Free-to-play games have been around for over a decade now, but many companies have been slow to explore the business model and even slower to make it not feel awful or exploitative. With the new Command & Conquer, it seems Electronic Arts may have the hang of it. Victory Games general manager Jon van Caneghem has detailed the sorts of things it'll sell in the free-to-play RTS, trying to avoid being "pay to win."
"It's our goal to give players full access to a fun RTS game with no barrier to entry," van Caneghem--who long ago created Might & Magic, fact fans--said in a blog post. "All factions, units, maps, and game modes will be available to everyone from the start."
Monetisation, then, will come with extras and services. EA plans to sell three main things: visual and cosmetic customisation options; boosters to help you level up faster "for more choices" (presumably meaning unlocks); and alternative generals.
Generals, you may recall, are sort of sub-factions for C&C. They largely share their faction's core army but focus on a specific area, with unique abilities, units and taunts. Van Caneghem gives the example of an air-oriented general, who can get stronger and faster aircraft, and perhaps call in airstrikes, but has weaker ground units. Other generals may focus on stealth units, tanks, rushing, turtling, and so on. He insists they're "all balanced against each other" though.
Supposedly you'll be able to buy everything with either earned or paid currencies; hopefully the prices in earned currencies won't demand unreasonable amounts of grinding.
One of EA's earlier cracks at F2P, Battlefield Heroes, was condemned as pay-to-win by fans, after EA bumped the prices for items in earned currencies so high that only the most hardcore could afford them.
Command & Conquer is due on PC later this year. It'll launch with the Generals universe, but Victory hopes to add the C&C worlds of Tiberium, Red Alert and even something new later.