Update: Since drafting and publishing this story, one of PopCap’s employees has taken to Twitter to clarify a few things. Jeff Green, PopCap’s Director of Editorial and Social Media, has stated that this move was planned by PopCap a long time ago, and that gamers should not blame EA.
Further, Green explained that the company wants to stop numbering Bejeweled iterations and make the new Bejeweled 2 home for all updates. I asked him why they didn’t just name the game Bejeweled 3 or ditch the numbering altogether, and Green replied stating that there was a lot of internal debate around that issue before this news launched. He went on to say that PopCap will still be discussing it today.
Original Story: Bejeweled 2 and Bejeweled Blitz, the popular 60 second variety of the same game with crazy power-ups, were, up until today, originally sold together on the iOS platform. Gamers would buy Bejeweled 2 + Blitz for one price and get both games in one, single package.
EA announced that PopCap was now a division of the company last week. One of the publisher’s first actions since revealing that news was the pulling of Bejeweled 2 + Blitz from the iOS App Store. EA will now be selling both titles separately.
Bejeweled 2 will cost just as much as it did when it included Bejeweled Blitz, sans extra content. Bejeweled Blitz, additionally, will now be sold under the freemium model. You’ll be able to download the game for free, but EA will be charging for special bonuses and content … much like the Facebook equivalent of other PopCap games.
Bejeweled 2 will feature new ways to game. Here’s the word, according to the press release:
Initially, the all-new Bejeweled features popular game modes, eye-popping, enhanced high-res graphics, plus new, optimized gameplay, including:
- New high-res graphics and retina display support
- 3 game modes: Classic, Zen (featuring 6 ambient sound tracks and 6 mantras) and Diamond Mine
- In-game leaderboards to track personal high scores
- User profiles with gameplay statistics and 30 PopCap icons to personalize the experience
- 7 achievement badges with 4 levels each (bronze, silver, gold, platinum), plus 3 elite badges
- A player ranking system
Bejeweled Blitz will also have some new features, though these are less…exciting. Also from the press release:
The freemium edition offers the same riveting 60-second game action, just as in the original Bejeweled Blitz experience, but now adds a number of new features, including:
- An entirely new and irresistible user-interface
- The Daily Spin feature where players try their luck to get bonus coins
- A fun new tutorial system to help get new players moving up the leaderboards as quickly as possible
- Retina display support and more
Gamers, consumers and writers around the net have taken this news with a wave of anger. The consensus is that EA has moved in on PopCap in order to make money on content that was once part of a single price. They’ve elected to apply the freemium model to a game that, frankly, doesn’t need it. What’s more, PopCap’s library of software is among the best in the mobile gaming space. You can bet Bejeweled 2 is just the first of many games to get this freemium play overhaul.
Oh, and the real fun for gamers? If you already purchased Bejeweled 2 + Blitz and you want to take part in this new roster of features, guess what … You’ll need to buy the game again. You are not grandfathered into the experience if you owned the original iteration of the game.
A friend and former co-worker at another publication expressed the frustration this brings beautifully on his own blog. Geoff Calver noted that EA is pushing into dangerous territory. The sentiment he shares that sums up why you should be upset:
Imagine if this happened with Mass Effect. What if, suddenly, EA decided the only way to get Mass Effect 3 was to digitally download it. And what if, after a couple of weeks, EA decides to release a new version where you have to pay real-world money to get upgrades and weapons? And the kicker? You have to buy the new version. You aren’t grandfathered in to downloading the new version simply because you bought the old version. Nope. You have to buy it all over again…
This, folks, is why we should be afraid of digitally purchased content. We may think we own it when we buy it, but our fate is in the hands of publishers. And, honestly, they’re not doing much to demonstrate that we should trust them.