Last year, Activision announced its new premium service, Call of Duty Elite. While it's entirely possible to take advantage of some Elite features for free, paid subscribers received added bonuses and content, including those always popular multiplayer map packs. The service has performed well since launching alongside Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, so it should come as no surprise competitor Electronic Arts might launch a similar program for its Battlefield franchise.
Here's just five reasons why "Battlefield Premium" is probably a reality.
Since launching last year, Call of Duty Elite has reeled in over 10 million users – two million of which are paid subscribers. The premium version of the service costs $50 per year, and as Activision manages to launch a new Call of Duty game every fall, it's essentially doubling its yearly franchise income two million times over (so far).
Electronic Arts, however, does not hold the Battlefield franchise to such a stringent release schedule. If the company can lure in subscribers, there's a distinct opportunity to reap major returns regardless of a slower pace in launching new Battlefield titles.
When Battlefield 3 released in late 2011, DICE and Electronic Arts would eventually reveal plans for Battlelog. The online service allows players to access a social network surrounding Battlefield 3, including friends-lists and stat tracking. Most of these same features are included in the free version of Call of Duty Elite, as well. Revealing a premium Battlefield service isn't very far-fetched.
So, as a plethora of Battlefield players are – potentially – using Battlelog, the jump to a paid service is a much easier sell. Think of it like those "free hamburger!" coupons you get in the mail – what, you don't get free hamburger coupons? Anyways, the idea is to lure you into the joint with the promise of free stuff.
The player goes through the process of signing up for an account, adding friends, and doing everything else that comes gratis with the service. But at some point, that's when he sees all the other customers enjoying additional services – delicious french fries in this analogy – and decides to upgrade. It's a solid model (because hamburgers without fries suck).
One – of the many – differences between Battlefield and Call of Duty titles is the approach to add-on, or downloadable, content. While Activision releases map packs seemingly every time the wind blows, DICE has tended to release larger-scale expansions. Back To Karkand, for example, was the first expansion to Battlefield 3. Three more expansions are planned for the rest of 2012.
Assuming Electronic Arts follows the Elite model, a paid subscription would likely award users with access to each expansion for that year. Also, DICE could offer smaller add-ons – guns, skins, knives – which are entirely exclusive to paid members.
Game communities are vitally important to developers. Community breeds loyalty, and loyalty means gamers dedicating themselves to your franchise over the franchise across the road. Assuming a large number of users decided to opt-in to the premium service, that's an entire year where said persons have paid cold hard cash to remain a community member. Generally speaking, if you've paid for something, you're far more likely to dedicate yourself to actually utilizing the service.
Electronic Arts has refused to comment on the Battlefield Premium rumor, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if it's announced during E3 next month. I'm covering the event, so if I'm right – awesome. Otherwise, let's pretend this conversation never happened.