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Micro-transactions and advertising will fund titles in EA's "Play 4 Free" family

Most gamers are used to the idea of downloadable content, as shown by the massively popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band titles. However, full-version downloadable games usually come with a "caveat emptor" byline -- be it monthly subscription fees for MMORPGs, in-game items that can only be purchased with real money, or the widely-disliked ad-supported flavor. 

EA is now trying out the latter business model with their variant dubbed "Play 4 Free" and is hoping that the Battlefield franchise will help them gain a foothold in the form of Battlefield Heroes.

Battlefield Heroes is a cartoon-styled game from DICE, best known for being the team behind Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2. Heavy emphasis is being placed on the "easy to learn" aspect of the game, but hardcore players worried that this will lead to a mediocre experience have been promised "robust character customization" and a "deep online meta-game" to hold long-term interest as well. As part of this system, the matching system in Battlefield Heroes will attempt to pair players of equal skill against each other.

EA is taking two of the three main caveats previously mentioned -- microtransactions and advertising -- and modifying each one slightly in an attempt to make them more palatable. The purchasable items will be cosmetic rather than functional; a player could pay a $1 fee to give their in-game avatar an outrageous hairstyle, but wouldn't be able to buy a more powerful weapon or improved armor. The advertising will be done on the "front end" of the game -- loading screens, lobbies, and other less-intrusive locations.

In addition to the piecemeal pricing structure set by EA, DICE is taking a similar approach to content. "With the new online model, we will continually add new content to keep the game fresh and keep players engaged, while integrating player feedback in real time," said EA DICE senior producer Ben Cousins.

Battlefield Heroes is scheduled for a summer 2008 release.

 





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