Ever since John Riccitiello took over last year as chief executive of Electronic Arts, the video game industry bellwether, he has promised to revitalize the company with new games and new ways of reaching consumers. Now, that may be happening.
In a major departure from its traditional business model, E.A. plans to announce Monday that it is developing a new installment in its hit Battlefield series that will be distributed on the Internet as a free download. Rather than being sold at retail, the game is meant to generate revenue through advertising and small in-game transactions that allow players to spend a few dollars on new outfits, weapons and other virtual gear.
I know this sounds a lot like the business model for Second Life and other such games, yet in some ways, it seems to me something of a departure as well. For those of you who may know more about gaming than I, is this "buy to get ahead" ethic something common? To me it's always a sad day when more skills-oriented competition is complicated by economics. Invariably these situations produce what economists call a "race to the bottom," in which those who think they want to succeed must spend and spend and spend simply to keep up.
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