When Electronic Arts was founded more than thirty years ago, the company didn’t intend to become the default publisher for sports games. That’s just something that happened over time, and mostly by accident. There are some exceptions, but the chances are that if you play a video game based on one of the world’s most popular sports, EA made it. From soccer and baseball to golf and UFC, Electronic Arts has the sports gaming market cornered. Formula 1 motorsport games were made outside EA’s control by Codemasters until very recently, but EA solved that problem by simply buying Codemasters for $1.2bn. The company appears to take its role as “the sports brand” very seriously.
With great power comes great responsibility, as the old saying goes. As the only major player in town when it comes to sports games, EA has to get it right far more often than it gets it wrong with the production of its games. Fans don’t have many alternatives to choose from if EA’s take on their preferred sport is a disappointment, so they rely on the company to provide them with quality products year after year. They don’t always do so. The FIFA soccer series still sells in huge numbers every time a new version is released, but fans are way past the point of being tired with the focus on the money-spinning “Ultimate Team” mode at the expense of what ought to be an immersive career mode. EA might finally have started listening to some of those concerns because it has just promised a revolution across the board for its sporting titles.
The precise term EA has used for its revolution is “year of innovation,” which could mean almost anything. Many people hope it means an end to loot box mechanics, which plague all of EA’s sports games. Those who object to them – of which there are many, including some sovereign governments – say they’re online slots presented in a child-friendly form. We’re not qualified to rule on that, but the critics might have a point. The entire premise of the games at an online slots website is that you pay your money for a chance of winning a prize but aren’t guaranteed to win anything of value. There’s no issue with that process when it happens at nz.roseslots.com because all the participants are consenting adults. If you were to catch a child playing online slots, you’d be horrified, and yet they effectively follow the same process when buying loot boxes through EA games. EA prefer to call their loot boxes “surprise mechanics.” Very few people agree with them. They deny that loot boxes are a significant focus for the company, but some recently-released leaked documents and the fact that only around a quarter of the company’s revenue comes from game sales says otherwise.
As much as we’d love to see loot boxes become a thing of the past, we suspect that won’t happen until a sufficient number of governments pass laws that prevent EA from using them in their games. Because of that, we doubt that the removal of loot boxes is part of the “innovative year” that EA has ahead. What, then, did they mean by it? To answer that, we should look at the most recent statement released by Andrew Wilson, the company’s CEO. Almost in the same breath as he made the “innovation” promise, Wilson confirmed that NHL 22, Madden 22, and FIFA 22 are all already in development. At around the same time they’re released – or perhaps even before – they’ll be joined by the first EA-made Formula 1 game (entitled F1 2021 rather than F1 2022 because the racing season doesn’t run into next year) and the return of PGA Tour Golf after several years away. All of this was expected of the company. None of it could be described as innovative.
What Wilson may have meant is that every product in the 2021/2022 range will be designed for the latest generation of consoles. FIFA 21, while being an exceptionally good-looking game when played on a PlayStation 5, was designed for the PS4. An enhanced version was produced for the newer console, but it’s a PS4 game at its core. FIFA 2022 will work the other way round. It will be built for the PS5, and PS4 users will get a scaled-down version of it. The same can be said of every title in the new range. There’s also apparently a renewed focus on mobile gaming to go with the central range of console games, with two separate EA-made baseball games on their way to mobile devices in the not-too-distant future.
Baseball fans aren’t the only sports fans who can look forward to having more EA games to play soon. Wilson is already talking about bringing back a much-loved classic racing series now the Codemasters takeover is completed. Many of our readers aged thirty or above will have happy childhood memories of playing Codemasters’ “Need for Speed” games. Those memories will soon get an update. Wilson has promised that “Need for Speed” will be an “important part” of the company’s future and that there are designers already working on ways to enhance the franchise. Before the takeover, Codemasters was seen as the best company for racing and motorsport games. EA apparently doesn’t want to let that reputation slip now that the brand is an Electronic Arts asset.
While there’s a lot of interesting news here, there’s still nothing that would strike us as being revolutionary or genuinely innovative. We don’t know whether Wilson is guilty of hyping up his forecast for the next twelve months a little more than it needed to be or whether he has something up his sleeve for the year ahead. We suppose the best way to find out is to wait for the games to appear, and we still have a few months to wait on that front. The planned EA Play event for 2021 has been pushed back from June to July to allow for people to attend in person, so we’ll be waiting a while longer than normal for the highly-anticipated showcase. When that happens, we’ll all find out together whether EA is truly bringing us a revolution or whether it’s more of the same with a new next-gen coat of paint.