It's not a good week for Electronic Arts and its mobile division. Fresh on the heels of its unpopular scheme to turn the iOS version of Tetris into an annual subscription title comes news that EA and PopCap have decided to yank the existing Bejeweled 2 + Blitz title off of the App Store and replace it with a standalone Bejeweled 2 title and a freemium Bejewelled Blitz title. Anyone who owns the existing iOS version of the game will have to buy the new version in order to get the new features; the existing app will not update to the new iteration. Here's Joey Davidson over at TechnoBuffalo explaining the outrage and how this wasn't all EA's call, but PopCap's.
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.
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.
EA and PopCap are on such a slippery slope here. I used to believe that EA knew how to do mobile gaming properly (see the fantastic iOS versions of Mirror's Edge, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, and SimCity), but it looks like the company is headed in a new direction that alienates and overcharges customers in the name of increased profit. The gaming community really needs to stand up to these practices and reject them. I know that voting with your wallet or purse is a cliché, but if we band together to say no to being charged twice for the same content on the same platform, perhaps we can hold back the tide. Let's not allow another horse armor situation.