Concern over EA's future development
Former BioWare producer Ethan Levy doesn’t believe that Electronic Arts is in the business of making original games anymore. As we hear more and more about EA’s future plans (for instance, from the Q2 earnings call), you can easily assess that existing IPs and licensed games are the new wave of EA’s future.
Levy gave us evidence of this in his blog earlier this week. He said that he counted a total of 36 new franchises launched by EA in this console generation and literally hundreds of titles based on existing licenses. When you combine that figure with EA CEO Frank Gibeau’s statements about the out-of-the-park success of the iOS Simpson’s title Tapped Out, you have to start to wonder about the long-term effect this will have on big-budget games.
The BioWare example
Veteran gamers know that EA has a reputation for latching onto the latest gaming trend to suck the life out of it. Many fans of BioWare like use that studio’s experience as an example. As veteran gamers, we can easily compare pre-EA BioWare to post-EA BioWare. Pre-EA, BioWare would release one maybe two titles at a time -- one to show and one to go. However, once EA took over, BioWare would work on multiple projects at the same time. As interviews with BioWare employees have stated, the studio worked on DragonAge 2, Mass Effect 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and many other smaller projects and expansions at the same time. The brand slowly became diluted, and as many fans of those franchises would tell you, those titles didn’t even come close to living up to the originals -- all show and no go. This change in focus is even more exemplified by major players in the BioWare family leaving the company, including the founders Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka.
The rock and hard place
The unfortunate side of running a public gaming company is that you have to please two vastly different audiences at the same time. Number one, you have to give players what they want, which anyone with even the least amount of experience will tell you, it’s not always what they are asking for. Number two, you need to please investors so that you have money to make your gaming dreams come true. Unfortunately, you have to show investors that your product will make money before it has any substance. So you have to fall back on public opinion, which as I eluded to earlier, isn’t always what will sell.
With a number of games that have performed poorly, especially the new IPs, it’s only natural for EA to attempt to tackle low-budget, high-yield games like licensed titles and social games, which is the exact idea that brought Levy back to Tapped Out in his blog. He claimed that big brands, like the Simpsons, combined with a high marketing budgets and high production values (which usually means short development times) equals big money for EA, thus big money for investors.
Social games or epic games
The real question is "has EA stepped into the social gaming market too late?" Many companies in social gaming are starting to so a downward trend as the market is now becoming saturated. Will EA find its foothold there or is this just another money grab before the market has completely dried up? If so, who is going to make our next line of epic games? Bethesda, you might be our only hope.