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The State of Electronic Arts

It’s everyone’s favorite publisher! Right? Okay, joking aside. . . I’m actually pretty concerned about Electronic Arts. I know they have terrible practices and whatnot, but their future looks quite grim. Their stock price went from nearly 149 dollars to below 80 dollars and it’s still dropping. Investors are infuriated with EA for releasing an incomplete Battlefield V that looks to be a financial failure. Their corporate obsession stifles creative liberties of their developers and forces the best talent to crunch out a AAA game every single year. Recent acquisitions of Respawn Entertainment frightens me as a gamer. The same developer that produced one of the best first-person shooter campaigns of this generation is releasing a major Star Wars game next year, and we know jack shit about it. I can’t believe I have to ask this question, but what the hell is happening at EA?

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Gamers aren’t just angry. Angry gamers still buy the games they claim to be angry about (we’re kinda stupid that way), but tired gamers are the true kryptonite for a game developer. When your own fans just don’t want more of whatever you’re producing, that’s a clear sign of some dreadful issue that needs to be addressed. EA claims to take a step forward by leaving Battlefront II-like microtransactions in their future games, but they only changed the bonuses to cosmetics. The economics largely remain the same and their games demand you pay cash to truly get some cool skins. FIFA is a whole other can of worms. FIFA 19’s microtransactions are so awful that several countries began investigations into the legality of them. While not all have concluded against EA, that doesn’t quite change the fact that creative stagnation and worsening economics pose a grave threat to this corporation.

 

Let’s look at EA DICE. They’ve released Battlefront 2015, Battlefield 1, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Battlefront II, and Battlefield V all within three years. They currently have only 640 people as their core studio. I get that there’s outsourcing, especially for a massive company like EA, but this would clearly cause exhaustion from the development teams. In fact, I’m certain that’s what’s happening. Battlefront 2015? Underwhelmed at launch. Battlefield 1? Also underwhelmed. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst? Piss poor sequel, barely worth 5 bucks on PSN. Battlefront II? That too underwhelmed. Battlefield V? Severely underwhelmed. Can this studio just take a break already? We don’t need an undercooked Battlefield game every other year. The investors are starting to get exhausted as well. The homogeneity of DICE’s games damages their image as a once-beloved developer and transforms them into a studio more tired than their fanbase.

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One would think acquiring more studios could alleviate overworked development staff, so EA’s Respawn Entertainment purchase should be a positive change for the company. On the contrary, there’s issues already emerging that extinguishes much of the excitement surrounding Respawn’s future projects. Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order is releasing next year and we have seen no gameplay whatsoever other than a name drop and a vague premise summary at E3 2018. That’s not a sign of confidence from EA. It has also been reported that EA has commissioned Respawn to make a third Titanfall game in the same year, thus creating a narrative that the studio is juggling with two massive games. Unless Respawn has undergone a substantial expansion, any layperson would think Respawn is being strangled by EA given the fact we know next to nothing about a Star Wars game that’s less than a year away. I doubt it would be single-player focused considering their mistreatment of Jade Raymond and Amy Hennig.

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What happened to those two women anyway? Weren’t both of them supposed to be making big single-player games to diversify EA’s portfolio? Well, EA decided single-player isn’t a financially beneficial option for them anymore, opting for a more service-based multiplayer model instead. As a result of this new strategy, Amy Hennig has been removed from her directorial position and the development team she headed was shut down. The corpse of the game will be built by EA Vancouver under a completely different philosophy\. No longer will gamers get an Uncharted-style Star Wars game despite the idea sounding like a multi-million seller. Jade Raymond left EA Motive and also won’t supervise the new IP her studio was crafting. EA replaced her with the EA Mobile studio director, effectively veering the unannounced game in a different direction.

 

There HAS to be some light at the end of the tunnel, right? Isn’t Bioware making Anthem, a new original IP from the Mass Effect team? That does sound promising and the game’s visual presentation and gameplay both look jaw-dropping. However, the Bioware we used to know of a decade ago is a mere skeleton compared to the beast the Bioware is today. Anthem will take notes from the likes of Destiny and puts story in the back-burner while focusing more on gameplay. A risky move, especially from a name such as Bioware. Regardless of this new direction, Bioware does have plans on pursuing Dragon Age after Anthem launches, which appeals to Bioware’s core fanbase. Even though Anthem represents an unfamiliar face of the Bioware fans knew and cherished, it still holds the potential to unleash a new franchise plenty of gamers will happily embrace. Some gamers remain uncertain, which is a healthy response and their voices should be heard by Bioware. However, we should accept change once in a while, even if that change does appear similar to various trends the gaming industry has set in the past few years.

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Electronic Arts has been the common villain of the gaming community and oftentimes it’s for good reason. They have a history of gobbling up beloved icons of the industry and defecating unrecognizable leftovers of their banquet. Perhaps their latest acquisition of Respawn and changes with Amy Hennig’s Star Wars game and EA Motive’s new IP and the altered path of Bioware surprises naysayers, and people will applaud the efforts by the publisher. Honestly, I have my doubts and it’s pretty clear EA cares little about their fans and talent. They don’t see Amy Hennig’s Uncharted trilogy as a creative endeavor for them to capitalize upon. They just see however many millions those games sold and how much more they could make with an exploitative economy system. Just look at their reaction to Battlefield V’s disappointing launch. Did they respectfully address the genuine criticism lifelong fans have of the franchise and promise to do better, or did they stay narrow-minded and claim their detractors are just sexist basement-dwellers? Unfortunately, it was the latter and they gleefully keep digging their own grave.

