Comeau: What Is Electronic Arts Thinking?
One of most compelling, and perhaps under-covered stories in the video-game industry right now, is the grassroots boycott being directed at Electronic Arts' (ERTS) upcoming title Battlefield: Bad Company, which is stirring up negative attention with its controversial downloadable content strategy.
Downloadable content is basically stuff gamers download to enhance the experience of a particular game. In the days when PC gamers dominated online play, downloadable content was pretty much all free and much of it was actually created by amateurs. For example, new levels or weapons could be added to a first-person shooter, or a racing game could receive new cars.
These days, console gaming increasingly revolves around online play, and recent blockbuster titles like Microsoft's (MSFT) Halo 3 and Activision's (ATVI) Call of Duty 4, are revered much more for their significant online multiplayer modes than their single-player campaigns.
Of course, video-game software companies are increasingly viewing the sale of downloadable content as a way to squeeze more profit out of their titles. For example, Activision has had notable success hawking new song packs for the monumentally huge Guitar Hero series, and it will almost certainly see similar results from its recently released expansion pack for the aforementioned Call of Duty 4.However, EA looks like it's crossing a line with Battlefield: Bad Company, a title for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony's (SNE) PlayStation 3 consoles, and now they're seeing a clear backlash from the gaming community. To make a long story short, EA is doing the following with Battlefield: Bad Company. They are releasing two versions of the game, the regular one for $59.99 and a "Gold Edition" for $69.99. This is nothing new in the industry. Often, high-profile games come in multiple versions with the more expensive ones containing things like making-of-videos, artwork and sometimes paraphernalia. But the "Gold Edition" of Battlefield: Bad Company will also contain five weapons that aren't included in the standard version of the game, and those who don't own the "Gold Edition" can obtain them by buying them as downloadable content. As a result, the online multiplayer component of the game could be imbalanced at the expense of those who don't pony up for the "Gold Edition" or for the downloadable content. Gaming Web site SarcasticGamer.com, which is spearheading the boycott of the game, had the following comment: "How, in good conscience, can EA take more money out of
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