EA’s 2016 E3 Press Conference continues to show Andrew Wilson’s dedication to letting games “cook in the oven”, with the company keeping their most prized possessions (such as Amy Hennig’s Star Wars game) hidden from public view. With the company presenting a few calculated surprises EA continued it’s trend of staying safe.
Battlefield 1 perfectly sums up EA’s current position – new, but awfully familiar. The multiplayer gameplay shown after the press conference looked eerily similar to Battlefield 4, just with a World War 1 skin on-top. Whilst the game featured weaponry suitable for the era, the power and historical intrigue from the single player trailers felt long gone. It’s a shame that a game which appeared to be going for something so unique, ended up being nothing more than a re-skin.
The biggest surprise was the new story mode in the latest FIFA game. Following a character called Alex Hunter, the story mode looks to give a deeper insight into the world of football and it’s impact on individual players. I’ll admit, I’m impressed. Considering FIFA continuously tops the charts in the UK (despite being the same game every year and full of micro-transactions), there’s no reason for them to exert any amount of effort in making the FIFA series better (which they have more than content to do so). Having said that I do have some concerns with the campaign. EA have a real opportunity here to tell a meaningful story to young people… people who may not have the same opportunities as others or be in a position to consume meaningful and thought provoking stories. I hope they take a chance to deal with some of the issues effecting the Working Class, as well as examine their relationship with football, something which the trailer appears to do… but I doubt EA’s intentions will go that far. I suspect the campaign will be more of an advertisement for FIFA than anything else. Hopefully EA can surprise me with something so uncalculated.
The reveal that EA will support more developers with their EA Originals label is no surprise given the success of Unravel. It’s a calculated risk. If I’m honest, I’m surprised EA haven’t attempted anything like this before. Granted, they had their EA Partners program… however this new scheme appears to be significantly more self-sacrificing, with the company not taking any of the profits from the games they publish (although there was no information about IP ownership). It’s admirable to say the least, and it’s good to see EA giving something back. Having said that, the games they appear to be publishing all look very, what I like to call, “AAA Indie”. That is to say, they look incredibly well polished from a graphical perspective and have a varnish of commercialization over them. I’m reminded of Journey, the “Indie darling” with ending credits that lasted for at least five minutes and featured more than a hundred people.
“AAA Indies” are inoffensive, and I doubt we’ll ever see EA supporting something as rough as Undertale. I do also have concerns about how all of the developers EA are currently supporting with their new label are from Sweden. The cynical side of me believes that EA is using the label to fund experienced ex-DICE members… however with no research to back that up, it’s merely speculation. Hopefully EA will diversify their developer portfolio in the future.
Outside of these two elements, the rest of EA’s press conference played it incredibly safe. There still isn’t anything substantial from the new Star Wars games EA has been working on (I suspect they’ll be released next year with Episode VIII) and Titanfall 2 looks great, with the gameplay additional of a grappling hook. Let’s just hope Respawn implement this new gameplay feature better than Naughty Dog did with Uncharted 4.
What I do want to briefly touch on is EA’s inclusion of celebrity personalities. Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dog and Zac Efron all made appearances… a very odd selection indeed. But also totally unneeded and a complete waste of money. Gamers don’t care about these people, and we certainly don’t care about seeing Snoop Dog running into a wall for a minute or two. EA should have placed more emphasis on gaming personalities (which I’m sure would have been much cheaper), with a focus on showcasing Battlefield 1 in a more natural environment.
EA’s Press Conferences are always flashy affairs… and in this regard the company didn’t disappoint. It’ll be interesting to see how EA fare over the next year, as well as see how the company grows its indie publishing plans.
You can watch EA’s Press Conference below: