In a major departure from its business model, Electronic Arts today is announcing work on a new installment in its hit "Battlefield" series...

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In a major departure from its business model, Electronic Arts today is announcing work on a new installment in its hit “Battlefield” series that will be distributed on the Internet as a free download.

Rather than sold at retail, the game aims to make money through advertising and small in-game transactions that allow players to spend a few dollars on new outfits, weapons and other virtual gear.

“Battlefield Heroes” will be released for PCs in the summer. EA hopes it will lead to Western game publishers looking to diversify beyond appealing to hard-core players with games that can top $60.

EA’s most recent experiment with free online games began in 2006 in South Korea, the world’s most fervent gaming culture. It introduced a free version of its FIFA soccer game there, which generates more than $1 million in monthly in-game sales.

Players can pay not only for items like shoes and jerseys but also for boosts in their players’ speed, agility and accuracy.

With “Battlefield Heroes,” EA hopes to bring that basic system of “microtransactions” to Western players, along with increased advertising.

Gaming is booming, largely due to popularity beyond the traditional young male audience and to online play.


Employers pay more in relocation fees

The ailing housing market is forcing employers to pay more to get employees and new hires to relocate for work.

Workers are reluctant to move over concern they will sell their homes at a loss.

Fourteen percent of employers say they’re more willing to pay relocation expenses compared with last year, according to a joint survey by and, and conducted by Harris Interactive.

The survey included 2,417 hiring managers and 5,727 employees, and had a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

When asked how much they’d be willing to spend to relocate an employee, 40 percent say more than $1,000. One-third is willing to spend more than $2,500, and one in 10 is willing to spend more than $10,000.

Sears Holding

Overhaul to create independent units

Sears Holdings plans to set up independent units to run each of its business lines as profit declines for the third straight quarter.

Each unit’s performance will be overseen by a group of executive advisers, Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite said Saturday.

The company has Lands’ End clothing stores and sells Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances and DieHard batteries at its Sears and Kmart chains.

The decision follows Sears’s disclosure last week that fourth-quarter profit may drop more than 50 percent.


Shows go online, no additional charge

HBO, cable’s most popular premium channel, is entering the arena of Internet video.

The channel, a subsidiary of Time Warner, will introduce HBO on Broadband this week to subscribers in Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wis., then spread the service slowly to other parts of the country.

The free service will allow access to about 400 hours of movies and original programming each month. It will be available only to HBO subscribers and marketed and delivered through cable operators.

The CBS channel Showtime, the second-most popular premium cable service, with half as many subscribers as HBO, has sold some original series through Apple’s iTunes Store for the last two years.

China Eastern Airlines

Sincerity doubted of Air China bid

China Eastern Airlines said it “doubted the sincerity” of an offer from Air China’s parent to buy a stake of at least $1.9 billion, renewing hostility to a deal with its larger rival.

“It’s informal and doesn’t conform to legal procedures,” China Eastern said late Sunday.

Air China’s parent offered to buy up to 30 percent of the carrier in cash through a Hong Kong unit, Shanghai-based China Eastern said in a stock-exchange statement today.

A combination with China Eastern would give Air China, the world’s largest airline by market value, a hub in Shanghai and a dominant position in the world’s second-largest aviation market.

China Eastern’s management opposes a deal, preferring to revive a combination with Singapore Airlines that was vetoed by minority shareholders earlier this month.

Compiled from The New York Times News Service, USA Today and Bloomberg News