greatly on how EA chooses to implement it.
The first and major hurdle they will have to overcome will be its price. The PDLC will be sold for about $10 or $15 through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, but gamers who purchase them will still have to pay full price for the retail version. That essentially means that they will be paying twice for some of the same content. With the already steep price of games, this will be a big turnoff for many. Providing discounts for customers who buy both versions would have been a great incentive for buying the PDLC.
However, if you consider EA’s point of view, there is logic to the decision. You could debate that EA needs an additional charge because creating these demos will be expensive. Some companies choose not to release demos of their games because they take extra time and resources to make. Creating these premium demos will be substantially more expensive and EA is likely afraid they will lose money on the investment if they give refunds to those who buy the full game.
This is a legitimate argument, but if EA is worried about getting a return on their investment, an alternative could be to institute a membership system in which members pay an annual fee for unlimited access to all PDLC. This could provide a return on EA’s investment as well as encourage gamers to try as many EA titles as possible. A win-win scenario for both sides.
Another factor to consider is the release timing of the PDLC in relation to the retail versions. The amount of time between the two will greatly affect the nature of the PDLC. Regular demos will still be offered and if EA releases the premium demos alongside the standard ones, many gamers will be satisfied with simply playing the free demos and waiting for the packaged product.
However, it looks like EA is planning to make the premium demos available further in advance to use them as a beta test. This raises concerns about the stability of the PDLC and whether gamers will be paying to play a buggy product. There are too many quality gaming options out there to pay for a game with defects.
One more question to ask is if the PDLC will end up affecting the final versions of games. If there is a poor reception to the PDLC, EA could decide to scale back the amount of resources it commits to the game and fans could end up with less content or polish in the final product. This scenario is unlikely though, as it’s doubtful the PDLC would be released far enough in advance to allow for major alterations.
That being said, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could alter their development practices for games with PDLC. We already have problems with episodic gaming, where subsequent episodes are cancelled when the initial episodes disappoint.
As we haven’t received many details yet on how the system will work, this is all just speculation. There’s a lot of ways this could end up being a spectacular success or failure, or it may even end up being cancelled altogether.
EA has recently shown a willingness to experiment and innovate, and as one of the few companies large enough to try this with AAA titles, this has been a welcome mindset. Unfortunately, they haven’t seen much monetary success with this approach and it would be a shame to see them revert to a more archaic strategy. Hopefully EA makes the right decisions, but we’ll just have to wait and see.