If EA insists on putting ads in games, it should make EA FC free-to-play

Electronic Arts is currently working on inserting more “dynamic” ads into its AAA titles, and this development has produced a lot of justified eye-rolling from gamers as a whole, despite how “thoughtful” CEO Andrew Wilson says the company is being about it.

AAA games already cost a hefty $60 or $70 to buy, and as long as games have existed, not being served ads has always been included in that premium price. At the end of the day though, publishers like EA will consider anything that brings in more money over time. And for that reason, they should consider something I’ve been thinking about for some time, especially now that they want to include ads: make EA FC free-to-play.

All EA FC 24 Premier League Team of the Season (TOTS) items on purple background
Would you spend more on packs if you didn’t have to drop $70 for the game? Image via EA Sports.

Even before the series transitioned from FIFA to EA FC, I’ve had the idea it would be better for both EA and the consumer if their global soccer-sim cash cow was a free-to-play title. With Ultimate Team becoming such a focal point of the game, EA FC is a live service game at this point, and going free-to-play would actually make it a more effective one.

If EA is insistent on putting ads in the game, the only way the player base would even stomach them is if they’re on a free-to-play title. NBA 2K rightly caught a ton of flak for putting unskippable ads in their fully priced games, and EA would be wise not do the same. There’s a strong financial reason to do it this way too, since any advertisement deals they make would become much more valuable on a free-to-play title, which leads to the second point.

By making EA FC a free-to-play game, EA would effectively tear down a massive barrier to entry that’s keeping the casual or thrifty player out of their microtransaction-laid ecosystem. While EA currently makes tens of millions of dollars a year by selling their yearly soccer game, a case could be made they could make more off microtransactions if the game was free. In addition to bringing in new players, long-time players could justify spending more if there’s no annual cost of buying the latest game.

This also gives EA the chance to perhaps drop the annual release schedule and just maintain a permanent EA FC as a live service game for several years. Without the game changing each year, players could be more willing to pay for packs if the contents of those were more persistent. This could also save on development costs if EA just has to maintain one game instead of re-releasing it each year.

The argument against this idea comes down to the trump card that is the FIFA/EA FC diehards. These are players that will buy the yearly game and pay hundreds of dollars for new Ultimate Team packs each year. But EA has to ask itself if they think that adding ads on top of an already multi-year hefty financial investment could risk alienating their dedicated player base.

Given EA has decided to focus on its own franchises instead of licensed IPs, and since they seem so insistent on implementing ads, there might not be a better time to completely switch the field with its highest grossing property.

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