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EA: Free-to-play can be "as profitable as a console game"

Publisher reaching new markets with low costs and no cannibalisation

The free-to-play market can be as profitable for Electronic Arts as the console sector, with the publisher reaping the rewards of cheaper production costs and reaching brand new markets.

That's according to Frank Gibeau, head of the EA Games label, who said the publisher will continue to push IP into the freemium market, and so far there has not been any cannibalisation as brands are stretched across multiple formats and devices, from console to smartphone, browser and tablets.

"We're aggressively investing in things that are very low cost like free-to-play," said Gibeau in an interview published today. "The free-to-play group inside of EA Games is growing extremely fast - we've got 17 million users.

With Need for Speed World, Russia and Brazil are number one and two. I can't sell packaged goods in those territories.

Frank Gibeau, EA

"Frankly when they get to scale, have huge audiences, are very profitable, they're not cannibalising the main games and they actually reach markets that we're not currently serving. With Need for Speed World, Russia and Brazil are number one and two - the Ukraine is in there too. I can't sell packaged goods in those territories.

"But I'm reaching an audience with Need for Speed content. It's an engine that's not as advanced as Frostbite 2 but it's certainly got great production values and great game designs, and it's free-to-play with micro transactions. It's a very exciting time from our perspective because it's not all about consoles. It's about smartphones, tablets, free-to-play, browser, social."

Earlier this month the publisher unveiled Origin, its direct to consumer store where it will selling digital versions of upcoming MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic exclusively. Looking further ahead, Gibeau said EA is evaluating new technology that will allow it to bypass other partners, including developments in web-connected television sets.

"There's new emerging technologies that we're always interested in," he said. "Exotic stuff like smart televisions, where you get the full chipset and push the game directly to them. That's right on the horizon and could be a very disruptive technology for the console manufacturers. But not for us because we'd be perfectly happy to do that."

The full interview, where Gibeau also discusses the Wii U, growing Origin with exclusive content and more, can be read here.

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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