The big topic of conversation on general gaming sites this week is EA’s new plan to charge money for demos. Well, not exactly demos, they’re more like beta test builds, but you wouldn’t actually be in the beta test… or something. The whole concept seems fairly nebulous, as “explained” by the head EA guys. Here’s a quote from an IGN article:

    EA’s Chief Operating Officer Nick Earl revealed the company’s latest premium downloadable content (PDLC) strategy during a recent investor visit at its Redwood City studio, which includes charging a small price for an early look at upcoming titles.

    “The PDLC would be sold for $10 or $15 through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, and would essentially be a very long game demo, along the lines of 2009’s Battlefield 1943,” Pachter said. “A full-blown packaged game would follow shortly after the release of the PDLC, bearing a full retail price. Mr. Earl believes that the release of the PDLC first limits the risk of completing and marketing the full packaged version, and serves as a low-cost marketing tool.”

    In a follow-up conversation with IGN, Pachter says these paid “demos” will act as a sort of beta test for the company, saying feedback received will shape the final retail product.

    “Think about Battlefield 1943 as the prototype, so a full (but short) game experience for a reasonable price,” he said. “At the same time, an expanded version of the game will be under development for release as a packaged product.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but my first thought was, “Blizzard could get away with this.” I don’t know if any EA games get enough advance interest to pull this off, but I know for a fact that Blizzard games do. We ran some news about the numerous $50+ ebay sales of spots in the SC2 beta, and you know there will be an even more intense land rush when the Diablo 3 beta kicks off. You also know that Activision/Blizzard head DiabloWikiBobby Kotick is watching EA’s experiment with great interest.

    So: How do you guys feel about EA’s new tactic? Is it cool, giving the most eager fans a chance for an early trial of a game, or is it fundamentally evil; a way to charge money for something that’s always been given away? Will this result in full game releases being delayed a couple of months, while the developer soaks the most eager fans for an extra $10? And would you drop the price of a decent lunch on a 4-6 week semi-beta / plus-sized demo / half-featured preview of a game you know you’re going to buy anyway?

    Update: Compare this concept by EA to one previously announced by an independent RPG developer, where they hope to garner pre-sales by including a beta spot in the bargain. Would you guys send Blizzard $75 right now for D3, if you were guaranteed a spot in a two-month beta prior to the release of the $60 game?

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