EA takes on freemium gaming with new brand of Tetris

Dec 5, 2011
Games

Last week, video game publisher and iOS heavy hitter Electronic Arts dropped a new version of a classic title: Tetris, the block puzzle game beloved by millions. Or at least, EA is hoping it’s beloved by millions, because it wants Tetris to become your new iPhone gaming obsession. When it originally launched on the iPhone […]

Last week, video game publisher and iOS heavy hitter Electronic Arts dropped a new version of a classic title: Tetris, the block puzzle game beloved by millions. Or at least, EA is hoping it’s beloved by millions, because it wants Tetris to become your new iPhone gaming obsession.

When it originally launched on the iPhone way back in 2008, Tetris was a premium title in the iTunes App Store and as recently as last year could still be purchased for around $5 or more. It’s a game with a long history of great releases and EA could charge that kind of coin in the infant App Store. But as EA continues to expand into the mobile space, it’s clear that the company is looking for additional ways of making money more effectively using in-app purchases.

As Pocket Gamer reports, Tetris has been reworked for the iPhone to take advantage of Apple’s in-app purchasing capabilities. Coming in at only $0.99 to purchase, the focus has been placed on social interaction and a long-term relationship with players. Tetris now tracks your lifetime stats for the game: the object is to fit different pieces together to make an uninterrupted line across the bottom of the screen from one side to the other to clear blocks. The game now tracks your lines cleared (you get more points for bigger groups of lines cleared at once), and encourages you to care about that.

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EA seems to be hoping players are not only going to be playing Tetris enough to care about their stats, but that they’ll want to pay to boost their progress through the game. In-app purchases go as high as $99 for the purchase of in-app currency called T-Coins, and EA is also pushing a subscription-based service called T-Club for $29.99 per year. It offers “exclusive discounts and content, premium Tetris Log challenges, and a booster to progress your Tetris Rank faster,” as Pocket Gamer notes.

It’s not quite the same subscription service that Big Fish Games attempted with a recent iPad app that Apple approved and then bounced from the App Store. That app would have allowed players to pay a monthly rate and then stream a number of games to their iPads over the Internet. EA also wants recurring subscription payments, but it’s going with a lower-key offering that still falls within the bounds of Apple’s terms and conditions.

The fundamental changes to the mobile version of one of the best-known titles in video gaming seem to be telling of EA’s view of the mobile sphere. The company clearly sees mobile as a big deal – it has been putting a lot of focus on the market, with both premium and low-cost titles – but this is a big push into the freemium realm with a big franchise. How successful Tetris is will likely have a big effect on EA’s future games.

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You can read what Appolicious Advisor Kathryn Swartz thinks of the new Tetris update right here.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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