Analyzing EA’s Move From Single-Player to Multi-Player
In 2017, EA made the decision to pull their resources away from single-player games and focus more heavily into multiplayer and games as a service experience. They used Mass Effect Andromeda’s poor sales and consumer reaction as an example, cancelled their linear-looking Star Wars game that at one point had Uncharted series creator Amy Hennig at the helm, and closed Dead Space studio Visceral Games.
More recently, they’ve been subjected to government investigations over their Loot Boxes and whether or not it falls under gambling. They could be Kinder Eggs though? Two years later, we’ll take a look and see if EA made the right decision or if they bet on the wrong horse.
The three major multiplayer releases EA has produced since this new company focus have been: Star Wars Battlefront 2, Battlefield V, and Anthem. Each one has been a colossal failure for the company, both financially and critically.
Battlefront 2 was met with intense consumer backlash due to it being littered with microtransactions and loot boxes that encouraged an insane amount of grind that was very time consuming. They patched it several times, but each new outward improvement held hidden tweaks that made the whole thing null and void.
Battlefield V was more consumer-friendly in terms of unlocking content, but contention between developers and consumers lead to poor sales.
Anthem had a combination of the above, but also lacked any sort of real content for players to invest in.
With Battlefront 2, EA said that they simply got it wrong when concerning implementations of loot boxes, with Battlefield V it was a matter of poor marketing and development delays, and with Anthem it was lack of content and bugs. EA stubbornly refuses to see that they’ve chosen the wrong route, or at least have made the wrong decisions on the path they’ve chosen.
EA is forward-thinking when it comes to consumers and would rather have them locked into one product or service for as long as possible than to continue to release new experiences. They’ve been open with their desire to move gaming into the service realm and entered the free-to-play market with Apex Legends.
Apex Legends has been vastly better received because of its free-to-play elements, emphasis on cooperative play, and its different take on the Battle Royale market. With that said, the company seems to now want to once again enter the single-player market with Star Wars: The Fallen Order, which has gotten positive feedback from gamers and may be less linear than originally thought with leaks and rumors calling it a Metroidvania-style game with planets that can be explored. But, what about that original belief of EA’s? Are single-player games, primarily linear ones, an unsuccessful market to release into?
Once again, EA is wrong.
Capcom proved them wrong this year alone with their extremely successful releases of Resident Evil 2 and Devil May Cry V, both fairly linear games that are single-player focused.
Resident Evil 2 sold 4.2 million as of March 31st and Devil May Cry V sold 2.1 million in two weeks. Neither game had any loot boxes or microtransactions that were either necessary or encouraged and affected the experience. Resident Evil 2 offered free DLC and paid, optional, costumes. DMC V gave players the option to buy souls to expedite the unlock process, or to continue when defeated. Neither game had the true marketing machine that EA owns and Capcom never verbally spared with gamers over any apprehension or disagreement they held with the games.
Back in 2018, Detroit: Become Human hit 2 million on PlayStation 4 alone and an even less known single-player game like Vampyr hit one million sold. These are just the more linear single-player games; there are others that are more freeing that have sold far more. For example, God Of War on PS4 passed 10 million in a year.
Now, that’s not to say success is impossible for multiplayer-only games. Also, EA could have been right in their hypothesis had they focused more time on providing ample content into their games instead of gutting them and looking for inventive ways in draining players of even more money. Anthem only had one real competitor launching in the same timeframe of release and that was Ubisoft’s The Division 2.
So, why was The Division 2 more successful?
The two games aren’t that different. Both are online-focused cooperative experiences that have you putting tons of hours into them to unlock better gear and take on harder challenges. The Division 2 respects its player base and makes unlocks more frequent and doesn’t overprice their microtransaction currency. Also, the game has content and more variety in what to do. It turns out that The Division 2 is the better experience of the two, and in this case, I bet on the wrong horse. Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 outperformed Battlefield V because they took into account player feedback and offered a variety of modes for players to play. It has content.
We all figured EA was, and would be, proven wrong in their assessment that there was no real financial gain in continuing to release single-player games. I don’t think anyone could have predicted how badly they would fail in their multiplayer focused initiative, but EA can find success in both realms if they start respecting players and earn their trust back by delivering complete games with content. They must also be willing to be open to player criticisms and to stop forcing monetary focused schemes on gamers. They own a lot of great IPs that are primarily single-player experiences that can find a ton of success if they do them justice, such as Dead Space and Dragon Age.