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February 28, 2013

Gamers, Grab Your Credit Cards: Microtransactions Coming to All EA Games

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

The idea of microtransactions in games has left plenty of ambivalence in the gaming world, but EA just showed off how much it could tap from a user's wallet with the release of "Dead Space 3." This wouldn't be the last place microtransactions would make their appearance in EA games, though, as EA's chief financial officer, Blake Jorgensen, went on record at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference recently to make it clear: microtransactions will be on hand in all EA games.

Speaking at the event, Jorgensen further detailed how EA was planning to bring the work of operating microtransaction systems in-house, allowing more users to make those purchases and make them directly with EA.

"We're building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way,” Jorgensen elaborated, “either to get to a higher level to buy a new character, to buy a truck, a gun, whatever it might be. Consumers are enjoying and embracing that way of the business."

Indeed, early reviews of "Dead Space 3" illustrate the somewhat dual-edged nature of EA's plans among the "consumers" Jorgensen referred to at the Morgan Stanley event. Some are more than a little put off by this, but others note that EA's approach is a little more elegant, subtly tweaking the difficulty levels such that games are easier with a little greasing of the wheel, so to speak, but not insurmountable.

Dan Whitehead, in reviewing "Dead Space 3," spelled out the case, saying that while EA hadn't resorted to an overt payment plan – kind of an "input your credit card number now to not die" system –EA had instead made certain things more difficult to find, which in turn made the larger game more difficult to play without the microtransaction system.

The temptation, Whitehead elaborated, was always there, but was not, strictly speaking, insurmountable.

The games industry is meant to be profitable. Most everyone who plays gets that. But EA is taking a disturbing new tactic here that's leaving plenty of gamers looking elsewhere. It’s one thing if EA were to cut the price of a game in half and then left the other half of the purchase price available to spend on microtransactions to make the game even better, but the price to get in is still pretty much the same as it ever was.

A look at prices on Google (News - Alert) Shopping puts the price still in the $50-$70 range, depending on where the game is purchased and what shipping rates look like.

Thus, EA is now basically looking to its gamers and demanding not only the purchase price, but the purchase price of specific items in the game to play it to the fullest. So-called "time-saver DLC" – in which items that would be available for free later in the game are available early with a little cash – would be one thing, but Whitehead's projections sound a bit different.

A game suddenly becoming harder without microtransactions crosses a line many gamers likely won't be willing to cross.

EA needs to be very careful about the issue of microtransactions. While there's value to be had in saving time, tweaking the difficulty without microtransactions or outright forcing gamers to pay more may further alienate EA, pushing gamers to other firms who aren't following this practice.

Edited by Braden Becker
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