The rise of consoles, the steep hardware requirements, and the ever-increasing cost of development have all put a dent to the PC as a gaming platform, making it increasingly difficult for developers to make money in this business. EA has long supported the idea of in-game ads, using the Microsoft-owned Massive to make a few extra bucks off its titles, but the giant game publisher is also willing to test other new, internet-based business models.

Specifically, the company has announced a version of its popular Battlefield title that will be distributed free online, making money via advertising and item transactions. Called Battlefield Heroes, the game will be a cartoon-style shooter that apparently looks very much like Valve’s Team Fortress 2. The ads will be displayed only within the game’s front-end (menus and loading screens) and website, which should keep their interference to a minimum.

This won’t be EA’s first venture in free, online distribution of games. Two years ago, it introduced a free version of its FIFA football game in South Korea, which generates a whopping $1 million a month of ‘in game’ sales. Battlefield Heroes is scheduled to be released as a free download in summer this year. No doubt many other players in the gaming industry will be watching EA’s strategy closely.