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E3 2018 recap and reflection: Electronic Arts

The latter half of 2017 and the fist few months of 2018 were very eventful for Electronic Arts. Visceral Games was shuttered, and EA acquired Respawn Entertainment. The company almost singlehandedly launched a wave of government regulation because of the loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II. A Way Out was released and was very positively received by critics and players alike. More recently, the trailer for Battlefield V stirred controversy by showing a woman fighting in WWII (the gall of them).

The summary

  • Battlefield V will feature destructible environments, customizable characters, and will focus its single player on the individual stories of heroism. More will be shown at tomorrow’s Microsoft conference.
    • There will be no loot boxes.
    • The game will feature a battle royale mode reimagined for Battlefield with more details coming later this year.
  • FIFA 19 will include UEFA Champions League.
  • FIFA 18 will be updated with a World Cup mode, letting you bring your home country to the championship game. The mode will be played in a free trail available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch.
  • Origin Access Premier is a new service to bring EA games to the PC
    • Subscribers will get access to EA’s game vault
    • Eventually they hope to stream games in HD from the cloud to many devices, including PCs and smartphones.
  • Jedi Fallen Order is the name of the new Star Wars game coming from Respawn Entertainment.
    • The game will take place between Episode III and Episode IV, when the jedi are being hunted
    • The game will come out Holiday 2019
  • Battlefront II will be adding content from Solo: a Star Wars Story next week.
    • The game will also be expanding content into the Clone Wars era of the film franchise.
    • New heroes and maps will be added, starting with the plannet Geonosis and joined by General Greivous, Obi Wan, Count Douku, and Anikin Sywalker
  • Unravel two will feature cooperative play, with two characters sharing one yarn and playing together on the same screen.
    • The game is available for purchase today, right now.
  • Sea of Solitude was shown off as a new entry in the EA Originals program.
    • The game is about how the protagonist, Kate’s, loneliness has become a monster, haunting and stalking her.
  • NBA Live 19 got a short cinematic.
  • Madden 19 had a cinematic shown as well.
  • EA showed off a new mobile Real Time Strategy game Command and Conquer Rivals. Android players can play the pre-alpha today with the full version coming to Android and iPhone.
  • This year’s crown jewel, Anthem, was shown off with a Q&A session with some key members of the Bioware team
    • All players in Anthem will see the same open world, but when you get to a base, the single player story takes place.
    • The game is being made to have story and new gameplay features added for years into the future.
    • Bioware starts by focusing a game around a new experience.
    • 4 types of javelin, Ranger, Colossus, Interceptor, Storm
      • Players can pilot different suits depending on what playstyle will suit the mission
    • There will be cosmetic microtransactions.
    • The game is balanced primarily for cooperative play, with single player being more difficult.
    • Anthem will release Feb 22, 2019 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

The good

EA sandwiched its entire press conference between its two biggest titles, making sure that the start and end of the conference were interesting to watch. It was great to see the success of indie titles being helped by EA. Unravel was a gorgeous platformer. A Way Out was so successful, developer Hazelight Studios was able to expand and set up new offices to make bigger and better games.

The bad

This conference was markedly low-energy for EA. Last year’s conference was marked by live performances, high intensity demos of games like Need for Speed and Star Wars Battlefront II. This year had none of the fanfare of last year.

If this year’s conference needed anything, it was more tentpole game announcements. There was nothing from Need for Speed, The Sims, Titanfall or Dragon Age. There weren’t that many indie titles to show off either. Unravel two and Sea of Solitude look like interesting and fun games, but a sequel and an introspective adventure game about loneliness seem unlikely to drive sales. Also missing were smaller EA titles, like the Plants Vs. Zombies series.

The weirdly out of place

Last year, EA reacted to the negative reception to Star Wars Battlefront by acknowledging the response and trying to play it off with a laugh and a promise of doing better in the future. This year, EA’s CEO Andrew Wilson decided to address the controversy surrounding the company’s usage of loot boxes in an indirect way that almost seemed tacked on.  

Before Anthem was shown off, Wilson stepped on stage and delivered a short speech simultaneously talking about the issues many have had with EA this past year while not actually talking about these issues. “We are always trying to learn and listen and strive to be better. So… there’s some things we hope come through. First, that at the very core is choice. You as players get to choose who you play, what you play, when you play and what devices you play on. That in making those choices, you feel that you are treated fairly. That no one is given an unfair advantage or disadvantage because of how they’ve chosen to play. That for every moment you invest, we know you put so much of your lives into the games we make, and every moment you invest you feel like you are rewarded, and you were given value for that investment. And most importantly that the games are fun. That we move past he grind and that these are experiences that truly enhance your lives. And so as we think through all of the things we are trying to do, know that we want to be better, and that we want to make great games.” 

He then segued into talking about some charitable giving that the company did this past year. Wilson talked up EA’s $1 million donation split between three charities. It seems like a nice gesture, but for a company that, according to their own financial records, earned over $5 billion in revenue, it does not seem like much. EA is not required to give any money to charity, and the causes they chose to support are helpful. However, EA structured their press conference to make the charitable giving seem like it was done to distract from their misdeeds. 

Overall, this year’s conference will fade from memory fairly quickly. The presentation was slow in parts, and while there was nothing terribly exciting shown off, nothing went wrong or really flopped either. It will be interesting to see if some of EA’s games get showcased in other conferences, where they may get a more detailed showing.

For more E3 2018 coverage, check back with Byte tomorrow as we cover Bethesda and Microsoft’s conferences. 

Source: YouTubeEA Financial Results

Image: Sensei Gaming

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