Thursday, July 23, 2009

What to learn from Battlefield 1943

In case you haven't been following the performance of Battlefield 1943 from DICE (published by EA), the download-only game seems to have been a huge success in terms of sales.

It is very rare that I applaud EA on this blog for anything, but this time they've done good. I've told numerous times in my writings that a game does not need to follow the "all bells and whistles for $60+" approach in order to be commercially successful. Kudos to DICE for figuring out all the value added components of their game that matter to their customers, and stripping everything else away, including retail units. The result is a no-frills game for $15, which happens to sell faster than hot cakes.

Strangely, being sold on Live Arcade at that price point makes it a quite frill-full game. Instead of a lackluster game trying to compete with the likes of Call of Duty (much like BF: Bad Company tried to do at the regular price point), being a great game for the $15 price point is a much better differentiation strategy.

The question is, though; can it be repeated? It is important to understand that such low price might not have been possible if the developers had to design the maps from scratch, or if they had to develop the Frostbite engine for the first time, or if they didn't have a pretty familiar set of game mechanics refined many times in the previous iterations of their franchise. Speaking of the franchise, it is also worth considering what the outcome would be if they did not have the Battlefield brand behind the game. Would it still perform well? Would the brand name of DICE be enough?

All in all, I am pleased to see EA trying different approaches for a game's value offering, and I'm hoping their success with this title will encourage them to experiment more and perhaps answer some of the questions above in doing so.

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