Electronic Arts, Telefonica team to offer free mobile games

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Telefónica is teaming with Electronic Arts' EA Mobile division to simplify mobile game discovery and adoption across the operator's European footprint.

The strategic relationship gives Telefónica's operating business the flexibility to create customized gaming promotions spotlighting EA Mobile franchises including The Sims, FIFA and Monopoly. Telefónica's U.K. subsidiary O2 will kick off the partnership by offering subscribers who download any EA Mobile game three months of free access to all titles within the EA catalog.

Telefónica notes that O2 is currently exploring other promotions, as well as gaming subscription options. Additional Telefónica markets will roll out their own EA Mobile campaigns in the months ahead.

In February, Electronic Arts reported fiscal third-quarter mobile and handheld digital revenues of $84 million, up 25 percent year-over-year. Smartphone gaming revenues increased 70 percent over year-ago totals, while revenue from subscriptions, advertising and related sources grew to $67 million, a 14 percent spike.

While EA Mobile has historically relied on income from premium downloads, it is also one of many publishers now exploring the freemium gaming model. Its first freemium title, The Sims FreePlay, launched across Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS platform in December and eventually topped the App Store's countdown of the top-grossing iPad apps. The Sims FreePlay expanded to Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile operating system earlier this year.

Freemium mobile games are free to download but offer premium in-app transactions like virtual currency and virtual goods. Sales of in-game items will surge from $2.1 billion in 2011 to $4.8 billion in 2016, driven by a sharp increase in smartphone adoption and growing user comfort with the freemium revenue model, according to a recent forecast issued by Juniper Research.

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