Saturday, January 30, 2010

FIFA for free?

Financial experts and gaming developers have long tried to find economic success with free PC games. First person shooters and role-playing games all dot the internet landscape with free offerings, looking to optional, paid downloadable content for their income.

Electronic Arts is venturing into this gratis world with the announcement of a free (internet required), downloadable game called EA SPORTS™ FIFA Online that will make its popular videogame franchise available to soccer fans with a broadband internet connection. Developers are promising the game will be able to run on an average spec laptop computer or desk-top personal computer.

“Listening to and engaging soccer fans has been one of the driving forces behind the success of our FIFA franchise and now we are inviting European football fans--in mass numbers and earlier than we ever have before--to help us develop a new soccer game,” said Executive Producer Kaz Makita. “Fans will determine the features that matter most, and at the end of this process, our goal is to deliver a game for fans looking for a quick soccer fix at home or at work.”

The first to enjoy the free-to-play EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer videogame will be soccer fans and gamers in Europe for the open beta release in June 2010.

Beginning February 3, soccer fans across Europe are invited to register to participate in the closed beta development and testing of FIFA Online. More than 20,000 fans will be involved in the first phase of closed beta testing and then, during open beta in June, hundreds of thousands of fans will test the game, providing feedback directly to the game’s developers through exclusive discussion forums.

EA SPORTS FIFA Online will be released around the world in stages. The English language version will be available to all soccer fans in June, 2010. Over the next 12 to 24 months FIFA Online will launch in other languages across Europe and then in North America. Non-English speaking soccer fans will also be able to participate in the development process of these games.

EA SPORTS FIFA Online will offer an authentic soccer experience with 30 licensed leagues, 500 clubs and more than 15,000 players. During the first closed beta stage beginning February 3, the game will feature a 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa tournament mode and a control system that uses the mouse only. At the second stage of closed beta, the game will feature a League Mode that enables fans to manage and compete as their favorite soccer club, and the ability to play online matches. FIFA Online will enable soccer fans and gamers to build their favorite club into their dream team by developing or acquiring players, upgrading skills, and getting unique apparel by earning in-game currency to acquire items or through micro-transactions. Additional content will be designed for the game based on feedback by fans.

“There are a large number of soccer fans who do not want a console gaming experience due to time and other priorities in their personal lives but they still want to be able to play a top-quality soccer videogame,” explained Makita. “FIFA Online will be designed specifically for them.”

While the business model hasn't been openly discussed, any fan of the sport knows there are numerous billboards around the stadium as well as on players. Something tells me EA would be open to discussing terms with interested advertisers for that valuable cyper 'space'.

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