EA intends to release large, paid-for demos in an effort to measure a game's popularity before release. If enough copies are sold then the publisher will confidently produce full-scale boxed products for shops.
That's what analyst-supreme Michael Pachter said he was told by Visceral boss Nick Earl last week.
"Mr. Earl revealed a strategy to release premium downloadable content (PDLC) as a product for sale prior to the release of a packaged product," Pachter, who keeps an eye on the games industry for Wedbush Morgan, wrote in a note to investors (reported by GamesIndustry.biz).
"The PDLC [premium downloadable content] would be sold for $10 or $15 through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, and would essentially be a very long game demo, along the lines of 2009's Battlefield 1943. A full-blown packaged game would follow shortly after the release of the PDLC, bearing a full retail price.
"Mr. Earl believes that the release of the PDLC first limits the risk of completing and marketing the full packaged version, and serves as a low-cost marketing tool," he added.
Pachter then explained to GamesIndustry.biz that these large, paid-for demos would manifest as a short version of a game, although he wasn't sure how this would be included in the boxed product.
"Think about Battlefield 1943 as the prototype," he said, "so a full (but short) game experience for a reasonable price. At the same time, an expanded version of the game will be under development for release as a packaged product.
"The idea is that if the PDLC gets favourable reviews, it will build word of mouth for the boxed product. If the PDLC has issues, they can tweak the packaged product to address those issues, improving the final product before release.
"It actually sounds like a great strategy," he added. "Again, I don't know if they intend to include the PDLC in the packaged product, but my guess is that they won't. I think that the PDLC will be a 'prequel' to the full game, so that they can keep selling it after release of the full game."