Tag Archives: Battlefield Heroes

Need for Speed World and Three Others to Get the Chop

Earlier today Electronic Arts announced that it would be shutting down four of its online F2P titles, Battlefield Heroes, Battlefield Play4Free, FIFIA World, and Need for Speed: World.  The games will be around for another 90 days, finally going dark on July 14, 2015.

Of those four, Battlefield Heroes is probably the most well known, being one of EA’s early forays into the F2P market and because its art style looks suspiciously like that of Team Fortress 2, back when you had to buy TF2. (Later it went F2P and became a bigger success, so go figure.)

TF2 and Battlefield Heroes explore the square jaw...

TF2 and Battlefield Heroes explore the square jaw…

It had some early issues with the whole free model, and how hard it can be to “take things back” once you have made them free.  And our group actually tried to play Battlefield Heroes one Saturday evening, though without much success.  We couldn’t figure out how to all get in the same battle on the same side at the same time.

But of those four games, the one I will actually miss is Need for Speed: World.

I first tried the game back in 2011 after Tipa mentioned it in a post.  It ended up being a fairily unique game for me, a free to play PC title I actually enjoyed and where the business model seemed just about right.  While I was never a whale (per that question from SynCaine) I was happy enough buying some neat cars now and again.  And for a stretch I just enjoyed driving around with the TRON Legacy sound track playing.  The instance group even spent some evenings playing.  We bought cars and I even made a video or three.

It was light fun.  There were things I liked and things I did not, but over all it was some good fun.  I like cars (just not enough to own a nice one) and this allowed me to play around with some interesting ones. (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was my favorite of the series, so I ended up with a lot of Japanese cars.)

Pimpmobile!

74 Nissan Skyline GT-R Pimpmobile!

Now, however, the count down to the final day is on.

The Race is Coming to an end.
By: rhiordd | 04-15-2015

After five years on the race track, Need for Speed World is about to run its last lap. The free-to-play PC action racer will be permanently shutting down its servers on July 14th 2015. Purchases of SpeedBoosts will be disabled as of today.

When it launched 2010, Need for Speed World brought together best-in-class action racing with an unparalleled social experience on PC. However, five years on, we feel that the game no longer lives up to the high standard set by the Need for Speed franchise. The steady stream of live content kept our players engaged but unfortunately we were not able to keep pace with feature development. At this point, the major overhaul needed to bring the game up to speed is not viable for us, so after careful review we came to a decision to stop development and begin winding down support of Need for Speed World.

We’re still leaving Need for Speed World on for a couple more months. If you have a balance of in-game currency, we encourage you to spend it before July 14th. While you can spend the currency you already have, we are disabling the functionality to purchase SpeedBoost, as well as the ability to register new accounts, from now until the closing date.

It’s been a great ride. We would like to thank our community for a wonderful five years. We’re grateful for the time we spent together.

Need for Speed World development team

This is, of course, one of the problems playing a game from a big organization like EA.  They have lots of games, so if one isn’t doing as well as expected, they can chop it, save some money, and move the devs to another project. (Or lay them off to really cut expenses.)  A smaller company might fight… might have to fight to survive… to keep these games viable.

I was also interested to see that the press release included a bit about SWTOR doing fine, as if EA was patting that team on the head while showing them a reminder of what happens to games that fail to meet revenue goals.

Anyway, I will have to find some time to log in and take a last tour of the game in its final state.

The More Things Change… Oh, And Marketing 101

It was just over five years ago I was writing about a free to play first person shooter, Battlefield Heroes, causing a furor because they changed up the game by making things more favorable for people who paid versus those who played for free.

The hue and cry was… something.  We’re all familiar with the term “pay to win” at this point.  No lesser source than the generally respected Ars Technica ended their article on the topic with a dire statement about how this change might end the game.

Here we are today and there is something of an outcry because SOE just did something marginally similar by decreasing the effectiveness of a few implants in PlanetSide 2 in order to be able to put some Station Cash only implants into the game without making them too over powered.

People hate when you nerf stuff, and when you nerf stuff in favor of a cash shop item, people will rightly suspect that the move was motivated by money.  Also, pay to win.  Smed, being Smed, stood up and admitted as much, that they want to make money off of the game.

Unfortunately, Smed made a classic “land war in Asia” level PR mistake when he used somebody else’s terminology in his response.  And so Massively got to use the term “Money Grab” in its headline.  You take your click bait where you can get it. (But hey, look at Conner over at MMO Fallout who when with Smed’s real statement for the headline!)

Massively doesn’t actually include the tweet in its article, otherwise it might be clear that it was a direct response to somebody’s accusation… basically, echoing somebody else’s words.

But the quote is fair game as anything Smed says about the game in public is there for everybody to see.  He should have known better that to feed the press a line like that because, as has been demonstrated in the past, that will become the headline and will effectively deliver the opposite message.  People see the denial and will immediately think “PlanetSide 2 Money Grab!”

