Welcome to Third Person's (timely) coverage of E3 2017. We'll have a podcast for each press conference going up soon, as well as usual weekly roundup on the conference as a whole and our thoughts. Be sure to check out the other articles and podcasts and let us know what you think! (Editor's Note: Having your editor in chief get very ill right as E3 ends is bad for #content.)
We just witnessed the quintessential Electronic Arts (EA) E3 press conference: sports, Star Wars, Battlefield, Need for Speed, more sports, and some new IP sprinkled in for good measure. It wasn’t flashy, but if maintaining the status quo was EA’s goal, it worked. Despite some cringe-inducing moments courtesy of Jesse Wellens of PrankVsPrank fame, the press conference managed to be straightforward, clean and games-focused.
But apart from announcing Hazelight’s co-op only, prison escape game A Way Out and Bioware’s Anthem (supposedly the Bob Dylan of video games, whatever that means), it was utterly underwhelming. There was no mention of Visceral’s Star Wars title helmed by Amy Hennig. No mention of a new Dragon Age. We would only hear about known properties for much of the show.
EA made sure to spend ample time on their annual money-makers: Madden, FIFA, NBA Live and their newest hit franchises Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefield 1. All of which are now being powered by DICE’s Frostbite engine – which I only mention, because it recently came to light that applying Frostbite to games outside the first-person shooter framework can be extremely problematic. All of these title updates look fantastic. Star Wars Battlefront II (which dominated more than 40 minutes) is visually stunning, and seems to be answering many of the concerns expressed by players of the first game. There will be a single-player campaign this time around, more maps, and map content will be free.
Looking to tick their buzzword boxes, almost all of the titles presented had some sort of esports. or player generated content component attached to it. All of the sports titles are being accompanied by esports competitions and leagues. EA is even tweaking Battlefield I to make it a more attractive esports title via a smaller scale, team-based versus mode.
We can’t fault EA for sticking to its guns. This is the house that Madden built after all, and there are shareholders to be pleased. However, I had hoped to see a little more in the way of new and exciting projects that put gamers first (particularly those that might tune in to their press conference). A Way Out, Anthem, and Star Wars Battlefront II’s free maps are certainly a step in the right direction, but this presentation didn’t do enough to inspire confidence in a publisher struggling to shed its reputation as being anti-consumer and, notoriously, the “Worst Company in America.”
Electronic Arts started off E3 this year with, well not quite a bang, but more like one of those sparklers you burned yourself with when you were little. EA brought their “B” game, and showed us more of what we expected.
While some games made a splash, I found the lack of some EA properties more surprising. The lack of Skate 4, Dragon Age, The Sims (or SimCity), numerous Star Wars games, including the one from Jade Raymond’s new studio or Visceral Games, made the press conference fairly lackluster. For a developer with a powerful roster of IP, EA seems to fall back on their stable sports games, driving games, and Bioware with some regularity. I think this is fairly indicative of AAA game as whole, and EA gave us a glimpse into the status of the industry.
With no mention of VR, and a small roster of games, we're increasingly seeing large game publishers stick to a small handful of titles that, in many cases, seem to lack content at launch (see: Destiny, Star Wars Battlefront). Game development is an expensive prospect and, while the market is large, in 2017 the revenue stream is heavily fractured in multiple ways, with freemium games, mobile games, early access titles, and games as a “service” cutting into the traditional revenue model.
EA is a large company and is slow to shift, unlike smaller indie developers or small studios/publishers, it takes a bit for them to turn with the tide, and 2017 is a stopgap year for EA. 2018, I think, will be much bigger for the publisher, but until then we have sports and racing with a couple unique titles to tide us over.
There isn't much left to be said about EA that wasn't said above, and as someone who doesn’t care for shelling out AAA prices for the newest sports titles every year (the sporty-est I get is Rocket League), there wasn't much there for me. As mentioned by Colin, EA is too big to be agile in its message and position, and this has become problematic to the point where they are but a reactionary entity, trying their hardest to emulate successful titles from other developers. The games they do release are lacking in content. They follow these stripped down releases with archaic and ridiculous DLC pricing models. That said, I‘m excited for Star Wars Battlefront 2 to release big, loud, and full of content, seeing as how the first game was essentially an extended multiplayer beta.
As big and clunky as EA is, their bigness affords them incredible staying power. They’re almost too big to fail. So, faced with the probability that EA is here to stay for a long time, despite their slightly tone-deaf approach, I might as well remain optimistic.