EA’s closure of Visceral Games and the subsequent reboot of its unannounced Star Wars project sent ripples through the gaming industry last week. In a relatively candid statement, EA’s Patrick Söderlund admitted they were pivoting away from single-player, story-driven experiences, towards games “that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come.”
Unsurprisingly, many fans weren’t pleased by EA’s seemingly endless greed, and now ex-BioWare developer Manveer Heir has spoken out against his former employer. Heir worked at BioWare Montreal during the development of both Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect Andromeda, assisting with the multiplayer aspect.
Chatting to Waypoint Radio, Heir said EA (and other big publishers in general, “only care about the highest return on investment. They don't actually care about what the players want, they care about what players will pay for. Those are subtly different things."
In the interview, Heir really lets fly at EA, signalling that the rise of microtransactions and the addition of often redundant multiplayer components are destroying the experiences for single-player gamers.
"This is definitely a thing inside of EA. They are generally pushing for more open world games, and the reason is you can monetize them better,” Heir went on to say. “The words EA use are ‘have them come back again and again.’ Why do you care about that, EA? The reason you care about that is because of microtransactions--people buying card packs for the Mass Effect games in multiplayer, etc. That's the same reason why we added multiplayer to Mass Effect 3, right? To get people to keep coming back to a thing to ‘just’ play for 60-100 hours."
While the ‘pivot’ for the Star Wars game is still unknown, it seems assured that EA is either going for the open-world or multiplayer approach. Or, indeed, both. For both of these genres, it’s much easier to shift microtransactions and loot boxes, rather than single-player, linear, story-driven games which demand better balancing.
Loot boxes have become a major source of income for the big publishers, supplementing the rigid $60 pricing structure with a neverending streaming of randomised goodies. It's not a tactic that works on plenty of gamers, but there must be fair few so-called 'whales' out there to justify this tactic.
"You need to understand the amount of money that's at play with microtransactions," Heir goes on to say. "I'm not allowed to say the number but I can tell you that when Mass Effect 3 multiplayer came out, those card packs we were selling, the amount of money we made just off those card packs was so significant that's the reason Dragon Age has multiplayer, that's the reason other EA products started getting multiplayer that hadn't really had them before, because we nailed it and brought in a ton of money. It's repeatable income versus one-time income.
"I've seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards."
You don't need to look far to see EA's newfound approach. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is absolutely riddled with loot crates with better gear, snuck in the via the trojan horse of free maps and modes. FIFA and Madden thrive off their player packs and Ultimate Team modes, and BioWare's going full Destiny with Anthem. The likes of Mass Effect and Mirror's Edge are firmly in EA's past, rather than its future.
There's obviously an audience for EA's new approach, so are you up for more open-world and multiplayer games from EA? Or should there be room for story-driven, single-player experiences also? Let us know!
Source: Vice Waypoint Radio