“It’s not just an EA challenge, it’s an industry-wide challenge,” says EA CEO Andrew Wilson.
EA has constantly been moving away from traditional launch practices with its video games for years now, which is evident in the publisher’s adoption of purely live service-style titles at the cost of single player experiences. The company’s practices will be changing in other respects as well, as they look to experiment with “soft launches” for their major releases going forward.
Speaking at their recent investors call, EA’s CEO, Andrew Wilson spoke about how the changing landscape of the industry is resulting in changing publishing practices as well. As per Wilson, as games have gotten bigger and bigger – both in terms of content and the number of people playing them – EA has restructured not only development and QA models of projects, but is also going to start launching them differently, choosing to go with “soft launches” similar to the way things are done in the mobile market.
“The reality is, it’s not just an EA challenge, it’s an industry-wide challenge,” Wilson said. “You’re moving from what was initially a BioWare game which would be somewhere between 40 and 80 hours of offline play to 40 to 80 hours of offline play plus 100 or 200, 300 hours of elder game that happens with millions of other players at scale, online.”
“As games have gotten bigger that system isn’t working as as well as it has done in years gone by,” he continued. “So what you should expect from us is that it’s not just about changing the development processes in the game, it’s not just about changing the QA process in the game—although both of those things are being changed dramatically inside our organization right now—but it also comes down to changing how we launch games.
“You should expect that we’ll start to test things like soft launches—the same things that you see in the mobile space right now. And it also comes down to changing how we communicate with players. Our entire marketing organization now is moving out of presentation mode and into conversation mode, and changing how we interact with players over time.”
With the direction EA has reportedly taken with the upcoming Dragon Age 4, which they want to see developed as a live service title, and the direction they’ve taken with Battlefield 5, it certainly seems like they’re moving more firmly down that route.
The only exception to this seems to be Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which is out later this year and will be a completely single player game free of any microtransactions. We can expect to hear more about it at E3 next month.