EA’s E3 press conference had fires to put out from a year resplendent in PR catastrophe. They had some telling things to say about their plans for software development and monetisation strategies in the future. Here’s a quick summary of everything that they said on the stage at the biggest game convention of the year.
Battlefield V from Dice is getting two big new features. Destructible environments and a Battle Royale mode, or as their copyright conscious lawyers made them call it (probably) a Royale mode. However, the biggest cheer of this announcement was for a feature that won’t be making an appearance. Loot boxes. A trailer was shown but no gameplay whatsoever.
Origin Access Premier
A subscription-based service for PC Gamers that will allow you to play all of EA’s upcoming releases at launch.
The World Cup is coming to FIFA and they are continuing with their dedication to Friday Night Lights style storytelling in their games as shown by a new cinematic trailer. Then there was a huge section dedicated to Madden world champion wasshisname. Seriously, I’m not looking it up. This was a weird direction to take the conference in.
Jedi: Fallen Order
No gameplay. No screenshots. Not even a logo. Jedi: Fallen Order’s title and title alone was announced by a dishevelled looking Vince Zampella, who looked like Andrea Rene had just waylayed him. Reeking of damage control after the news that the Amy Hennig Star Wars game was cancelled in favour of a more game-as-service style multiplayer experienced was ripped apart by the community and even started a ‘are-single-player-games-dead’ type conversation in the media, Respawn (whose Titanfall 2 campaign was so good it made me angrier Titanfall 1 didn’t single-player at all), were trotted out to essentially restore consumer confidence in the brand. ‘Don’t worry guys. We know what we’re doing with this one, we swear!’
The Clone Wars
The Clone Wars are coming to Battlefront 2, as EA desperately tries to win back the goodwill of the fanboys who shouted so loud about their grievances with the project, Disney actually listened to what they had to say. No trailer as yet, but a list of playable heroes was rattled off including General Grievous and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as their biggest ever map, Geonosis.
Unravel 2 the sequel to the 2016 indie game that charmed everyone’s socks off the last time it took to an EA stage. It looked so endearing it tricked everyone into thinking EA might just have hearts. No wonder those little puppets look like devils. Anyway, this new addition to the series comes complete with co-op, a greater emphasis on action-packed platforming sections, a more cinematic art style and is out right now.
Sea of Solitude
By far and away the most interesting announcement of the night, and very much in keeping with the new EA tradition of one intriguing EA Original each year. Sea of Solitude was spoken about with passion from its art director, the enthralling Cornelia Geppert. The solitude of the sea, they say, drives men mad. But in Cornelia’s world, it turns them into monsters. Studio Jo-Mei are keeping details under wraps right now to avoid spoilers, but the vibe is certainly of the horror variety right now. Have a look for yourself.
Command & Conquer: Rivals
One of the most contentious points of the conference, the biggest gameplay demo of the day wasn’t given to a Star Wars game, or Battlefield or Anthem, it went to a free-to-play mobile game that tries to trade in the legacy of a beloved franchise in order to cash in on the lucrative RTS market on mobile. Public opinion has been dour on this one, to say the least, as using the C&C name to chase the Clash Royale dollar is not what fans of the series were hoping for. There have even been whispers of comparing it to the hated Dungeon Keeper Mobile. Not a good start for this game’s press cycle.
Anthem was the big new hope for EA to make more money than god with loot boxes in a perpetually evolving gaming experience that would make logging in habitual. Now, EA use it to try and save face after a year of PR disasters that had the company labelled as predatory from several international government institutions. Introduced with a developer panel that was less about informing the public than calming their fears, the devs talked about the dedication to story, simultaneously reminding them of why Bioware became such a big industry name and that you will be fine playing this one on your own, without the pressure to form groups and schedule your life around the game instead of the other way around. Unfortunately for me, my worst fears were realised. I can barely differentiate this from Destiny. From the numbers pouring out of your enemies wounds to the delivery of the voice actors having that distinct Ghost vibe, this game loses me more and more every time I see it.
This wasn’t a show for gamers, that much is clear. Barely any gameplay from their tentpole franchises, rather they have chosen to present their games, not through the prism of the player experience but the avenues it opens up for revenue. Madden was used as an excuse to show how prepared they are for the future of e-sports, Jedi: Fallen Order was used to desperately show they aren’t squandering the Star Wars licence and Origin Access Premier lets the shareholders know they are always on the forefront of developing new and different revenue streams. No, this wasn’t for us at all. But then again, I can’t see the shareholders being too impressed either. No Star Wars footage at all. Even the Battlefront announcement is so devoid of key art they have only one avatar out of the four they announced. Thier Madden champion was a cocky little shit in desperate need of some humility and their developer panel was nothing without context.