E3 2017: Digital add-ons give video game makers a billion-dollar boost

Enabled by digital storefronts and internet downloads, more game studios are selling new content after the initial sale of a video game in a bid to keep people engaged and coming back for more.

LOS ANGELES — The latest digital version of the world’s most popular sport, “FIFA 18,” will cost $59.99 when it’s available in a few months.

But if the soccer video game’s publisher, Electronic Arts, gets its way, the transaction won’t stop there.

Player packs are sort of a digital trading-card set that unlocks real-world players for use in “Ultimate Team” game modes, and they can be purchased for a few dollars each. The dice roll gives you a chance at landing one of your favorite players for use in competitive play and special tournaments.

The feature isn’t new, but it has gained traction in recent years as part of a broader industry trend of asking players for smaller payments to gain in-game items or new features after the initial game sale. Increasingly, they’re happy to oblige.

Billions of dollars

Historically, the vast majority of video games were sold in one-off transactions. Players bought a boxed CD, loaded it into their PC or game console, and played their way through.

But enabled by digital storefronts and internet downloads, more game studios are selling new content after the initial sale in a bid to keep people engaged and coming back to their games.

That ranges from so-called microtransactions that cost cents or a few dollars — like the trading cards in “FIFA” — to expansion packs or other major face-lifts that cost from $10 to $40.

Together, such sales and services bring in billions of dollars a year across the $100 billion global video-game industry, said Sartori Bernbeck, an analyst with video-game consultancy EEDAR.

“Games are becoming more and more not just a boxed delivery, but a service,” Bernbeck said.

That shift was on display here at the E3 video game trade show,…

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