EA, I Think It’s Time We Saw Different People
Hi EA, it’s me. You don’t know me and that’s perfectly fine.
For a long time, I’ve played your games and enjoyed them, yes even Mass Effect: Andromeda, and to put it frankly: I was a fan of yours.
But lately you’ve been incredibly off-putting and I think it’s about time we had a chat about a recent statement your Chief Financial Officer, Blake Jorgensen, made about the reasoning behind Visceral Studio’s closure.
Ultimately it was an “economic decision” and as I’m not a financial officer like Blake Jorgensen I’ll take his word for it. And you know what? I one hundred percent believe that it was to do with money, yes. That’s not my problem.
My problem lies with the sentence “linear game(s), that people don’t like as much today as they did five years ago or ten years ago.”
Well, you see, that’s where you’ve lost me.
The Last Of Us Says Hello!
The Last of Us is one of the most linear games I’ve played (not including Final Hallway- I mean Fantasy 13) and also is one of the best games I’ve played. Ever.
The replayability of the game just, well, it startles me each time how much I want to play it even after I’ve finished it. The story is sublime, immersive and heart-wrenching and you know what? It just makes me feel. I am so emotionally invested in The Last of Us and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way, especially considering the anticipation of The Last of Us 2 reveal during Paris Games Week. There are more than a fair few fans out there who want to dive into the newest story and find out what happened with Joel and Ellie. To become invested once more in their storyline, that is if they ever stopped being invested!
So what does EA mean when they say they don’t do as well as they used to? If, and this is a guess, they mean in terms of fan reaction then I can’t help but completely disagree with them and wonder why they’ve become so out of touch with the fans that play their games. Looking back at more linear titles from EA like Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2, the Dead Space series, Portal… These games were linear and so very well-received by players to the point that other developers have looked at these series and wanted to make something just like them: a game that triggers excitement and passion from their fans that doesn’t have a short shelf-life.
People still play these games. People still talk about these games. People still gush and make lists and form friends and loved ones from a common love for these games! And these games are all under EA’s influence (not including The Last Of Us, of course) so, why have EA decided that these sort of games don’t seem to matter to them anymore?
Money! Money! Money!
When EA says ‘linear doesn’t do well’ I cannot help but hear the words ‘multiplayer’ and ‘microtransactions’ echo back at me. If a game has multiplayer the value of said game rises due to this little thing called replayability. Everyone knows this, the players know this and EA especially knows this. Players will, if they so choose, sell their games back to a retailer if they don’t see themselves needing to play the game again because they’ve seen everything they want to. And thus, linear games with no multiplayer or microtransactions of any sort is a direct threat to what EA wants, economically that is.
If I put myself in their shoes I can somewhat understand it. Replayability is key to what keeps a player coming back to a game in the first place, and with said player coming back time and time again the chance of using the microtransactions involved in that multiplayer also rises. It’s basic probability, and its what makes it so hilariously obvious what EA’s problem really is.
‘Single player linear games don’t sell’ aka EA can’t keep making a profit off this kind of game and therefore if they don’t see the value in it, well they don’t expect the players to see it either! So say goodbye to your linear, single player game unless it has some sort of multiplayer attached to it, with microtransactions to boot!
Am I being dramatic? Probably.
Do I really, really think EA are just saying that linear games don’t do well in an awful attempt to cover up the fact they’ve lost their grip on reality with the people who they sell their games to? A HUGE YES!
What EA Needs To Realize Is This…
Their target audience is constantly changing, just as they have to in order to keep up with the demand of what gamers want from them.
One thing that doesn’t change however is that people are different. We’re called individuals for a reason and what one person likes another person will hate and vice versa, and the time one person may be able to spend on a game another person couldn’t possibly do because sadly not all of us are able to play video games for a living.
Not all of us have time to become involved in these huge but beautiful open world games, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, some of us actually prefer these linear games that don’t take over 40 hours to complete. As I’ve argued in my previous article, bigger does not always mean better and ‘linear’ should not be seen as a dirty word in this industry, something Cory Barlog, the director of the new God of War also agrees with. Linear does not mean less, in fact more story can be involved with linear games than open world, making for a more memorable experience.
And honestly, sometimes games just work better as linear. Portal wouldn’t have felt the same if it was in an open world, neither would games such as Prey and Dishonored. If anything, the openness would have arguably taken away from the story, and the reaction of fans would not have been as positive as they have been for these games.
So, To Put It In Context
EA doesn’t think linear games do well because they can’t monetize them for profit in the future. But you know what, you won’t be able to monetize multiplayer games either if the game, in particular, does not suit the audience it is intended for. Or in EA’s case, there are added features that are a direct insult to the player’s integrity.
So basically, if a game is bad then, well, it’s bad. Doesn’t matter if it’s linear or not. Which sounds simple enough really, and in reality, it is simple. But it’s also something I feel like EA just doesn’t want to understand, because if they did?
They would have to admit they were wrong. And with everything that EA has been saying in order to cut their losses? I just don’t think that’s possible.