EA may not have been able to charge every Battlefield 3 player for reloading a clip in the game, but they've found ways to come up with the next best thing: charge you to rent servers and play online. What's more is that they're furthering the push for fewer official servers and more player-rented servers.
Destructoid reports that the reason EA has been behind the rented player servers so much for Battlefield 3 so that they can slowly exit from hosting their own servers, while still making money on people who continue to play the game online. The rented servers went live back in April and now, just barely a month later, the company is backing down their own servers in promotion of the user-rented ones.
According to Game Informer the servers haven't gone anywhere, even though gamers seem to be having a harder time finding the official DICE servers, with a spokesman offering the following explanation...
DICE is not shutting down servers. If DICE-managed servers appear unavailable, it is because they have been rented and customized by players. DICE will continue to add servers and will reserve a percentage of servers for players who prefer to connect through DICE-hosted servers.
The "dangerous precedent" now lies with the potentially good and bad of this situation: The good is that gamers can keep a game alive with their own rented servers, the problem is that it's quite costly, at $30 for 30 days. As you can imagine, someone paying for a year's worth of a rented server just dumped $360 into EA's coffers. Even though EA says that the servers haven't gone anywhere in their response to Game Informer, according to VentureBeat they report that only 17 official EA servers are still active for the PS3 version of Battlefield 3, which may incline more and more gamers to rent a server for Battlefield 3 if it looks like the number of official servers are dwindling. It's interesting because this is already coupled in with the game's online pass and the microtransaction cash shop EA opted to include as well.
Many unassuming gamers will probably respond with "Well, it's better than them closing down servers for good like Battlefield 2, EA Sport's MMA or Dragon Age II." However, that's not really the case here, it's not about them shutting down servers early but removing any expense on their end and dumping it on the consumer's end. That's right, now we're paying to keep their games running, after paying to own the game (or if you got it used, paying to access the multiplayer). I'm sure a lot of people don't see the harm in this, but EA is slowly offloading more and more expenses onto consumers, probably to make up for the bloated marketing spending.
I always imagined that the rented servers were just supposed to be optional means to setup serverside administration rights and rules, and cater the game to the host's server rule-sets, just like when hosting a dedicated server on most PC games. However, it never dawned on me (or apparently the rest of the community) that EA would eventually evaporate the presence of their own servers and promote user-rented servers in their place. Effectively, it's a good business strategy to further milk consumers on a product they already paid for.
Much like with day-one DLC, I'm pretty sure we can expect to see more rented servers appear for future EA multiplayer games.