I meant to post my first impressions for the Atlas demo that I played during the VIP weekend a couple of weeks back, but I couldn’t come up with enough ways to say “buggy mess” and “technobabble laden” while talking how the gameplay was actually kind of fun. I sort of gave that plan up when I hit a game-breaking bug and couldn’t finish the last step of the demo quest, and give the (not at all) official recommendation that you wait until they prove they know how to do any of this before you buy it.

But EA today gave me another reason to post about them, and it wasn’t even how they’re not making Titanfall 3, but instead released a totally unique concept game in Apex Legends. If the sarcasm wasn’t clear, it’s just a F2P Battle Royale game that doesn’t include any of the things that made Titanfall, you know, Titanfall. No… it was some disappointing financial news that they’re only likely to make $1.1 billion in net revenue this fiscal year. I know financials aren’t something we normally cover, but the bad behavior of AAA studios has been a thing here lately.

They put the blame on this on a number of things… curiously, most of those things also happen to be things that people have been complaining about with EA for years. Their mobile stuff underperformed because people didn’t go for the cash-in titles that were mockeries of classic franchises like Command & Conquer, or like how they made the Madden Mobile even worse to sell microtransactions (which, again, people didn’t want or purchase).

Based on statements they made, EA isn’t likely to fix the complaints of their customers anytime soon. Battlefield V fell short of their expectations by about a million units, and they put the reason on it not having a feature that few people were really asking for:

[EA CFO Blake Jorgensen] blamed the drop in the [Battlefield series’] uptake by the developers’ focus on a single-player campaign, as opposed to having a promised battle royale mode ready for fans in time for the game’s launch.

Battle Royale is the latest thing, with everyone wanting to be the next Fortnite (ignoring all along how there’s already a Fortnite and the people playing it have no reason to leave). On top of that, Call of Duty already launched theirs, and EA just launched another BR game in Apex Legends (said F2P titanfall game), and has Anthem coming in a couple weeks.

I mean, those are technically three different games, but they are certainly adjacent. They’re shooters, and all trying to be the next big Live Service game. And there’s a point where time is just as big of a factor as money. These games have a lot of crossover in their audience, so I’m not sure how EA is expecting to sell the numbers they do by just slicing off a piece of what is probably a fixed size pie. And the press release is full of failing to monetize effectively (you know, vs. making good games).

Fun fact, if you look at the top ten selling games of 2018, pick out how many are multiplayer only with Battle Royale modes:

  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4)
  • Super Mario Party
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (PS4)
  • God of War
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Let’s see… there’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (and by most account, the BR mode in that has died in favor of the more traditional multiplayer). Smash and Mario Kart are certainly multiplayer games… Mario Part is more of a Co-Op title. I mean, Red Dead Online is a thing, but that’s not why so many people (including myself) bought the game. God of War, Let’s Go, and Spider-man are all releases this year and single player. The old titles, Mario Odyssey and BotW… are single player.

Okay, snark aside… what’s frustrating here is that EA is capable of doing so much more. They own Bioware, but Anthem isn’t going to be their saving grace here… maybe Dragon Age 4 will be great but I’m seriously worried. There’s no reason that the Star Wars game, Fallen Order, being worked on by Respawn (apparently between not making Titanfall 3 and making Apex Legends)… EA has yet to make a good Star Wars game. I mean, I like Respawn, Titanfall 2 was a severely underrated game, but EA turns everything they touch to poo at this point.

I guess at this point maybe we can just acknowledge that EA isn’t going to make any good games. Just new monetization strategies, and then wonder why people don’t fall for them as much as they’d like. But, I guess enough do that they still make a disappointing billion dollars a year.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve decided to give Anthem a chance, because I really really enjoyed the gameplay and look of the game, plus it feels similar enough to Destiny that I feel I will enjoy it (looter-shooters are my niche apperantly), but the fact that it’s owned by EA is what has me very very cautious about it

    • A bit longer than my hot take up above:

      Gameplay wise, it actually feels really good in a certain fashion. Movement is fantastic, flying around is pretty fun, and your special and alternate attacks are legitimately fun.

      Now, take the rest of this with the qualifier that I only played the demo, and only the first weekend. They’ve said that they’ve tweaked and changed things, but to what extent is unknown…

      The actual feel of your guns is underwhelming. Enemies are huge bullet sponges, and it never felt like upgrades to my gear or abilities made any sort of difference. Worse, how their loot cycle works is nonsense. You don’t know what a drop is until you complete the mission. You go back to the hub to equip it, and then have to start another mission or their free mode to see if it’s any good. And if it’s not, you’re stuck until that mission ends. For a looter-shooter, that’s just bad design.

      The mission in the demo was a three-step process, but every step of it was just a copy paste: run from here to here, click something, wait and kill some waves of enemies. Go here and do it again. And then kill something bigger. Go back and do it again. Now go solve some puzzle. There wasn’t anything at all distinctive or interesting about it.

      More than anything, though, the loading times in that game are incredibly frustrating. We’re talking multiple loads and transitions per level, you’re in a rubberbanding loop when you are waiting for someone else. Also, the central hub is an exercise in frustration that is aggravating, especially given how nice combat is.

      You have very little freedom on paths or track you take. The actual world design is very three dimensional… but you feel very much on rails. Story-wise, the game feels… dull. The demo might be a bad representation of this, since it starts you out after the tutorial phase, and goes on to explain absolutely nothing… but it’s just a bunch of technobable and nothing about it felt compelling.

      I will never recommend pre-ordering a game like this especially given EA’s track record… but it might be something really fun to play in a month or two when they get some of the stuff ironed out. Gameplay wise, it’s pretty good, but there’s enough “yeah, but…” for me that I’m giving it a pass until they prove they can do it.

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