Interviews

Battlefield Play4Free: 'We're targeting CoD and Halo fans'

Interview: Departing EA Easy boss on competing with the big boys...

Up until this week, Ben Cousins ran EA Easy, one of the lesser known studios within EA's Games Label.

While the umbrella division houses the publisher's shooters, driving, strategy, RPG and action games, he's in charge of free-to-play projects, and if things go to plan you'll be hearing his name a lot more over the coming months.

We caught up with Cousins shortly before his departure to discuss Battlefield Play4Free - the browser-based FPS which is set to launch in Beta form on Monday. We asked how the game can disrupt the traditional retail FPS market, and how EA's stealing a march on its rivals in the free-to-play space...

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Could you briefly explain your division and its goals?

We are a studio within the Games Label who are focussed 100 percent on 'Play4Free' - games that are free to play but for which people can buy virtual goods to enhance the experience.

Our goals are changing at the moment. Previously we were all about experimental projects, with games like Lord of Ultima and Battlefield Heroes. We are now in a phase of trying to build on these experiments to create blockbusters with real mass appeal like Battlefield Play4Free.

The division's been up and running for about two years now. What have you learnt from previous EA free-to-play projects like BattleForge, Lord of Ultima and Battlefield Heroes, and how much of a success would you say they've been?

We've had differing degrees of success. Battleforge has a great loyal community, but hasn't been as big as we originally hoped. In the middle we have Lord of Ultima which is doing really well but still has room to grow. Our most successful game so far is Battlefield Heroes which is closing on seven million registrations - more unique players than any Battlefield game in history. We want Battlefield Play4Free to be 2-10 times bigger than Heroes.

What have we learnt? We've learnt everything you can from top-to-bottom on how to create, launch and operate these types of games. From game mechanics, to what you sell in the store, to how to set up the infrastructure of the service and marketing. On the surface it looks like we are still working in the same old game industry, but that's an illusion - everything is different.

You announced Battlefield Play4Free last November. What's your target audience?

Core shooter fans on PC and console. The type of guys who buy games from Valve, DICE, Infinity Ward, Epic and Bungie and play them online with their friends.

How big is the team working on the game and what kind of budget is there for the title? I assume it's bigger than the $1 million you had for Lord of Ultima...

We have about 30 people working on the game at the moment. The budget is higher than Lord of Ultima yes, but actually lower than Battlefield Heroes, because we are using a lot of the tech from that game as well as art assets and maps from other classic Battlefield games like Battlefield 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2.

Production-wise and feature-wise, how does Battlefield Play4Free stand up to genre-leading console franchises like Battlefield, Call of Duty and Medal of Honour?

We are targeting lower minimum specs than those games, to make the game accessible to a broader audience, but I feel our graphics are definitely comparable to shooters on the current-gen consoles. In terms of features we are definitely comparable with any multiplayer shooter irrespective of platform, with the depth of the second-to-second gunplay, our RPG-like customization system and the breadth of the large-scale vehicular warfare.

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