Okay, as you know, I try to have this blog reflect my diversity of interests and as video games are now were a lot of really interesting things are happening in Science Fiction and Fantasy (& one could say Horror, with the explosion of VR and non-VR Horror titles), it is safe to say that I devote quite a bit of time to video games on this blog.
However, some may have noticed that I’m not talking about some of the games that I profiled earlier in the year from EA even though two of them have been released: Need for Speed Payback & Star Wars Battlefront II (2018). This is because EA has lost their focus as a company and I’m not really interest anymore in the product that they are producing.
Let’s Talk About Audience
So this is going to be about micro transactions, right? Well, yes and no. EA has been trying to walk a fine line for a long time. They want to publish video games and make a profit by having more people buy them than it takes to make them. However, they’ve increasingly wanted to appeal to their shareholders with business strategies that are designed to get more money, but not through games. They had a program called Project Ten for a while, designed to get customers to pay ten dollars more for “Deluxe/Enhanced/DLC/etc” for their games, before that it was Season Passes, and so on. They were the publisher who partnered with Microsoft to make the original Titanfall game an X-Box One exclusive (even while the console was “going down in flames” due to its original “Always On” conception & restrictive used game policies). In the past month, EA has cancelled a Star Wars game, shuttered a Studio, and included micro transactions in two of its flagship titles (one of which it has “temporarily” rescinded). All of this is great news to shareholders, but horrible news for gamers–the people who actually purchase games. Currently, EA seems to feel that they’re number one job is pleasing the shareholders and not their core audience. Not a great move.
The “Mass Effect Andromeda” Effect
So, I realized what happened after I bought the game Mass Effect Andromeda for full price when it was first released. I reasoned, “yes, the reviews are lackluster, but this is a seminal “brand” for them–they wouldn’t completely mess it up or they would destroy their fan base. They would have the same care of the ME brand as Disney had for the Star Wars “brand” after they bought it from George Lucas. We’ll, Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware). The game was a buggy mess that was mediocre at best. Yes, it ran, but not well–from glitches, to frame rate issues, to a storyline that started strong, but meandered and filled with quests and side quests meant to pad the length of the game–it was a huge disappointment. I linked to it before, but below is a video of a longtime Bioware/ME fan who quit the game out of frustration for such a disappointing effort.
Why did this happen, you might ask? The answer was simple: the game just needed 6 more months of development time. However, six months would have put it into the window of Star Wars Battlefront 2 (which is releasing now). They can’t push that game because of the movie (The Last Jedi) which opens in month, but also they have Anthem coming down the line, and so they chose to release something that wasn’t ready and sell it at full price.
I personally finished ME:A–my completionist nature at work–but I decided that, while I would still buy games from EA, they would now receive the lowest consideration on my part, to be bought only when I bought/played all the other games I was interested in playing. It will be at least a year based on school and other games in the queue before I get around to purchasing an EA game–and I’m okay with that–and that’s the problem.
Between that experience and the micro transactions, EA has proven that they care not a whit about me as a gamer and as a consumer. They prefer their share holders over me, so I’m content to wait. The whole goal of a company is to produce products that an audience loves and will purchase again and again–Apple, anyone?–not to try to dig extra money out of your audiences pockets through tricks and manipulative schemes, so that your numbers look all rosy at the next Investors’ Conference Call. You can’t make “moon-calf” eyes with the angel while dancing with the devil.
As someone who has bought games from EA, back when they originated (heck, I even remember when Trip Hawkins founded the company and have some of the company’s newsletters from that time period) and they produced games like: Starflight (the “original” ME:A back in the day), Skyfox, and The Bard’s Tale II from the company’s inception, all the way into adulthood, I feel that EA is missing the point by chasing the fickle investor who will dump their stock like a ton of bricks no matter what EA does the moment EA’s dividend doesn’t meet with their expectations. EA needs to get its priorities straight and until they do, I’ll buy games from other companies that still seem to “get it.”