Live and learn.

As for the dire news five years back about Battlefield Heroes, the last I checked it was still up and running which, considering it is an EA game and they will close down anything that isn’t making enough money, says something.  There is an appropriate Mark Twain quote out there that I think fits the situation.

Meanwhile, the Ars Technica article with the dire prediction for the game is still up and available on their web site.  Because that is what journalists do, they stand by their work as it appeared in the moment.  Or, if they really screw up, they issue a correction.  They don’t, you know, delete their shit and hope nobody notices.  That is what hacks do.

And the world continues to turn.

EA Unifying Online Currencies for Play4Free Titles

Over at the Need for Speed World home page, there was a little news item I hadn’t seen any place else so far.

Electronic Arts is going to unify the currencies used for… most of their Play4Free titles.


Play4Free has six titles under its banner:

Of those titles, the following four are going to be merged into a single currency that will be shared across games using the same account.  Since EA has been on the great account merger hunt, which came as a bit of a shock when they merged my Star Wars: The Old Republic account into another account, all the EA games I play, plus Origin, EA’s new digital distribution platform, are now on a single login.

I am not sure I like that.  I certainly want an authenticator for my EA account, since getting into one gets you into them all, so I have to worry about their low rent web games paying as much attention to security as their triple-A MMO.  I am sure that seemed like a good idea to somebody.

Gimme that thing there!

Anyway, the following four currencies will be going away.

  • Lord of Ultima currency:  diamonds
  • Need for Speed World currency:  speedboost
  • Battlefield Heroes currency:  battlefunds
  • Battlefield Play4Free currency:  battlefunds

Those four will be replaced by a new currency which will be called… and this is really a sign of creativity at EA… Play4Free Funds.

Yeah, somebody in marketing got a bonus for that I’m sure.

As for the other two… well, Dragon Age Legends is on Facebook, so if it uses any currency, it is probably Facebook Credits.  And BattleForge… I don’t know why that isn’t on the list.  But I have never tried it, so no matter.

In a way, this might be a good thing for me.  I have some diamonds in Lord or Ultima, which I stopped playing since updates killed the game for me (I was going to write about that, wasn’t I?) which I might now prefer to use in Need for Speed World.

There is no word on the exchange rate… how much I will get in Play4Free Funds from my diamonds and speedboost… nor has there been any hint on what the new pricing schemes will look like both in and out of game.  But EA had better have that all lined up because this whole consolidation is supposed to go live on November 16, 2011.

Summing Up On Free-to-Play Catches and Cowboys

Last Friday when I posted about Battlefield Heroes and their cash shop controversy, I was just writing out one of those “what does it really mean?” sort of posts that has an interminable lead-in then ends (if you lasted that long) on the actual question that came to my mind.

Much to my surprise, the post had more reach than I expected, getting noted over at Massively, on Tobold’s blog, and, after a short delay, partially explained by a Packer’s loss (the same thing afflicted my brother-in-law), over at Heartless_ Gamer.  (And in a parallel effort there was an unrelated post about subscription models over at Nerfbat as well.)

Perhaps not quite a “shit storm,” but well beyond my expectations.  Of course it touched a tender subject, which is money and how much we pay to play these games.  But we all know somebody has to pay, because nobody is making all of this entertainment for free.  Even those with a passion to create have to eat and pay the rent.

My only real surprise is that for MMORPGs there seems to be two camps, the subscription model and the free-to-play item mall supported model.  Tobold proposed what he saw as a different but more fair business model, something that sounds remarkably like a post I wrote three years ago, back before F2P was en vogue, prompted by my phone plan and my general cheap skate nature.

But we all want to get the most for our money and will seek out the plan that best serves us, another Tobold point.

Probably the most interesting thing to come out of this though was from Brian “Psycochild” Green who commented with a link to a presentation from Daniel James of Three Rings Design, makers of Puzzle Pirates,  Bang! Howdy, and Whirled, that included detailed metrics based on the experiences of Three Rings in the F2P market.  A good read if you are interested in the topic.

All of which was interesting, but never really got me closer to an answer on where the line between “not enough” and “too much” might be drawn when it comes to pushing item shop purchases in a fantasy MMORPG environment.  Not that I expected an answer.

I did however end up spending some time on Sunday playing Bang! Howdy.

I have to admit, I totally did not get it.

Perhaps I should stick to fantasy MMORPGs.  Subscription based ones… for now.

The Catch in the Free-to-Play Model

Proponents of the free-to-play, cash shop, and micropayments financed philosophy of online games like to point out what they see as a key flaw with the subscription model:  Subscriptions set a cap on how much money your customers will give you.

You’re stuck.  You only asked for $15 a month, so that is all you got.

Now the conservative accounting guy in me can see the benefits of a steady revenue stream.

