Friday thoughts – Are EA really all that bad?
Brace yourselves guys and girls. It’s a Friday afternoon, there’s naff all happening here at work and I feel like typing up a bunch of incoherent thoughts. Having spent quite a lot of my time on Neogaf and various other forums recently, today’s subject is something I have been considering quite a bit: EA, are they really as bad as we, the gaming community, make them out to be? Broken Games When you consider the recent botched releases of Battlefield 4 and Sim City, the immediate go-to answer for a lot of you is probably a resounding, “yes”. That is a completely fair judgment as both games, BF4 in particular, were simply not in a finished state when they were pushed out the door. The result was a sea of angry, disappointed gamers who felt robbed of their hard-earned cash. Much like a TV or a car, if you buy a video game, you expect it to work the day you hand over your money, not 6 months later after numerous attempted fixes. It’s important to remember in those situations however that, ultimately, EA only publish the games. Indeed a large amount of the finger pointing should probably be aimed directly at the developers who put the games together. DICE openly admitted during the BF4 fiasco that they really struggled to bring the game over to X1 and PS4, particularly with regards to the 64 player Conquest multiplayer mode. To me, if they were struggling with this aspect of the game, they probably should have cut their losses, stuck to smaller lobbies on the new consoles and just focused on delivering a polished, working product, albeit a scaled down one. Yes, it would have been a little disappointing to see PC gamers having all the 64 player fun but at least my copy of BF4 would have worked when I put it in my Xbox One. Downloadable Content The other thing that EA usually catches a lot of flak for is their love of downloadable content. DLC is by no means a new concept but it has really taken off over the past few years. While pretty much every game features some sort of DLC these days, EA are very keen to shove it down our throats as much as humanly possible. The question is though, ignoring how it is executed for a second, isn’t DLC exactly what we as gamers want? To me, there is nothing worse than buying a £50 game, burning through it in 5-6 hours and knowing that game is then done unless I fancy replaying it to mop up some achievements. When done right, DLC acts as great way of keeping games interesting for much longer, particularly when you look at things like Season Passes and Expansion Packs. Sure, I’d agree that locking away a £2.49 character skin behind a paywall is a bit cheeky, but let’s be honest that sort of stuff is completely optional and doesn’t affect the actual game whatsoever. So long as I don’t have to cough up £7.99 to see the final chapter of Dragon Age Inquisition, I really don’t see the harm in EA trying to secure a little after-sales revenue. The same goes for micro-transactions; I’ve played PvZ Garden Warfare and Dead Space 3 and, while both of those games feature this payment model, I see them as nothing more than optional extras for people who want to take a few shortcuts. Perhaps the reason I’m OK with DLC is thanks largely to my Wife. Let’s be clear, she is not a hardcore gamer. Sure, she’ll fire up Rayman or Borderlands from time to time but it’s safe to say most of our gaming expenses are because of me (sorry Wifey…). Instead she will spend most of her gaming time playing The Sims, a series which has always been supported well after launch with various expansion packs and add-ons. She has invested hundreds of hours into The Sims 3 since its launch back in 2009 and still happily plays it today, saying the new add-ons keep bringing her back. To me, if an occasional £9.99 expansion can keep someone interested in a game for 5+ years, that is DLC done right and offers far greater value than the various £49.99 games on the market which can be finished over a weekend. Butchered Sequels This is a tricky one. Whether we as gamers like it or not, the industry is changing. The budgets for new releases are incredibly high and niche titles just don’t sell anymore. Shooters sell, sports games sell, everything else gets left behind. It’s sad but it’s true. While it seems a little defeatist to just accept this new trend and follow the herd, at the end of the day EA are in this industry to make money and have therefore made changes to some of their franchises over the past few years. When compared to their originals, Mass Effect 2/3 and Dragon Age 2 were far less RPG-focused, while Dead Space 3 had all of its horror elements removed. I’m sure some of these changes were developer decisions but I would imagine EA basically said to them “make these changes to your next game or it won’t sell”. It’s all well and good getting angry at EA for making these changes but really the only people we can blame are ourselves. If people went out and bought more of these unique games, the developers/publishers wouldn’t be faced with this “change or go bust” dilemma. Looking at the games in my library I’m certainly guilty of this one; I see the likes of FIFA, Call of Duty and Titanfall but I tend to rent the more niche titles these days, something of course that doesn’t really benefit the developers/publishers at all. Sorry guys! Final Thoughts Overall, I cannot help but feel that the main reason EA gets so much hate directed at them is because they are a constant reminder of how the industry is changing – “don’t shoot the messenger” if you will. They remind us how games need to sometimes be rushed out the door in order to avoid other big-name titles, how they need to include DLC and micro-transactions to claw back lost revenue due to second hand sales and how they need to follow a “cookie cutter” formula at times or risk being a commercial failure. It’s the way the industry is going at the moment and many choose to blame the companies rather than the consumers who are steering the ship in that direction. Most importantly, putting that all that crap to one side for a second, I actually like a lot of EA published games. From big name titles like FIFA, Titanfall and Battlefield, to smaller games like Peggle, Plants vs Zombies and Shank, these are some of my favourite games over the past few years and I’m glad EA are still such a strong force in the games industry. Not to mention upcoming games like Star Wars Battlefront and Mirror’s Edge 2! There, I think that’s all my verbal diarrhoea gone for now, back to work! Dave – NGXN