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$60 retail price "exploitative" says EA free-to-play boss

Easy Studios general manager sees "platform agnostic" future led by "open" platforms

Traditional retail has been described as a "harsh business model" and $60 price tags "exploitive", by EA's Ben Cousins, general manager of the company's free-to-play division Easy Studios.

Speaking to Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Cousins admitted that the business model for free-to-play games in the West was "not set yet", but he admitted failing to understand why the concept continues to attract controversy.

"I've been doing this for four years now, so it feels kind of normal to me – but I can't think of anything more exploitative than gating all of your content behind having to pay someone $60. That's a really harsh business model if you think about it objectively.

"What we do is enable everyone to play the game, and figure out if they like it. If they don't like it they can walk away and they don't lose anything. How many times have we all bought crappy games for $60, right? And the majority of people in our game spend less than that – the cost of a full-priced game," he said.

Cousins also predicted a future where "open" platforms such as the PC, Mac, Linux, Android, and Chrome would lead to developers becoming "platform agnostic".

"You are seeing that with HTML5, Unity, the Molehill version of Flash, these are 3D engines with high level features and hardware graphics support, and they will run on any of those platforms," said Cousins.

"I see the future being guys on PCs playing this stuff, but they will be playing with guys on Android Tablets and Mac Netbooks, etc, etc."

The next game from Easy Studios, which already operates Battlefield Heroes, Lord Of Ultima and Battleforge, is Battlefield Play4Free - based on 2007 hit Battlefield 2 and using assets from Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

According to Cousins the business model is broadly identical to Battlefield Heroes, with the company's experience leading it to expect that only 10 per cent of players will purchase paid-for-content.

Of those that do use microtransactions Cousins characterises 50 per cent as purchasing items to give an advantage in gameplay and the other half as buying items purely to improve the visual look of their characters.

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David Jenkins