Battlefield Play4Free will be the "biggest Western free-to-play title in the world"
Senior Producer of Battlefield Heroes Ben Cousins has revealed in his conference at GDC the trials his team went through with Battlefield Heroes, and that the game's players are "crash test dummies" for Battlefield Play4Free, which he hopes will become the "biggest Western free-to-play title in the world." Read on for the details.
Cousins explained about the difficulty bringing the free-to-play formula - predominantly successful in eastern regions - to the West, and how what they learnt from Battlefield Heroes has got them to their current position; just weeks away from Battlefield Play4Free's beta launch. In specific, Cousins referred to the hurdles of bringing microtransactions to the Battlefield community.
"I had a meeting with [developer] Johnny Mang, and he said 'The game is too free, we were giving away too much.'" With this in mind, Cousins looked at the demands players were making in surveys, and decided that more powerful weapons sold for cash was the way to solve the problem. The team made improvements to the cash purchase weapons, adding slightly bigger magazines and larger chances of critical hits. "We wanted the difference to be noticible but not unbalancing," commented Cousins.
The move to offer these better weapons for a price backfired though. The community very vocally rejected the idea. "The first weapon we dropped was the shotguns, and by the end of the day we had a 64 page thread on the forums just about the shotguns. The moderators were having to work really hard. People were posting porn and other horrible things on the forum as a protest to what we were doing, and the press picked up on this. This was quite a stressful day for us," said Cousins.
However, the actual result within the game was a different picture. Daily gross funding revenue doubled overnight, with no change in user number at all. "Contrary from what people were saying, there was no one leaving the game," explained Cousins. Looking at player statistics and forum usage, the team determined that just 2% of players used the forums to voice their opinions, so whilst the forums were rife with anger, the vast majority of players were happy with the changes.
Such events bring us to the present day. "Battlefield Heroes is very profitable now: our predictions for this year sees us working at a 50% margin," revealed Cousins. "It’s given us the ability to creating a HD free-to-play title with Battlefield Play4Free, and we aim to make that the biggest Western free-to-play title in the world."