EA free-to-play exec: $60 games are 'exploitative'

The head of Electronic Arts' Easy Studios sees free titles with in-game upgrades as the way to go. He considers pay-$60-to-play a "harsh business model."

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

All the consumers who complain about paying $60 for a video game have an important ally in their corner.

Ben Cousins, general manager of Electronic Arts' Easy Studios, told Rock, Paper, Shotgun it's simply awful that consumers must shell out $60 for a game they may or may not like.

"I can't think of anything more exploitative than gating all of your content behind having to pay someone $60," Cousins told the U.K.-based gaming blog in an interview posted yesterday. "That's a really harsh business model if you think about it objectively."

Easy Studios is EA's free-to-play division. The studio, founded in 2008, offers a handful of titles, including Battlefield Heroes, Battle Forge, and Lord of Ultima, that gamers can play for free. If they like what they find in the title, gamers can enhance the free experience by acquiring in-game goods.

Cousins' comments are all the more interesting when one considers that EA relies heavily on the $60 model that he takes issue with. The company currently sells a slew of titles on major consoles that retail for $60 at launch. Its Wii games usually go for $50. But as EA CEO John Riccitiello pointed out at an earnings call earlier this year, his company is definitely interested in more exploration of the free-to-play model.

"We are focused on the largest and fastest-growing digital segments across PCs, mobile devices, and consoles, and the most lucrative business models, microtransactions and free-to-play," he told investors, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.

EA CFO Eric Brown said during the same earnings call that over the previous 12 months, the company generated revenue of $220 million on "free-to-play, downloadable content, and microtransaction-based content." During the first three quarters of EA's most recent fiscal year, the company overall generated over $2 billion in revenue.

So free-to-play content isn't a huge chunk of EA's business right now, but Cousins believes it makes more sense. And in the end, it may benefit the average customer more than the traditional pay-$60-to-play model.

After all, he told Rock, Paper, Shotgun, "how many times have we all bought crappy games for $60, right?"