Need for Speed plus three other F2P computer titles are being shut down by EA.
Need for Speed World plus three other F2P computer titles are being shut down by EA.

APRIL 16, 2015 • Electronic Arts Inc. is shutting down four of its major Play4Free titles for the PC platform. Battlefield Heroes, Battlefield Play4Free, FIFA World and Need for Speed World will go offline in 90 days. The publisher said all four Electronic Arts PC F2P games were no longer as popular as they once were but did not provide details on what the current number of active users are compared to previous quarters. For the fiscal quarter ending December 31, EA reported that freemium and extra content accounted for $314 million of $697 million non-GAAP digital net revenue.

Impact: Electronic Arts has not broken down active user numbers for these F2P titles for a long while. Only three years ago, the publisher was boasting that Battlefield Heroes and Need for Speed World had 10 million active users each. This leads us to ask the question how less popular these games are today versus how well EA is monetizing them. The shut down announcement was made on the EA blog, where comments from Need for Speed World users indicate the game still has a solid user base. We think that where the games have struggled is mainly on monetization.  EA has come in for criticism in the past for having a heavy handed monetization model for F2P games along with a lack of new content support to keep older players involved. In the case of FIFA World, the title never left open beta status after 18 months, and EA killed it for lacking the momentum necessary for a commercial launch. This too is odd as FIFA World possesses the same Ultimate Team fantasy component that EA says is doing extremely well on FIFA 15 and FIFA Online 3, plus the Madden NFL and NHL franchises. For the last quarter reported, EA said its Ultimate Team revenue overall was up 82% year-over-year.

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All of this brings us to conclusion that EA has yet to learn fully what it takes to manage and strengthen free-to-play computer services. The challenge in the F2P market is that often less than 1% of players will account for 90% of revenue, so while 10 million users sounds like a lot it means only several hundred thousand users at the most are paying for a game that must support millions of users. Meanwhile acquiring new users is an expensive proposition.  As discussed in the recent DFC report on the Western Core PC Gamer, outside of a handful of exceptions, the F2P model is simply not working that well among that audience. With steady growth in its extra content business, cutting out stock from its struggling PC F2P stable is an appealing option.