For EA, its sports games are its ultimate cash cow. Minimum effort, maximum gain; these titles are trotted out annually with a few minor upgrades and the token roster changes. The question of whether to just release patches rather than new games has come up many times over the years, but now EA is genuinely considering dropping annual releases in favour of annual updates or live subscriptions.
EA Sports’ outlook essentially boils down to games as a service in its purest form. When question on whether FIFA could abandon yearly releases, EA CEO Andrew Wilson told Bloomberg "the short answer is yes. There's a few different things that have got to happen first. We do a lot in a FIFA game every year, and a lot in a Madden game. There's a lot of code that we make available as part of the new iteration.
"But when we look at what we do in Korea or China, we don't do it that way. There, every four years we release a new big code drop, and we offer incremental change over time.”
That sounds an awful lot like EA is considering dialling back on the major annual updates, potentially even shifting to a subscriber model. “There’s a world where it gets easier and easier to move that code around -- where we may not have to do an annual release,” Wilson goes on to say. “We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service.”
EA’s encouragement for this month likely comes from proven success with the formula in Asia, combined with an increased proportion of digital sales and microtransaction revenues. To EA, the appeal of buying a complete game in a fixed state is done and dusted. Instead, updates and roster changes could be delivered via regular updates, paid for through monthly or annual subscriptions. There’s also the insipid possibility of EA charging per update. Want the latest Man City team with their new summer signings for the 2018 season? $5, please. At this stage, nothing seems off the table for EA, aside from releasing a $60 game without microtransactions that is.
What are your thoughts on this? Would you be willing to pay an annual subscription for a constantly update FIFA game? Or do you prefer the traditional model of forking out $60 for a new game each year? Let us know!