In a major departure from its traditional business model, E.A. plans to announce that it is developing a new installment in its hit Battlefield series that will be distributed on the Internet as a free download. Rather than being sold at retail, the game is meant to generate revenue through advertising and small in-game transactions that allow players to spend a few dollars on new outfits, weapons and other virtual gear.

At a conference in Munich, the company intends to announce that the new game, Battlefield Heroes, will be released for PC this summer. More broadly, E.A. hopes the game can help point the way for Western game publishers looking to diversify beyond appealing to hard-core players with games that can cost $60 or more.

Players can pay not only for decorative items like shoes and jerseys but also for boosts in their players’ speed, agility and accuracy. The game industry is booming worldwide, largely on the strength of two trends: a demographic expansion of the gaming population beyond the traditional young male audience and the rising popularity of online play.