“I’ve seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards.”
The sudden cancellation of EA Visceral’s Star Wars single player game, as well as their abrupt closure, last week, was major news- especially since it was accompanied by rumblings that EA was less inclined to support single player story games over games with multiplayer components that could lead to persistent player engagement and monetization.
To many, this is unacceptable, especially given EA’s propensity to veer into positively abusive monetization policies with their games (such as with the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront 2, apparently). And it seems like EA’s developers don’t like it any more than players do, either. Speaking to Waypoint in a podcast, Gameplay designer Manveer Heir, who worked at Bioware Montreal and worked on Mass Effect‘s multiplayer, spoke out against EA’s monetization policies.
“It’s definitely a thing inside of EA,” he said, “they are generally pushing for more open-world games. And the reason is you can monetize them better. The words in there that were used are ‘have them come back again and again’. Why do you care about that at EA? The reason you care about that is because microtransactions: buying card packs in the Mass Effect games, the multiplayer. It’s the same reason we added card packs to Mass Effect 3: how do you get people to keep coming back to a thing instead of ‘just’ playing for 60 to 100 hours?
Heir blamed escalating game budgets as the rationale for these decisions.
“The problem is that we’ve scaled up our budgets to $100m+ and we haven’t actually made a space for good linear single-player games that are under that. But why can’t we have both? Why does it have to be one or the other? And the reason is that EA and those 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 the players will pay for.
“You need to understand the amount of money that’s at play with microtransactions. 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.
“It’s repeatable income versus one-time income. I’ve seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards,” he finished.
Heir also went on to say that games like Anthem coming from Bioware, a traditionally single player focused studio, as well as the cancellation of EA Visceral, seem to be indicative that the traditional single player experience may be dead at EA for the time being. Given that EA once upon a time delivered some of the greatest single player experiences and games ever, this will probably come as sad news to many. Nonetheless, at least there are other publishers and developers still focused on delivering single player titles- Ubisoft, Bethesda, Nintendo, Sony, Square Enix, Atlus, and many more.