Nov 10, 2011

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Is EA Testing the Idea of Paying for Specific Game Modes?

Is EA Testing the Idea of Paying for Specific Game Modes?

Recently, EA announced that the story mode of Fight Night Champion will be available for download on the PSN for $5. The mode, titled Champion Mode, is the first story-based mode featured in a Fight Night title, and lets you play out the career of Andre  Bishop. For $4.99 you can download the standalone mode and play through its entirety (including earning trophies). From there, you can purchase the rest of the modes individually, which range from $5-$10. Could this mean EA is testing the waters for future EA Sports titles to follow suit?

If you recall, EA Sports was one of the biggest reasons we see online passes and day-one DLC codes in a lot of high-profile games. Online passes started with Madden, and were brought in as a way to subsidize the cost for hosting online servers. It then became known as a way to fight against used copies, as anyone who purchased the game new would have an online pass code, while those who purchased used would likely have to pay for the code (usually $10). Other companies have followed EA’s lead and have since built on this idea by adding day-one DLC, essentially offering free DLC to those who buy new. Whether this works or not, or whether it’s in the best interest of gamers or not, is constantly debated. While people are busy debating this new strategy, EA is seemingly working on a new tactic by offering specific game modes as a standalone downlodable title for a fraction of the retail price.

Fight Night Champion might not be the big powerhouse that Madden is, but it could be the stepping stone to seeing future EA Sports game modes being re-released as a standalone title for a fraction of the price. EA is using this particular mode because it is story based and might be easier to sell, but from reading comments from gamers, it might already be a success. Five dollars is nothing for a game, especially for a downloadable title. So this begs the question: is this the start of something new from EA Sports?

Could you imagine paying only $10 for Be-a-Pro mode for NHL or FIFA, arguably the best mode in the games? Or maybe paying $20 for just that mode and online play? What about Madden? Their modes aren’t that spectacular, but if you could just pay $5 for Franchise mode, wouldn’t that be worth it? We’ve seen talk of this before with the Call of Duty franchise obviously being a success due to its multiplayer mode. What if Activision simply sold a downloadable version of MW3 multiplayer for $40 instead of paying $60 for the entire package?

This could also lead to a situation where EA offers roster updates to play previous sports games for a specific price (they’ve teased something to the effect with FIFA, for example). There’s always a lot of talk, especially with Madden, about each iteration not being worth the asking price. So could this be a step towards giving gamers the opportunity to pay $10 for a roster update and allow them to play the previous year’s title instead of having to shell out $60 for the newest version?

Could this also be the start of something new for games that are heavily focused on single-player campaigns? Could we end up seeing Ubisoft offering Assassins Creed: Revelations in this format? It might be nice to pay $40 for an instant download of the campaign only, especially for those who aren’t interested in the multiplayer component.

Offering game modes a la carte could be something that ends up benefiting both publishers and gamers alike. We save money by only purchasing the modes that we want, and publishers save money by offering the modes digitally, not to mention curbing the used market to a certain extent.  That said, I don’t think we will see a simultaneous release of standalone modes with the retail version, simply because it wouldn’t make too much sense business-wise, but it is a way to get people interested in a game that might not have been on their radar simply because it was too expensive.

Another way to look at this would be to look how DLC is treated these days. Unfortunately, sometimes DLC  is something that could have been included, but we’re forced to pay for the content anyway, or, worse, to unlock something that is already on the disc. Could we start seeing this happen with this new strategy? Might publishers start charging for separate modes even if we buy new, or especially if we buy used?

What EA is doing with Fight Night is a very interesting idea, and while you can get Fight Night Champion for $30 brand new, maybe even less used, paying $5 for one of the more interesting modes in the game as opposed to $30 to play the whole package has its appeal. While I could be wrong, I really think this is EA testing the market to see if this is a viable option for other EA Sports titles (and perhaps, other EA-published games as well). It is definitely an intriguing strategy and one I would definitely welcome if it were to become more wide spread, so long as it remains in this price range. Could this take off just like the online pass did? Only time will tell.