Quick recap on some things: a few years back, Disney bought LucasFilm. Almost immediately, Disney closed down LucasFilm's games division, LucasArts, cancelling the hotly-anticipated Star Wars game 1313.
Then EA announced it was taking over the Star Wars gaming brand, later announcing that Amy Hennig - the architect of Naughty Dog's Uncharted series - would be coming aboard to develop a brand new, story-based, Star Wars experience with EA's Visceral Games (the team behind the well-regarded Dead Space series).
In the meantime, EA had a big hit with Star Wars Battlefront.
Fast forward to earlier this year. EA cancels Hennig's Star Wars game, shuts down Visceral, and says that it's going to instead focus on "a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore."
The Frostbite engine, in case you're unaware, is mostly used for EA's online multiplayer games, such as the Battlefield titles. "Agency" in case you're unaware, is a word that most of us never heard or used until about three years ago, when it became popular with games journo types, and it makes my skin crawl every time I hear it. Like when somebody shortens the word "radiators" to "rads". You know: in the way that somebody awful would do.
Anyway, cue outrage over what appears to be EA wanting to make multiplayer Star Wars games, purely so that it can rinse players dry with microtransactions.
However, according to Kotaku, there was more to the story. Except... then Star Wars Battlefront 2 arrived, loaded with microtransactions which made popular characters difficult to access without spending money. Cue outrage. Cue politicians getting involved. Cue EA removing microtransactions from Battlefront 2, after failing to convince players - via a widely reviled statement on Reddit - that the game was structured in this way to improve their experience.
The publicity over all of this has been a PR disaster for EA. Battlefront 2 - which should've been a guaranteed smash - has done worse than expected. Therefore, you'd expect EA to have learned its lesson and change course.
Apparently not now that we live in an era where nobody takes any degree of responsibility for their actions.
The canned Visceral/Hennig title, codenamed Ragtag, was a “much more linear game, that people don’t like as much today as they did five years ago or ten years ago," EA's Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen told an audience of investors earlier this week.
More honestly, he went on to say that EA is forced to “cut the bridge when you realize can’t really make a lot of money on something".
Jorgensen assured investors that EA isn't giving up on microtransactions, and is continuing to monitor the Battlefront 2 issue, presumably to find ways to encourage players to spend money on top of the money they've already spent to play the game. If the company is forced to remove loot boxes - widely damned as a form of gambling - it would need to find "another economic model to try and make up for some of the economics you lose"
In short, EA continues to argue that the linear single-player experience is dead, as a way to justify its actions.
In one breath it tries to blame that on the changing tastes of the player. In the next, it appears to admit that it will no longer focus on linear games, simply because they don't make as much money. Furthermore, it's telling that these latest comments come from the company's Chief Financial Officer - rather than somebody with a creative background.
Reading between the lines, it all seems to be motivated by nothing less than greed.
Uncharted 4 has sold almost 10 million copies since it was released. Now imagine a game along the lines of Uncharted 4, but with the Star Wars brand attached, and as a multiformat release. You can, at a conservative estimate, at least triple those sales figures. It would, presumably, be wildly profitable - and that should be enough for most.
Unfortunately, it isn't enough for EA. It wants more. More, more, more, more, more, more. Money money money. Always sunny - in the rich boy's world!
Let's put aside the fact that I, entirely personally, would love a proper, full-blown, single-player, story-led, Star Wars game. Let's ignore that, for me, going on an adventure is the reason I love games, that I love the potential of games as a story-telling medium.
Let's shelve all that, yeah?
Because I am sick of this now. It's not that I feel sick that they're depriving me - and something that millions of other Star Wars-loving gamers - of something we would, potentially, enjoy. I'm sick of them lying about their reasons for doing it. I'm disgusted that they're too lazy to even lie convincingly, and seem unable to hide their true, covetous, motives. It's profoundly insulting, and stokes the same embers of rage in me as when the likes of Trump do it.
I mean, look at the comments beneath any Trump tweet, and you'll see that he doesn't have to convince all of us that he's doing a good job; he just has to convince those who are naive or blinkered or angry enough to believe it. Similarly, EA is no longer making games for everyone; just those weak or wealthy enough to keep spending money after they've already paid for a game. The rest of us can go swing in the breeze.
What I really hate, is how this changes the games industry. When I started playing games... yes, it was still an industry, but it felt motivated by creativity and passion. It was an industry driven by those who could get the most out of the technology, to created wholly original experiences. They did it for the love. Not to get rich.
Now we get annual instalments of guaranteed hit franchises. We get loot crates. We get half the game hidden behind a paywall. We get expensive "season passes" which more often than not feel as if content that should've been included is deliberately being held back, dangled as a carrot to make players spend even more money.
As I'm getting older, I'm really starting to believe Capitalism is ruining the world. I mean, let's face it... without Capitalism there's no way we'd have that racist, idiot, pig in the White House. Without Capitalism video games wouldn't be created in a way that screws us over. It feels to me as if Capitalism is fighting to keep its grip on the world... except it's going to take all of us down with it when it goes.
I mean, don't get me wrong; I'm not Karl Marx. I don't see a viable alternative right now. Communism? Yeah, right. 'Cos that seems always seems to work out great.
But we've been raised to believe - brainwashed, basically - that the Capitalist economic model of society is the one that is right and proper, when it's clear to anybody with any degree of compassion and empathy that it's motivated by selfishness. It's an engine that exists purely to keep itself running. We are but cogs, there to facilitate the Caribbean yacht holidays and branded private jets of the few.
I despair at how our society attempts to lie to us, how it dresses up the pursuit of profit for the privileged few as somehow beneficial to all of us. And I hate that EA is symptomatic of that with its hollow epithets about how the intent behind its paywall was "to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes."
The fact that its statement has become the most hated in Reddit history, the fact that every time it talks about nobody wanting linear games, doesn't make a jot of difference. EA continues to be utterly blinded by its pursuit of making as much money as possible, making games which benefit the privileged elite - those who can afford to spend a small fortune to get a "complete" game.
I hate how it hides this in plain site, and admits that it's already working on ways to continue exploiting players - albeit, going forward, in a way which doesn't backfire as such a PR disaster.
With this in mind, there's only one way to stop it happening. We have to show them that this model doesn't make money. We have to demonstrate that what we want to buy are the best games. That we do still want single-player experiences. That the multiplayer games we want to play don't require us to buy beyond the initial outlay. And we have to convince as many people as possible to join us.
The only language companies like EA understand is the language of money and profit. And the only way to stop this is by blocking that profit, being strong, and not caving when we're tempted by the promise of a new in-game hat. How's that for "agency", wankers?
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