 

For full transparency, I don’t care who’s on the cover of Battlefield V. My main issue with Battlefield V’s controversy is the absolute tone-deafness DICE and EA exhibited leading up to launch. EA chose the side of people who don’t care about video games and just want to declare some kind of political victory instead of listening to the concerns of the fans. Even casual fans admit that the Battlefield franchise pays attention to historical context and realism to immerse the player in, well, the battlefield. Most people who played it agree Battlefield V doesn’t feel like World War II and feels more like an expansion of Battlefield 1. What launched was an incomplete corpse of a Battlefield game and gives fans more of a reason to just stick to Battlefield 4. You can argue that EA will add more content down the road later, but their 2019 plans look so barren. The biggest update seems to be the battle royale mode in the spring, but even that has big boots to fill as Call of Duty Black Ops 4 offers probably the best battle royale mode. EA rushed out yet another Battlefield game, but what damages them most is their general disdain to the backlash.

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Of course you had sexist comments on YouTube and Reddit, but you need a very narrow lens to claim the main source of criticism is the fact women exist in the game and nothing else. There is so much wrong with Battlefield V and EA knows damn well about it and they don’t care. They willingly disregard angry fans as hateful trolls so they look like heroes when they ‘call them out’. Because they took this strategy, gaming publications and some industry pundits will claim the weakened sales of Battlefield V is the community’s fault. The ‘entitled gamer outrage’ strikes back again with the socially progressive Battlefield game. EA had a kind-hearted nature behind the release of BFV. We just need to accept undercooked games because they represent overlooked groups of people, right?! This is #EveryonesBattlefield!

 

I focus on BFV because it’s most representative of this core issue of this company. They overwork their development teams which results in half-assed products at release, their consumer relations reached a new low with their recent track record of games and behavior, and their future plan is to double down on their flaws. They’re losing stock value because they’re not corporate enough. They have to move away from what the gaming community wants. Gaming enthusiasts don’t buy EA games, so who cares about them? Clearly, they need to appeal to investors and no one else. This strategy is short-term and could kill EA if they persist in this. . . well, it could take a few decades for them to file for bankruptcy, but you know what I mean.

 

I want Anthem to be successful, as well as whatever Respawn’s Star Wars game is and even the restructured Amy Hennig game. However, these games have to demand my hard-earned dollar and locking away cosmetics in stupidly intense grind seasons won’t cut it. I want to witness new worlds and enjoyable gameplay in addition to a worthwhile story. Will I ever get that in EA games? Most likely not from the looks of it. I’ll probably stick to Sony with that type of content or another publisher that understands quality. Hopefully, EA will have different management and steer towards the right direction. Maybe. I don’t expect any good from EA these days and I can only see them worsening.

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It’s disheartening to see EA, a publisher that used to support genuinely fascinating projects a few years back, turn into a tone-deaf machine that clogs their ears and glues their eyes shut to their business malpractices. Legendary talent such as Amy Hennig will be ignored because EA doesn’t see a business venture in her ideas. Not every game needs to be a massive revenue expansion. In fact, shouldn’t the games alone act as an instrument for profits? Why not focus more on unique, quality games that strive to push the gaming medium forward instead of pushing the patience and tolerance of gamers to their limits? Instead of antagonizing their critical fans, why not engage with them and try to embrace their thoughts into future ideas? Personally, I find nothing redeemable in this company and it hurts to say that.

 

This isn’t an issue of greed anymore. It’s an issue of poor business decisions. EA’s non-sports games are underwhelming investors and they’re hurting themselves with this innate opaqueness they have been exhibiting for years. What would their solution be? Well, it’s simple. Listen to what gamers want. Of course, I’m not suggesting the gaming community is infallible when it comes to smart business decisions, but alienating your core base is probably the stupidest decision you could make. Gamers want a complete game with no obnoxious microtransactions, as well as a satisfying story and gameplay. It shouldn’t be too hard to deliver that demand, but for EA, they want to appeal to their shareholders by getting the biggest bang for their buck right this moment. Fortunately, this year is a reminder to EA that investors don’t really care about intricate monetization models, they just want blockbuster hits that make millions of dollars.

 

We’ll see what happens. EA and Activision seem to be duking it out in terms of which publisher is the worst this year, with Bethesda delivering a final blow with Fallout 76. With all these shitty publishers damaging their employees and franchises in addition to their image, it’s hard to find publishers that genuinely care about what they’re making and who they’re making it for. Well, that’s where I come in. I’m going to list every single publisher I think is worth your hard-earned dollar to support in my next article so watch out for that.

In the meantime, what do YOU think about EA? Are they overhated, hated the perfect amount, or do you see them turning a new leaf? Please let us know in the comments below and have a happy new year!

One comment

  1. Robert says:

    “Muh exhaustion.” Yeah clearly EA is slave driving them it’s not like countless other dev/publishers cough cd projekt red cough Rareware didn’t work their employees far more brutal schedules for close to a decade with delivery and expectations exceeded.

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