EA Sports: They Make Our Games
June 15 was the second day of E3 and we saw presentations from four of the biggest powerhouses in gaming–Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Sony; for the purposes of this opinion I will be focusing on EA and their presentation. Electronic Arts is one of the largest distributors of video games, they control numerous studios which churn out a multitude of games for every platform. Being so large, they also make a great target, and much of the criticism they receive is rightly earned. Today, however, was something different. Today the criticism was about particular tastes in video games and it didn’t seem fair.
Everyone is entitled to their own preferences in video games, and there is nothing like E3 to show us the breadth of different games that are available to us all. A ninety second trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda started off EA’s presentation, and it was breathtaking, then we moved on to Need For Speed and a whole lot of sports games. This is where social media went on a tear. It seems that no one likes sports games, and some of the commentary was exceedingly negative even for the internet. Personally, I have little interest in sports games–even as a proud Canadian I only have a passing interest in the NHL franchise and actually haven’t bought one since the the XBox 360 was released– but lets be clear, sports games aren’t evil. In fact, they are necessary.
Every year we get a new Madden, a new FIFA, a new NHL game, a new well Rory McIlroy golf game and more in what many call a cycle of cash grabs with little or no new innovations. This isn’t entirely wrong, however when you look at sports games you see the building blocks of AAA games that people want to see at E3. When you look at a sports game what do you see? Dudes playing sports. Sure, but what you also see is doll animation, probability calculations, and physics engines–all of which are some of the best in the gaming industry. Sports games drive the advancement of all of these things. Advancements in sports and driving games get directly translated into the next Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Call of Duty, or Tomb Raider.
The other thing that people overlook when thinking about sports games is the money. Sports games generate a lot of money. Initial sales and microtransactions make them some of, if not the biggest, revenue generators of the console and PC gaming world. Revenue from these games, regardless of the way it comes in, allows for different, more innovative games to come about. Ask yourself–would EA have developed Unraveled, a completely new IP that may not have the broad appeal of Call of Duty or Borderlands, but still has a great deal to offer, if they didn’t have the capital? Money from sports games (and successful AAA franchises) let these risks happen, let large, for profit companies fund smaller firms that are developing these amazing titles.
I am not a huge fan of sports games, but I do appreciate that they will allow me to experience game improvements outside of them. Better doll animations, better clipping when it comes to holding objects, better physics engines when it comes to driving my Mako around in Mass Effect, better landscapes when I’m synchronizing a landmark in Assassin’s Creed. So please don’t yell at EA or any other distributor for showcasing their meal tickets, and maybe next time analyze what they are showing and see what may be coming to the next title that you really want to play.
Also, some free advice to EA because I’m sure they will read this; You have enough products that you showcase at E3 to do two separate conferences, one for your sports division and one for the rest of the games. This way, you get good press twice as your sports game fans sing your praises for new advances, and the rest of us get to celebrate the brace of new games and sequels that people have been waiting for.