EA is one of the largest powerhouse publishers around, helming some of gaming’s best selling franchises. But as of late, there seems to be a large chink in this much-hated company’s armor and its most recent success only makes it that much more visible to gamers worldwide.
ANTHEM’S NOT SO CATCHY TUNE
With one glance at gaming headlines in the last couple of weeks, I believe I can say without controversy that Anthem has been a disappointment. Both commercially with its sales and critically, Anthem has been a complete flop right out of the gate with unofficial physical sales being around 50 percent to that of Mass Effect Andromeda. Even with its interesting concept, I–and I’m sure many others– was wary of the game leading up to its release. Even with the last game Bioware released being the panned Mass Effect Andromeda, the most worrisome aspect of Anthem to me was its entire format.
Bioware had suddenly taken a hard right from being a story-telling focused RPG developer, releasing revelations like Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic to putting out a third-person open-world live-service game like Anthem. But it isn’t hard to see a guiding hand behind that. Live-Service games as a medium seek to keep a fan-base for years while being monetized to keep making money for the company (something we’ve seen with Destiny and its publisher Activision), and it wouldn’t be the first time EA has led a studio into shifting its focus into what EA thought would be more profitable. Before EA closed the doors of Visceral Games, the beloved studio behind Dead Space, the last game they had actually put out was Dead Space 3. With pressure put on Visceral to put up bigger sales numbers, Dead Space 3 marked a shift from atmospheric horror to co-op action-adventure. But a cult horror was never going to put out the numbers desired… so here we are now.
RESPAWN’S SECOND LIFE FOR EA
But it isn’t all dark skies and rain at the offices of EA due to their recent success with a surprise underdog. Between the critical and commercial failure of EA’s biggest series in Battlefield, Battlefront, and now Anthem; an unknown free to play game, Apex Legends, was the one to steal people’s hearts. Apex Legends was Respawn’s (the creators of the underrated Titanfall series) response to the battle royale genre, who also made a large risk by skipping the EA marketing and its potential drama. This strategy obviously worked since Apex Legends recently hit its 25 million player milestone in just a week and its 50 million in under a month. But within a candid interview Respawn also revealed something crucial to the success of their project: EA’s Hands-off development.
In an interview with Game Informer, Respawn’s Drew McCoy talked about EA’s hand in development, stating, “Not to be throwing EA under the bus, but this wasn’t the game they were expecting. I had to go to executives and show it to them and explain it and … not convince but more ‘Hey, trust us! This is the thing you want out of us.” This surprisingly worked for the studio and they were given permission to do their thing. And the results speak for themselves.
Though seeming rife with possibilities of monetization, Respawn was focused on making a game that was fun to play, and being upfront about their strategy. Fun is something that will drive a player base and the profit. This approach is something that sits much better with fans over a full-priced live-service game with a full price tag and incomplete development (you can quote me on that). EA would be wise to take note of their own successes.
A NEW AGE (HOPEFULLY)
The past couple of years have proven to be record-breaking and huge for the gaming industry as a whole. However, there have also been growing problems within the largest parts of the industry that have been becoming more and more prevalent. Publisher involvement has lead to rampant monetization strategies, rushed products resulting in incomplete and bug-ridden games, and uninspired ideas. Within the past year, this has caused huge controversy in the handling of Star Wars Battlefront 2, Call of Duty, and even the now hated Fallout 76. This problem has spiraled and the popular phrase “speak with your wallets” either hasn’t been working or people haven’t been speaking; until now.
Activision giving Bungie the rights to Destiny due to lack of profit!
The latest broken games put out by EA’s largest franchises not only coming back with a negative critical reception but low sales!
In this new gaming landscape, an unprecedented move by EA to let a developer create on their own may just have proved to the giants that there is a better way.
Cheers to the future of gaming