How Can EA Win Back Gamers in 2018 and Beyond?
To say that EA has a bad image with players right now would be an understatement. After a year where they ruined franchises like Need for Speed, Star Wars: Battlefront, and Mass Effect, franchises that should be able to sell themselves, and yet underperformed in the market of what was otherwise a stellar year for many other publishers and developers. EA has garnered a lot of criticism over the past several years, and almost every piece of it is deserved, and with their image amongst gamers in a decline, many people might be wondering if EA can bounce back from their blunders in 2018. The answer to that is a strong maybe, but only if they can do a couple of key things in the next year.
Fix Battlefront II
One of the first things EA can do to improve their image is fix the game that finally broke the trend for micro-transactions, Star Wars: Battlefront II. The game was heavily criticized for seeming like a pay-to-win model despite being full-price, and having a progression system tied to making players pay more money just so they can play as Darth Vader. There is nothing wrong with locking characters or weapons behind progression or pay walls, but there needs to be a reasonable way to unlock characters in-game, and using credits is not the worst way to do it. The problem is having the credits to unlock characters in loot boxes. EA needs to change that by having loot boxes work like Overwatch and only have things like skins, character emotes, and taunts. EA can also create different ways for players to unlock characters and weapons like many other games do, like using the model of different player levels or achieving different functions (winning 20 battles as the Empire unlocks Emperor Palpatine).
They are rolling out the Last Jedi DLC, which is free as promised, but they need to have more. They should release more story, more modes, maps, and most importantly, add in Galactic Conquest. The main game mode that everybody loved from the original games is something that needs to be brought back. Just having that could even give a resurgence in purchases and cause old fans to come back to the series.
Fe and A Way Out Need to be the Creative Endeavors Advertised
In the terms of money makers for EA these two will not be the biggest blockbusters, but both are intriguing, nonetheless. They could be a way for EA to fix their image of being a publisher that controls developers, but instead lets them have creative freedom. These games could not be any more different based on the way they function: Fe from Swedish developer Zoink looks like a beautiful, peaceful cross between Metroid-Vanias and Zelda, with a new character that could be in the running for cutest mascot of the year.
On the other hand is Hazelight Studios’ A Way Out, a two-player cooperative story-driven game that seems to be personal and potentially dark in the way it tells its story. The game has even been confirmed to come with a second copy code because a second person is required to play in order to do anything in the game. These two games could be huge when looking at EA and how they can restore their stance as a creative company. It also helps that EA releases these two hugely creative games early this year, with Fe coming in just a couple weeks on February 16th, and A Way Out launching on March 23rd.
If these games do well and are the critical successes they’re set up to be it could lead to strong partnerships between the two studios and EA. This will create more hype for their future and have more strong studios to work with further. It will also create new and exciting IP for gamers to sink their teeth into. Hopefully, EA won’t do what they have done with other studios: Sink the studios after having minor issues with development.
Do Something New with the EA Sports Titles
This is a weird idea, as admittedly there are only so many things a developer can do with sports titles. Yet, the EA sports games like Madden and FIFA seem to have gotten stale in comparison to other games like NBA 2K and The Show. Much of the fan base has expressed a lot of fatigue over how the two franchises (Madden and FIFA) have moved, many saying that the games have not changed in over a decade. There are some big issues as well. For example, when a player in Madden throws the ball, they better hope the CPU can catch it while being hit, which is not likely. It can be frustrating when Antonio Brown goes up to catch the ball and doesn’t come down with it because he was grazed by the defender who couldn’t even reach it. This is very unlike The Show, a game that is also on the yearly schedule. Players come down with amazing catches over the back wall consistently, not every time because that would be unreal, but enough to be said that the catching mechanics actually work.
EA sports will kick off the year with UFC 3 on February 2nd, and will probably show a lot of the same bugs as before. For example, fighters not controlling well and missing punches on the other fighter right in front of them. While the games have all been moved to the Frostbite engine from Battlefield, which delighted fans because the games looked archaic, it did not hide the huge issues of game play and how poorly the career modes work. Maybe the games could take a page from 2K and add in the chances of sponsorship and contract negotiation to make the game more realistic and more fun for the players when in the off season. There has not been a lot of information on FIFA or Madden, but they are sure to come this year, and maybe, they could finally have something new.
Make Battlefield 2018 and Anthem Great
Sure, Anthem has been delayed until next year, but that does not change the importance of that game for EA. They have to learn from every mistake made with Battlefront II like, progression and microtransactions, and make this game-world and story completely original and encompassing for the players. This is the game that many people think killed Mass Effect after all, and that means this game could either be a revival of Bioware since EA bought them, or the end of it. This game cannot just be a Destiny clone; it has to be something that beats Destiny in the world of MMO shooters with RPG elements the old Bioware was known for. The delay to early 2019 needs to be used well to develop a game that is near-perfect, and could be a contender for Game of the Year, because there is that much hype for it.
For this year, the multiplayer game that EA banks on every other year is Dice’s Battlefield series. While there is not a lot known about the game, EA has to know that the microtransactions in the series cannot be anything like what they imposed in Battlefront II. Whether its Bad Company 3 or not, the game has to be enough to win back fans, and there have been rumors that it could be a World War II game, to follow up the excellent Battlefield 1 from 2016. EA should know after their interference with Battlefront II to just let Dice do what they do best, and that is make a great shooter that runs well and is a blast to play. The difficulty of the series cannot be lost, and they need a new Battlefield that does not just do what it always has, but redefines it.
EA has a lot to do in the next year, but a lot of issues simply come from their need to add micro-transactions and loot boxes into games. They don’t need to take them out, and aren’t expected to as they have become a part of the gaming landscape, but making them less of a central focus for the games will steer them away from the games as a service model they have been running under. EA needs to start thinking as a company who is creative and then people will buy their products, because the number one thing that sells a game is the fact that it’s fun.