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Electronic Art’s CEO Andrew Wilson is looking into something new for console owners.

According to Wilson, EA is looking to expand its free-to-play options by pushing for what is being coined as “free-to-start,” or basically a new way to provide game trials to consumers.

“On free-to-play, with consoles, we think about this much the way that we think about free-to-play overall. There’s a couple of different vectors to this. The first is as we look to the future, we believe a very big part of our player-base will expect a free-to-start experience, ” Wilson said on an earnings call. “When we look at film, television, music, books, very often there is this free trial notion that actually onboards new players, new listeners, new readers, or new viewers into a service. We’re actively looking at how we could offer that type of experience to our players on console and across other platforms.”

Wilson believes that future gamers will expect console games to become available in a manner similar to many PC games and mobile games, as well as other forms of media such as books, television and movies. For consoles, this means offering free access to their games, at least initially in a demo, then allowing them to pay for it later if they so choose.

EA already has some channels in place that may help in actively pushing for more playable trials on consoles. EA Access, launched last summer exclusively for the Xbox One, charges consumers a monthly subscription to have both early access and unlimited use to a number of EA games, as well as pre-orders and downloads for digital copies of their games.

Wilson also stated they hope to offer a number of business models to their customers, including full-game downloads, microtransactions, and  a subscription-based system for their games catalogue.

So does this sound like a good idea? What are your thoughts on this?

Robert Grosso

Staff Writer

A game playing, college teaching, erudite-minded scholar who happens to write some articles every so often. Have worked as a journalist, critic, educator and blogger for over five years now, with articles published (as user editorials) on Game Revolution and Giant Bomb as well as a contributor for the websites Angry Bananas and Blistered Thumbs. Now making TechRaptor my home.

  • “free to start”…..really EA?
    We all know that your looking into “Pay to Win” here. Stop trying to hide it

  • Timothy Lastovica

    Puts on best grandpa voice, “Back when I was growing up that was called a demo. Now you whipper snappers get off my lawn!”

    “But grandpa this is our lawn?”

    Audible loading of a shotgun.

    “Don’t make me say it twice.”

  • ThePete

    I think it’s smart. Like with the XBLA games where you could upgrade the free trial to the full version in game.

  • Johnathon Tieman

    While I don’t disagree with you, he could also be referring to something along the lines of shareware. Play the first chapter, buy the remainder.

  • Matt


  • It worked for Id. Provided it doesn’t mean pay-to-win by stealth, I’m all for it.

  • Doc Hammer

    …did an executive seriously have the idea for demos?

  • Unbeliever

    Usually i would agree but this is EA were talking about. If it can go horribly wrong EA somehow will make it even worse.

  • Rakeela Deskairn

    This is how out of touch EA is, right here. Does EA judge upper management entirely by their skill at buzzword bingo? They wouldn’t be considered such a trashy company if they’d spend a little less time on “business models” and a little more time on “making games that are actually worth playing”. They need a new CEO.

  • Bitterbear

    So basically they’re bringing Shareware to consoles then?

  • Doc Hammer

    Like The Walking Dead was on iOS, right? While technically different, I fail to see how that is actually different from a demo.

  • Cy

    EA Access has been pretty good so far.

  • Cy

    Eh, depends on the game. MMO’s? Yes, they should always be free to play these days. Or at least pay to play. Sports games? Maybe I could see a “free” version with just exhibition matches working as long as all the teams/fighters/wrestlers that are unlocked in the full version are available. But I don’t think you’ll ever find a way to make this work with, say, single player RPG’s. Not in any new way, at least. The 6 hours of free play they already have on EA Access works fine for that, and if they’re just gonna do that then they don’t need to change anything.

  • Mitchell Pollock

    What i don’t get is these execs in gaming companies saying, well books and film do it like this, we should too! NO NO NO NO NO.
    Games are not books or film. Gaming is a very different medium, it’s interactive and what works for traditional media typically doesn’t for gaming.
    It also sounds suspiciously like EA going back to their old ways of nickel and diming every last spare cash out of pockets and wallets.
    Hey EA, how about you just make a god damn game (that works), charge ONE price for it, then make the next game. Instead of gouging people for every last cent.

