What EA’s history tells us about Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
Even though PopCap producer Brian Lindley told GameSpot that Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare will not have microtransactions at launch, it’s a safe bet they’re coming soon.
Lindley was specific when he said “at launch”, which suggests EA is waiting to gauge interest or to flip the switch. And if the publisher’s past is any indication, they’re coming whether you like it or not.
“We’re building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way,” EA chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen said last year, “either to get to a higher level to buy a new character, to buy a truck, a gun, whatever it might be.” Jorgensen later clarified the statement to mean all mobile games.
Jorgensen was wrong, though. It’s true that not all of the publisher’s games had microtransactions following what he said, but a significant amount of them did, and they weren’t only mobile games. Full, $60 console and Windows PC games like FIFA 14, Mass Effect 3, and Dead Space 3 had them.
Plants vs. Zombies 2 and Dungeon Keeper have recently shown that microtransactions can hurt the experience of playing the game. And even though EA has responded to the angry reactions, it doesn’t seem willing to let up on the model completely. And that’s probably because a game with microtransactions makes it more money than with one that doesn’t. It’s why MMOs become significantly more profitable when they go free-to-play. The low barrier-to-entry widens the audience and gives the game more potential to make money.
EA’s digital sales for the fiscal third quarter of 2014, which includes the 2013 holiday season when the biggest games are released, made $410 million. That’s 50.7 percent of its total revenue. Digital sales and microtransactions have been an important part of EAs financial success for the last few years.
So when a new, $30 to $40 Plants vs. Zombies game that has a randomized, card-based system that lets you use items, abilities, and characters in the game, it’s hard not to see a future where you can buy packs for real money.
It’s not if, it’s when.