Subscriptions x $15 = monthly gross revenue.

That is nice and predictable.  Your business plan revolves around getting and keeping subscribers, which is at least a concept you can get most people’s heads around.

Still, I see the point of another approach.  In the free-to-play model, not everybody is going to pay but, as the joke goes, you make it up in volume.

So instead of 100,000 subscribers chipping in $15 a month for a top line of $1.5 million you just get a lot more subscribers and have some percentage of them pay $15 or more.

Of course, that is the fuzzy “step 2” in the process, the details between the idea and profit.

You have to make a game with enough free content to be viable so that you can build that subscriber base from which you will generate your revenue.  Only a certain percentage of your user base will ever give you any money however, so having free content that brings people and keeps them is a plus.

Okay, that sounds a lot like getting and keeping subscribers.  But you have the word “free” to play with, which is a big plus in the getting department.

So if you want to make that same $1.5 million a month and believe that 10% of your user base will spend, on average, $30 a month on your game, then you need a total user base of 500,000.

And I pulled those numbers straight out of my backside just to demonstrate the equation.  I am certainly no expert on the subject of what percentage of players pay how much in any given game.

On the other hand, I would be extremely skeptical of any model that assumed more than, say, 20% of customers buying in unless your game is balanced such that players are at a severe disadvantage if they do not pay.  And if you did that, you’d be killing off a chunk of the subscriber base that is there for the “free” aspect of the game.  So there is something of a tightrope to walk.

Being somebody who has moaned in the past about there being a lack of subscription options, I have been somewhat interested in free-to-play games.  Certainly I was a lot more likely to play Dungeons and Dragons Online or Runes of Magic under that model.  And the fact that neither game has really stuck with me isn’t really an indictment of those games.  I’m just having enough fun elsewhere at the moment that I don’t need a new game regardless of the subscription model.

The whole free-to-play thing came to my mind the other day when I read an article over at Ars Technica about Battlefield Heroes.

Battlefield Heroes is a free-to-play online shooter that I have been poking my nose into off and on for the last few months.  I own most of the Battlefield series of games, but I haven’t really been into shooters since I was playing Desert Combat, a Battlefield 1942 mod, some years back.

While I bought the next couple of installments in the series, I never played any of them as much as I played DC, so I lost the desire to spend any more money on their games.

So along comes Battlefield Heroes, which is free to play.  I like to play a shooter now and again and this looked good, so I signed up.  Customer acquisition win for DICE and their parent EA.

However, since I only play a couple of times a month, I have no real desire to be competitive in the game.  I play, I shoot people, I die, I have fun.  Customer retention win for DICE and EA and fun for me.

What I don’t do is spend any money.  Not so good for DICE and EA.

And according to that article at Ars Technica, I am hardly alone in not spending any money.

So DICE and EA changed up the game.

Previously, or so it was claimed, you couple be a competitive player by earning enough victory points through moderate play to buy the upgrades you needed to keep up with those laying down cash.  Never having aspired to be anything beyond a moving target most evenings, I’ll take their word for it.

Now, however, you must play a lot more to earn enough victory points to keep up with the neighbors who pay, something seen as a bit contrary to the intended spirit of the game, as illustrated by this EA trailer.

And the community is up in arms about it… or at least the part of the community that wasn’t paying any money and that gives a damn about being competitive.  And while I point out my own lack on that front, I will admit that when I move from target to constant lead receptacle I will often call it a night and do something else.

The Ars Technica article comes to a dark conclusion at the end with the line:

…this update has a very real chance of ending the game.

Maybe over statement, maybe not.  I’m not invested enough to have a good feel.  But as I said above, I think if you try to squeeze to hard, you’ll reduce the player base without necessarily increasing revenue overall.

And the fact that this is coming up makes me wonder where that line is when it comes to cash shop financed MMOs.

Sure, the player base is probably a bit different, and there are certainly some cheap shots you can take at the stereotypical FPS player, not all of which are totally inaccurate.

And the play style is different.  A shooter puts you in direct competition at all times with people who maybe be spending more money than you, while in a PvE MMO at least, direct competition is somewhat limited.  The guy with the store bought mount and sword of might can go on his merry way and not wreck your evening unless he really sets his mind to it.

So far, in the free-to-play MMOs I have visited, I have not seen a huge push to make people feel they need to buy.  Usually what I see are incentives, special deals, and other come-ons to make item shop purchases look more attractive.  But who knows how long that will be the case?  What happens when a game don’t make goals for a couple of months and the CFO is calling to tighten up the business model?

What happens when it becomes imperative for the company to make the players buy more stuff?

Can you push the cash shop free-to-play formula too far in the direction of “must pay to realistically play?”  Or does the MMO model… or at least the PvE fantasy MMORPG model… protect us from that to a certain extent as long as you have a tank, a healer, some DPS, and a monster against which to throw them?