On May 9th, Gamespot published an article about BioWare’s highly anticipated new IP and it’s recently announced delay. The full article can be found here: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/mass-effect-dragon-age-devs-new-ip-delayed/1100-6449915/?ftag=GSS-05-10aaa0b. I read the article, and noted some very telling commentary. The phrase “Live Service” cropped up several times, both as what the game is built around, and one of the causes for the delay. The phrase intrigued me, and I went digging. The answer finally came from Gamespot again, in the article found here: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/star-wars-battlefront-2-features-three-times-as-mu/1100-6449912/ . I am going to quote them directly here, taken from the bottom paragraph, talking about the company’s sales figured: “… and live services, which comprise DLC, subscriptions, and other categories (up 31%)”. Let’s dive right in, there’s quite a bit to talk about here.
“Other Categories” is very ambiguous, but likely includes microtransactions. However, I found my own cautious optimism about this shadowy new IP draining away as I read the article about the delay. The fact that nearly nothing about the story or gameplay of this new IP has been revealed, apart from a Sci-Fi setting, yet it has been revealed that the game is being built from the ground up to support EA’s additional attempts to grab more cash. Further, the game has been in development since 2012, during the peak of certain anti-consumer practices like the Online Pass, and building and hyping a new IP as little more than a new vector for pushing these ideas reeks of EA under Mr. Riccitello’s infamous tenure. For those of you who may have forgotten, this was the era when John Riccitello, then CEO of EA, talked openly about charging players for bullets in online FPS matches.Now, I realize that that was five years ago, but if you believe that attitudes from that era weren’t engrained in this game from birth, you need to open your eyes.
The worst part of all of this is the obfuscation that surrounds it. It takes some digging to learn what the company even means when it talks about these “Live Services” even are. While looking to the gaming news sites is all that needs to be done, Googling “EA Live Services” pretty much only yields links about EA Access. EA is not a stupid company, and they know that even that small barrier will hide their intentions from the majority of their customers. I do not pretend to have read all of the reports about this, but I know that the Gamespot article I’m referencing today let the mention of live services pass without comment, either to EA, or to explain to the reader what these services are. These are things that the consumer needs to know, and to be informed of, and it is the job of any news outlet, regardless of the focus, to inform their readers or viewers. Taking a stance is one thing, but reporting all of the facts should be a given. Gamespot failed to do that, and even if they amend the article, it speaks to their priorities that that they withheld this information. I really do hope that they correct this, as they are still one of the more influential gaming news sites, and a better informed consumer base will craft a better industry.
In the interest of presenting everything, the live services may not be the sole reason for the delay. With “Mass Effect: Andromeda”‘s flop, the company has delayed everything. EA may be getting ready to kill off BioWare, which even I doubt, or BioWare may be looking to take a break from development to figure out what went wrong with the title. I think we will be seeing this IP down the road, and I will definitely talk about it when it is actually announced. I want to be wrong, and I want there to be a good new IP in an industry that is far too obsessed with safe sequels and reboots. Something that takes some risks, introduces new gameplay, and has the potential to completely revitalize a brand. At this point, however, I see the future articles about it comparing it to “Evolve”, another game that was proudly announced to be built from the ground up to support DLC. 2K and Turtle Rock’s shooter received such a backlash that even the attempted Free to Play reboot was poisoned by it. If that happens to BioWare’s new IP, at that point I would not doubt that EA would close the studio, depriving gamers of the unique experiences that the company provides, a net loss. Here’s hoping EA and Bioware think about this, and avoid what could be a huge disaster.