Criticism Over EA Sports’ Handling of Pay-For Features Justified

Posted May 30th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Recently it was discovered that the web based weekly advancement and ‘Super Sim’ features for NCAA Football 12 will cost $3 each. Kotaku posted a well thought out article on the topic adding to the heat EA Sports has taken for how they introduced the features and the feeling of many that they are being increasingly nickel and dimed every year.

What first should be taken issue with is the way the features were presented in a manner that failed to mention they would not be free. EA reaped the benefits of the positive reaction to the info only to later turn around and quietly slip out that a charge would be attached to them. This is not the only misleading thing EA has done in the lead-up to release of the game. Earlier they put out a screenshot that implied neutral site games in Dynasty would be a new feature only to now state that it has not been added to the mode.

Last year I wrote about how EA seemed to have crossed a line with all the DLC offerings in NCAA 11. To commish more than one Online Dynasty there were options to pay $10 (commish up to three) or $15 (commish up to five). For $30 every DLC bonus being offered could be had. All of that was still on top of having the “Online Pass” which had just become the bridge to which EA could sell more DLC.

Given those price points it could be argued that the package being offered this year is of better value. $7 will deliver both web features and the ability to commish up to five dynasties. This is not however because EA is trying to do consumers a favor. It is clear that the market spoke and they overpriced those features last year and few purchased them. Just because it can be bought for cheaper this year doesn’t mean what they are doing is right.

The NCAA Football series doesn’t have the potential of the pro leagues to create a lucrative Ultimate Team mode and this may be the root of the problem here. In FIFA, Madden, and NHL, Ultimate Team has proven to be a huge revenue stream bringing in tens of millions of dollars. FIFA 11 alone has made well over $50 million just from UT. Obviously EA is looking for ways to make NCAA more profitable through DLC and pay-for avenues.

Should EA Sports institute the rumored subscription plan it would make charges for features like web advancement even more ridiculous. Until that is made official it can’t really be judged. However they are already on the edge due to the “Online Pass” which has yet to live up to the benefits advertised initially – having touted free bonuses – which in theory should be covering these associated costs but never actually materialized.

What may not be fully realized is the damage being done to the relationship with the hardcore community. Features such as simming and advancing on a website are not going to be heavily utilized by the casual crowd especially when they would have to pay to do so.

Often it seems that DLC is targeted at the typical casual users looking for boosts and the more dedicated players can simply avoid them. The casuals are less likely to be participating in a serious dynasty and less likely to care if things move along at a certain pace. It is the users who actually have an investment in their involvement that would be using these features. Those people may end up paying for them but if they reach the conclusion that value was absent then the long-term effect of growing resentment has to be a consideration.