A New Model Cometh

EA's Battlefield Bad Company 2 eases into subscription model with EA Approved server partners -- it's not a bad thing.

Robert Dow

EA introduces quasi sub model with BC2

One of the biggest challenges for PC gaming is the revenue and refresh models.

When I refer to refresh model I am talking about creating sequels. Often there is so much pressure to crank out another version of the game that sequels can end up deflating the franchise and ultimately hurting the game. Generally MMOG’s avoid this phenomenon because they add content along the way. This refreshes the franchise without forcing the gamer to the cash register for a new base software package. This is a better model and the only time the gamer should be forced to the cash register for a new base software package is when there is a major game engine update.

Most of the MMOG’s fund this stream of experiences and content by charging subscription fees. However multiplayer first person shooters and other game types have never used this model before. Or are they? A very interesting phenomenon is occurring in the FPS market and it is being pioneered by Electronic Arts. Their new game Battlefield Bad Company 2 (BFBC2) is available for PC and console. What’s different is that the PC gamers get map updates for free while the console folks pay for it. Even more important is that EA is allowing PC gamers to manage their own dedicated servers. This is something that Activision did not allow with Modern Warfare 2 and as a result, caused a significant uprising with over 250,000 signatures on a petition to protest. Activision’s move is most remembered as a mistake.


However, to run a dedicated server in BFBC2 one must have it hosted from an “EA Approved” server provider, unlike historically when you could host it anywhere. Based on a recent inquiry to EA it appears there is a cross-ownership and/or revenue sharing agreement with the “EA Approved” server providers. These servers run about $65 a month and are generally funded by PC gaming clans who have their own dues structures.

So what is going on is that BFBC2 is actually a quasi subscription based FPS; the first of its kind in the world that I know of. I think EA is very smart to come around from this direction. If they would allow the PC gamers to create content and/or modify more settings to their own preferences, rules, and play styles, I believe that despite their (PC FPS gamers) resistance to subscription models, they would embrace this system en masse and it would be truly revolutionary.