Electronic Arts invites the pirates to tea

graffiti pirateIn amongst this week’s headlines of ludicrously disproportionate damages being awarded to the RIAA and assorted governments (including my own) clamouring loudly for the privilege of tucking themselves into the moth-eaten and holey pockets of Hollywood, we find a ray of pragmatic sanity: the CEO of computer games publisher Electronic Arts is openly asking software pirates to redistribute their titles. Why? Because they’ve worked out that it’s easier to make money selling stuff within the framework of a game than it is to sell a game itself.

EA thinks this is the secret to stopping—or at least curbing—piracy: games should be services, not products. Or at least products that should be selling other products. We already knew that EA would like to turn Tiger Woods into a subscription-based product, and Sims 3 is a game that wants you to constantly be creating, downloading, and buying new virtual items. The old business model was selling expansion packs, but that was too complicated: why not cut out the retailers and turn the game into its own store to sell the products?

“I’m a longtime believer that we’re moving to selling services that are disc-enabled as opposed to packages that have bolt-ons…. So the point I’m making is, yes I think that’s the answer [to piracy].” Riccitiello told IndustryGamers. “And here’s the trick: it’s not the answer because this foils a pirate, but it’s the answer because it makes the service so valuable that in comparison the packaged good is not. So you can only deliver these added services to a consumer you recognize and know… So I think the truth is we’ve out-serviced the pirate.”

It’s interesting to see a big games vendor like EA waking up to ideas that industry pundits have been suggesting for years, and I expect we’ll see some of the others abandon their King Canute impersonations when they realise that it works. Going forward, I expect that within a few years it’ll be virtually unheard of to “buy a game”; instead, we’ll subscribe to them, or spend time in them socially much the way we do with Facebook now.

That said, I suspect it’s too late for the major music labels to change course given the huge amount of money they’ve pissed away on trying to defend their old business models from change, but I struggle to sympathise; after decades of them screwing consumers and artists alike, I’m rather enjoying seeing the boot on the other foot. [image by Robyn Gallagher]

5 thoughts on “Electronic Arts invites the pirates to tea”

  1. That’s pretty awesome. I used to work for EA, back in the day. It’s cool to hear that they’re changing models to keep up with the times.

    Of course, StarDock got that particular point years ago…

  2. ‘I expect that within a few years it’ll be virtually unheard of to “buy a game”; instead, we’ll subscribe to them, or spend time in them socially much the way we do with Facebook now.’

    While flying around in jetpacks and eating our food pills, no doubt.

  3. I think you’re comparing apples and oranges there, zero, but feel free to explain your reasoning: why is the subscriber model for gaming so untenable, given the fact that it seems to be doing remarkably well for a number of well know titles already?

  4. Am I the only one who think they have yet again missed the point? I would agree that they are taking a step in the right direction however its like stepping out from tar into much. Sure its easier to walk around but its still nothing in comparison to that plane Stardock seem to be flying.

    Sorry now I should probably explain myself ^_^. For the Sims and games such as MMORPGers it is generally a good idea. You provide continuous updated content to keep the world interesting and alive and you end up with a steady stream of revenue. However this system can not really work for games such as first person shooters and strategy games such as possible new units and guns (which will most likely unbalance the game and add only an extra 1/2 hour of lifespan). Who wants to buy small additions when competitor game companies are offering whole extra arenas with fully fleshed plot on a well tested system.

    I will be interested to see how they implement this new system, however I do fear that what EA may do is in games where it is possible such as The Sims. They will provide a bare bones game and then charge for each extra which a couple years ago would of been contained within the original release.

    On the bright side I’ve recently picked up a game by Activision which appears to be (at least obviously) DRM free, so perhaps more companies then you would initially consider are heading in the right direction.

  5. Oh I should probably point out that major subscription games such as WoW or Eve Online still bring out expansion packs.

Comments are closed.