Tuesday, 18 August 2009

[Guest Writer] Why I Love EA

The following article has been written by a Mr Ben Taylor, a good friend of mine who has kindly sent me a couple of articles to pop online. This particular one talks about a certain major player in the videogames industry, who over the years have recieved a fair amount of flak... How times change..



Why I love EA

There was a time in my youth where EA would bring forth feelings of derision and disdain in my young mind. I viewed them as the scourge of videogames, dispensing of heart and soul for capital, releasing the same game year in, year out; Fifa being the main culprit, along with Need for Speed. I remember the heartache I felt when I found that EA had bought Criterion, and braced myself for ‘Burnout 7: Low Rider Destruction Tour’ , where you played Jean Claude Van Damme and had to fit your low rider with guns and blow up the other pimps, as all the ho’s would flock to you. It was very similar to Burnout 6: Sizzle Pimps.

How wrong I was. Burnout 6 instead has been a forerunner in how to really work download content. Giving content away for free to entice the player to keep playing, then using that trust to ease the fanbase into paid content, culminating in the creation Big Surf Island, a place that is big enough to be a game within itself. It has also shown publishers how to combat the pre-owned market, giving away content means people hold on to their games, a method which is now being employed by all the biggest games, at least on 360. Gears, Halo, CoD, Fable and Fallout have all trickled through the download content, following the path set by Burnout Paradise and EA.

The two games I mentioned at the start of this have also been given new impetus thanks to the turnaround at EA. Fifa is finally the king of the soccer game. Anybody who says Pro Evo is still better hasn’t played Fifa 09. Fifa, although not the first to do it, as good as gives you two games in the box with its excellent Be A Pro mode, and is the first Fifa to dip its toes into something I feel will be incredibly important going forward. You can opt to have one league have its players skills improved or diminished based on how they are performing in real life. One league is free, any more and you have to pay, a very fair deal. I foresee this as the future of sports games. Small updates to the game and transfers done real time based on a subscription model. Fans given the option of either a 1200 MS point fee to update all the players and add the new tweaks to the game but keep the same front end and visual engine or to buy the new retail game at £40. If you want to play against the players with the new game you can update your older version. Madden is already plotting a course with a similar method and I feel it will be a success, EA setting the course for the rest to follow.

Need for Speed is also going through the changes. Back when Criterion was bought who’d have thought that they’d end up being a team working on one of 4 Need for Speed SKU’s including an online only game.

Spore would never have been funded by any other publisher. The Sims would never have existed, let alone 3 iterations. And Henry Hatsworth would be a drawing in the back of a Maths book.

What other company has the gall to release two massive ip’s at Christmas, one with an untried game mechanic. Dead Space and Mirrors Edge didn't perform as expected and I really hope it hasn’t put EA off trying new ip’s as Dead Space is phenomenal and Mirrors Edge, when it’s clicking and you’re not stop/starting with gunplay, is exhilarating.

EA have also recognised the diminishing returns of games. They have recently dumped the Godfather license and the Lord of the Rings license, stating that no more games will be made from those licenses.

Listening to the 1up podcast it was hypothesised that Command & Conquer 4 would be the first major PC game without a retail version, something that I wouldn’t bet against.

The irony regarding my youth was that I was a Nintendo fanboy. A company that has left its major core franchises with so little breathing space. Metroid is now being made by Team Ninja, Mario had to go into outer space for refreshment and Zelda, well, and I don’t think we’ll be seeing Zelda for a while. Zelda has become so stuck in its ways and it will take a major over hall to become in any way relevant to modern gaming.

I don’t know who initiated the turnaround in EA’s outlook but I’m glad it happened. I think it could have been influenced by EA’s biggest publisher crown being passed to Activision, giving them more reason to innovate but whatever it was, I’m glad it happened.