  • d0x360

    Gotta agree with you there. I subscribed right before dragon age came out so I could get 10% off that and dlc. I figured by the time 12 months is up ea access will have paid for itself with the 10% discount. None od the vault games matter right now because minus sports I own them already. Although I did enjoy playing dragon age a few days early and being able to save my progress.

  • Johnathon Tieman

    Well, as with many things there aren’t any hard and fast rules. Personally, I distinguish them by either the ability to transfer whatever progress you made to the full product once you purchase it, or that the demo/shareware product actually comprises a complete story on its own (such as shareware Doom having multiple levels and a boss at the end).

    If you want to get a bit more technical (I’m a programmer, so this comes from understanding of the internals), I would say a shareware title is played using the exact same engine as the purchased product, and gets updated with bug fixes. A demo is standalone, specifically tuned to give the best possible impression. The underlying code bases are separate, and a bug fix from one doesn’t have any guarantee of working in the other.

  • Johnathon Tieman

    While I know everyone loves to hate EA, and they have certainly been far from blameless, I try to hold out optimism for any new endeavor. Personally, I miss demos, as they were by far the best indicator of whether I would like a title. Without them, I’ve had to rely on the corrupt games press, which it is now apparent caused me to miss several good games that I had originally considered buying, so I’m for any attempt by a big name to bring something along that line back.

  • Mark Samenfink

    So, demos?

  • Grey

    Everyone else says demos. I’m thinking more like shareware, which made me think of the good old days downloading things like Exile: Escape from the Pit or Escape Velocity or Castle of the Winds. Played them to death and eventually bought them all.

    Conceptually, I like the idea of seeing a big upswing in the old shareware system, but I have absolutely no faith in publishers like EA or Ubisoft to pull of the model without finding some new way of putting the thumb screws to the consumer. I really would not put it past them to use it as an excuse to paywall off every possibly bit of a game they could, to leach as much money out of unsavy consumers.

    They might not. I would love to be completely surprised by EA coming out with a fair and healthy business model, but given their history that’s something I’d have to see happen first.

  • David Fitzsimmons

    John already gave a nice answer regarding Demos being specifically designed (in most cses) to give off a good impression of the game. Sometimes even so far as to be a later level in the game then the beginning. But with things like the Walking Dead, the first free portion i no demo by any means, it is an actual gameplay stuff. You will not have to delete the demo and get the full game if you decide to buy.

    In this case it could be either similar to that model or… they are essentially designing the game right from square one with the mindset of there being a ‘demo’ in the beginning and try to make that as appealing as possible for people to spend money. This could otherwise detract from the experience of the game.

  • Timothy Lastovica

    Trial, demo, or whatever you choose to call the free sample of the game they give you there might be no salvation for the souls who wish to grammar nazi over the usage. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster save you before it is too late.

  • Zanard Bell

    Don’t feel ashamed, EA. It’s called a shareware. You can ask the Maxis guys about that.

  • So this sounds like EA want you to pay for a demo, just incase you see how broken, buggy, glitchy and terrible the final product could be. It cost (money that’s taken from the overall budget) to make a demo that works perfectly, which would also mean that they would have to spend far more money and time on making each game they make run as smooth on release.

    EA would rather you buy a “DEMO” so it could off-set the cost of making the demo and the rest of the game. It’s easy to make a CGI trailer of how a game will play, but to have the fast turn out speed of modern gaming while keeping the cost down with releasing a high quality demo is just not possible.

    They release broken, buggy, glitchy games so they can keep costs down and fix them later on after release to make them run better. If a demo was available to play, it couldn’t be as broken, buggy, glitchy as the final game as that would turn people off from buying it, which in turn would force them to reduce the budgets which would prolong the development cycle which will reduce profits from year-on-year.

    This is why the majority games now are faulty on release and why they cost soo much. It’s to offset the cost of the negative response from gamers to the faulty products that have high development cost (which also include marketing) to get them out at the fastest rate possible.