Electronic Arts continued the microtransaction fueled free-to-play direction for the Battlefield series today with the open beta release of PC title Battlefield Play4Free.

A more realistic take than 2009's Battlefield: Heroes, Play4Free similarly lets players participate in basic 32-player shootouts without laying down any money. Dedicated players can use real money to purchase additional Battlefunds -- the same in-game currency used in Heroes -- to purchase upgrades to characters and equipment.

At a GDC presentation last month, Ben Cousins, who recently left his role as general manager of EA's free-to-play focused Easy studio, said the company aims to make Play4Free "the Western world's biggest free-to-play client game."

Cousins also outlined how Heroes' introduction of paid weapons that provided players a small but distinct advantage caused the game's average per-user revenue to shoot up, despite vocal complaints from some players.

"There seemed to be a disconnect between what they were saying -- 'I will leave and never spend a penny' -- and what they were doing -- sticking around and spending a lot of money," Cousins said of the change.

Last month, EA announced Battlefield: Heroes has attracted 7 million registered users since its June 2009 launch.

In February, EA announced a distribution deal with BigPoint putting games on the company's Play4Free label in front of BigPoint's 175 million registered users.



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