Usually when we do one of these features, our tone is pretty… let’s call it disgruntled. Bad decisions, poor management, murky communication, or a combination of all of the above have prompted more than a few similar features here at GamingBolt. In that sense, this feature in particular is cut from a different cloth. We are still looking at what’s essentially a shift in the status quo for the topic on hand, but fortunately, here, that shift has definitely been a positive one.
EA has been on the receiving end of a tsunami of ridicule and criticism from all corners of the games industry for the better part of the last decade, and rightfully so. From their excessive focus on live services and mobile games to their absolute and consistent disdain of single player experiences, from their mismanagement of beloved franchises and developers to their dogged insistence on spearheading the charge of aggressive monetization in video games, EA has been the flag-bearer of some of the worst developments in the industry over the last decade. In light of that, the widespread criticism they’ve received from the masses is definitely justified.
It’s been quite surprising, then, to see them shifting away from those things with very conscious steps in the last couple of years. EA has slowly but surely been taking feedback into account and actually acting on it, and in a number of ways, the company has shown that it is willing to make genuinely good decisions. And just as they have deserved the criticism they have received for all the countless stupid things they have done, so, too, do they deserve recognition for pivoting away from that sort of stuff.
Of all the things that exemplify this recent shift, it makes sense to kick this discussion off with Star Wars Battlefront 2. In many ways, it was with that game that all the negativity surrounding EA came to a head. A solid shooter was let down by what is probably some of the worst and most aggressive monetization we’ve ever seen in a major AAA game at launch- it most definitely wasn’t a moment of pride and accomplishment for EA. But credit where credit is due, because over time, Battlefront 2 was transformed. Its most egregious issues were ironed out and the excellent game underneath was allowed to flourish, and with DICE consistently providing solid support for the game for two years after its launch, it amassed a dedicated player base that was more than happy to stick with the game. What started life as the symbol of EA’s worst tendencies gradually evolved into something that actually allowed people to be cautiously optimistic about the company’s future.
Battlefront 2 isn’t the only Star Wars game that’s flourished under EA in recent years. In 2019 came Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which was in so many ways completely antithetical to what EA has been about for so long. A single player only story-driven action-adventure game with no microtransactions- you don’t expect to see something like that being made by an EA-owned studio, but Respawn did it, and did it with flying colours. Less than a year later came Star Wars: Squadrons, an excellent flight combat game that turned out to be an absolute treat for fans of the franchise- and best of all, was designed and sold as a singular experience that wasn’t a live service and, once again, had no microtransactions, and was sold at $40.
Given its multiplayer-centric nature, Squadrons may have seemed like a perfect game to slap a live service model and microtransactions onto, and thanks to the Star Wars license, EA could have easily sold it for full price, but thankfully, they had the good sense to adopt the sort of pricing and monetization model that the game was better suited for. Of course, one has to wonder whether after the Battlefront 2 launch debacle, EA was mandated by Disney to keep any pricing and microtransaction-related controversies away from the Star Wars license – both Fallen Order and Squadrons were Star Wars games, after all – but then again, it does seem like EA’s started changing its approach even beyond Star Wars.
Primarily, it’s clear that the critical and commercial success of Fallen Order made EA realize that unlike what they so strongly believed until not so long ago, there’s still a big market for well-made single player games out there. For instance, reports initially suggested that Dragon Age 4 was being built as a live service game with multiplayer elements, but earlier this year, new reports claimed that development had shifted gears, and the game was now being built exclusively as a single player RPG.
There’s also Dead Space, of course, which is going to be a purely single player narrative-driven horror game that will not have microtransactions, either at launch or at any point afterwards. For a company that was notorious for shoehorning multiplayer into games where it didn’t belong (like Mass Effect 3 and Dead Space 3, though the former’s multiplayer was actually pretty good), it’s great seeing them finally coming to understand that sometimes, a well-made single player offering is more than enough to keep players happy. Meanwhile, under the EA Originals label, EA has also been working with indie developers to consistently put out unique and excellent games, including the likes of A Way Out, It Takes Two, Knockout City, or the upcoming Lost in Random, which is looking quite promising.
And speaking of Dead Space, that’s just one of many decisions EA has recently made that shows that the company is actually listening to fans. Skate is another fan-favourite franchise that’s coming back soon, we recently got Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (which was excellent), the next mainline Mass Effect game is also in the works, Battlefield 2042 looks like the sort of return to form that series fans have been clamouring for for so long, while the future of Need for Speed is looking bright with Criterion back in the driving seat. We can only hope that the likes of SSX and Burnout will eventually come back from the dead as well.
Looking back over the last two to three years, it’s not like EA hasn’t screwed up at all. On the contrary, they’ve made quite a few high profile errors, whether that’s the disaster that was Anthem and everything to do with it, or the parade of cancelled Star Wars games, or even, more recently, the controversy surrounding the price of Battlefield 2042. Something else that cannot be overlooked is the shambolic state of things on the EA Sports side of the company, where franchises like FIFA and Madden (the latter in particular) are consistently languishing in stale mediocrity and continue to engage in predatory monetization practices.
Even though things are still far from perfect though, they’re significantly better than they have been in quite some time for EA. In more ways than one, the company has shown a willingness to change and improve in recent years, and most importantly, has put out quite a few really good games, while their catalog of upcoming releases is also looking promising. It may have seemed impossible until not too long ago, but it’s easy to be genuinely – if cautiously – optimistic about EA’s prospects right now.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.