In an interview with Edge, Electronic Arts revealed that in-game ads aren't as profitable as originally expected. Ben Cousins, EA's general manager of free-to-play operations, told the publication that the mega-publisher "[isn't] getting much from ad revenue at all," and that the in-game advertising model hasn't grown as quickly as people expected it to. Instead, Cousins explained that microtransactions are more profitable.
EA tested both models with its free-to-play cartoony shooter Battlefield Heroes, and while virtual sales exploded, advertisements have been somewhat of a flop. "If you think about how fast the virtual goods business has grown in the last year or so, it's been much quicker and become a much more reliable source of revenue," Cousins said in reference to Farmville, which has been wildly successful thanks to microtransactions.
EA plans to release a new free-to-play Battlefield title called "Battlefield Play4Free" next spring, which will ditch Battlefield Heroes' cartoonish graphics and allow gamers to purchase items and upgrades with real money. Play4Free will scale up to 32 players, support vehicular combat, and include popular maps from Battlefield 2 as well as the classes and factions in Bad Company 2. You can register to become a beta tester on the official site.