And so the legacy of Team Fortress 2 begins to unfold... EA have announced a free to play Battlefield game with a distinctly cartoonish look: Battlefield Heroes. The only details so far arrive in the form of that content-free website, the press release reproduced after the jump, and this (annoyingly registration-hungry) New York Times article on the unique appeal of the free-to-play games model.
Some thoughts and things after the click.
Well, we knew DICE had another game in the works, and I guess it should be no surprise that EA connected the dots and put together the appeal of what Valve did with Team Fortress 2 with what DICE have been pedaling so peerlessly with the Battlefield series. Not only that but the biggest games company in the world have finally plugged themselves directly into one of the most interesting ideas in PC gaming today: free gaming, with a touch of optional transactions. EA are intending to use the online shooter as a platform for advertising, and also allowing us to engage in "micro-transactions" (I hate that, it's still money, even if it is a small amount) which will probably follow the Korean model of being able to buy power ups and time-limited items for use in the game world. (Although this report suggests that money will pay for cosmetic customisation options.)
I can't see DICE screwing this up, either. The Battlefield games (especially Battlefield 2) were remarkably ambitious achievements and I think their occasional rough edges are just a testament to how much the Swedish team took on. They're going to be able to access EA's deep pockets for this next one, and, with "casual" being the intended audience we could end up with one of the most interesting games of the next couple of years. It's perhaps worth mentioning, however, that Valve made the character-design hilarity of TF2 look easy. And easy, it ain't...
That EA lowdown in full:
BATTLEFIELD HEROES LEADS THE WAY FOR EA'S NEW 'PLAY 4 FREE' BUSINESS MODEL
Unique Cartoon Shooter Introduces a New Way to Play Battlefield
Chertsey, UK January 21, 2008 - At the Digital, Life, Design Conference (DLD) in Munich, Electronic Arts Inc., (NASDAQ: ERTS) today unveiled Battlefield Heroes™, an all-new Play 4 Free cartoon-style shooter that will bring classic Battlefield gameplay to an all new mass audience. Available for download at www.battlefield-heroes.com this summer, Battlefield Heroes is EA's first title that is offered completely for free, and features a built-in matchmaking system to ensure that players of equal skill are paired together for fair play. Developed by DICE in Stockholm, Battlefield Heroes is leading EA's new web-focused free to download, free to play business model which generates revenue through advertising and micro-transactions. With zero barriers to entry, now anyone can be a hero on the battlefield!
"Online gaming garners a massive audience," said Gerhard Florin, EVP Publishing Americas-Europe at EA. "People want to play games in new ways, with easier access that is quick to the fun. With Battlefield Heroes, EA brings its first major franchise to North America and Europe with a new distribution model and pricing structure adapted to the evolving way that people play."
Battlefield Heroes is a brand new game from the team behind Battlefield 1942™ and Battlefield 2™. It's fun cartoon-style graphics and gameplay caters to players of all skill levels. It is easy to pick up and play but with robust character customization and a deep online meta-game, gamers can spend hours building up their characters and conquering the world.
"We put a different twist on this Battlefield game going with the cartoon-style graphics and gameplay," added Ben Cousins, Senior Producer at EA DICE. "There's something here for all types of players -- be it our core Battlefield fans or casual gamers. 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. As a game developer, it is such a cool new way to make games."
Battlefield Heroes will be released for the PC as a free download in summer 2008. This product is not yet rated by PEGI or ESRB. For more information on EA DICE, please visit www.dice.se or www.ea.com.