The recent Electronic Arts investor call saw one of what I feel to be the dirtiest words in the modern gaming industry applied to the company’s Battlefield franchise. It is a word almost guaranteed to consign a franchise to derision and accusations of even more blatant than usual monetization. The word is annualization, and as a gamer, I have a very strong negative reaction to it.
In response to the idea being presented, Blake Jorgensen, EA’s chief financial officer, has stepped forward to offer his own thoughts on the idea. They are much more sensible than one might expect from someone in charge of the money of those investors who want annualization to make.
The challenges are you’ve got to most likely do it out of two studios because it’s hard. It’s a two-year project.
Battlefield takes us about two years to develop and so you want to make sure that you’re sharing talent across studios, so you keep [the] core talent of the product and the experience for the consumer there. You also want to be really careful that you don’t destroy the franchise along the way. You got to make it exciting and different, but at the same time you want to make sure you maintain a great franchise.
It is not often a major gaming studio discusses how long it takes to make a game as an argument against a new form of monetization. While we’ve heard talk of timetables before, it is mostly used to explain delays for a game’s release. A two-year development cycle makes a lot more sense than an annual one, even if the game can technically be put together in a single year, and Jergensen hits on all the main reasons.
He also pointed out a bit later that the game does not just sell when it is released initially, but over the full two-year timeframe, meaning selling the game annually would likely cut into its final sales numbers for the sake of getting the initial sales more regularly. It is also much harder to market for a game when it comes out every year, as the very knowledge of it being an annual release dilutes excitement.
My favorite of his points, however, is definitely where he warns about destroying the franchise. The main argument gamers make against annualization is always nice to hear worded in such uncompromising terms. Fans of the Battlefield series can only hope EA takes Jergensen’s words as seriously as they should.