Electronic Arts (EA) is another company trying to secure the digital future by rolling out its own cloud gaming service called Project Atlas. The “easy to use, one-stop experience” was announced back in late 2018 and began trials recently in September for a handful of games across numerous devices.
Project Atlas may appear as just another service trying to trump the market that already features some big names like Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud. However, EA sees it as anything but. The publishing giant has no interest in catering a closed ecosystem and will gladly work with every cloud gaming service out there. The reason being that EA wants to learn from the competition in order to evolve Project Atlas and ultimately, its own platforms like Frostbite and artificial intelligence that have started harnessing the power of the cloud.
Speaking with GamesIndustry in a recent interview, chief technology officer Ken Moss stated that cloud gaming will bring about another billion players and EA wants to be ready with Project Atlas when that happens. Rather than trying to be a competitor, EA wants to take it slow and learn from the success and failures of others to make Project Atlas into a premium destination for cloud gaming.
How cloud gaming evolves is uncertain right now, but it’s going to bring in another billion players into the gaming world. We say we’re at 2.6 billion or so right now. We want to make sure we’re at the forefront, but also get the early learnings so we know how to change how we build our games in that world.
In addition, Project Atlas isn’t just about running games. It’s also about making them. EA has regularly touted how it merges the cloud and artificial intelligence for technical advancements, which developers like DICE can use to escalate AAA game development. Moss quoted an example to explain just how Project Atlas will completely change the gaming world for both players and developers in the far future.
You might have a world full of trees. The artist has decided that they want a lake over here, so they paint a lake in. But now the shoreline looks terrible. You have a tree sitting next to the lake that doesn’t look at all believable. You’ve got rocks crawling with dirt right against the water where it would have eroded. We have tools now where you can paint in that water feature and AI runs in the background and terraforms the area around that lake, and it makes all of the sand, the dirt, the rocks, the trees behave according to the laws of nature.
It does that work automatically and then the designer can say: ‘That’s not quite right, I want this rock over here’ and they fine-tune it. It can make it ten times more efficient if we do it right. We see these opportunities for world designers, for gameplay designers, for character designers, for every part of the creation of games.
EA has another advantage over companies like Google and Microsoft when it comes to the cloud. The company has a ton of first-party franchises. Titanfall, Battlefield, Star Wars, Need for Speed, Madden, NHL, FIFA, and others are already critically acclaimed. Project Atlas can easily borrow the current vault of Origin and give players access to a number of prized games.
As mentioned above, Project Atlas only started trials recently. The cloud service is still in development. EA is said to be looking at a late 2020 release date but the slow and methodical approach may say otherwise.