EA CEO Andrew Wilson won’t be taking the company in a different direction after Anthem’s embracing performance as a video game. Speaking about the company’s game development process, Andrew Wilson once again committed to live-service and even introduced a new buzzword,”soft launches.”
“Soft launches” basically means the company will release live-service, unfinished games with the promise of post-release free content updates. It is the same pattern BioWare’s Anthem followed with its in-game content roadmap but failed miserably. Andrew pointed to the mobile industry, and Asia where live-service online video games like Anthem go through a soft launch phase with multiple community tests before version 1.0 comes out.
As games have gotten bigger that system isn’t working as well as it has done in years gone by. So what you should expect from us is that it’s not just about changing the development processes in the game, it’s not just about changing the QA process in the game—although both of those things are being changed dramatically inside our organization right now—but it also comes down to changing how we launch games
You should expect that we’ll start to test things like soft launches—the same things that you see in the mobile space right now. And it also comes down to changing how we communicate with players. Our entire marketing organization now is moving out of presentation mode and into conversation mode, and changing how we interact with players over time.
In EA’s future, video games won’t go fully live at launch. Instead, expect early access releases and community tests before the final build is available for purchase. The pricing model situation will be interesting here, will EA charge $60 for an early access game? It did so with Anthem which is clearly an early access product, no way near finished but it was marketed otherwise.
While the term “live-service” has a bad reputation, some developers manage to pull it off the right way. Games like Warframe, The Division, and The Division 2 are the best examples of how a live-service game can be done right.
Ubisoft’s The Division 2 released packed with content worth the $60 entry price. The entire year-1 season content is offered for free before Ubisoft starts to charge for year-2 season content. The Division 2, even with its certain flaws, is a content filled exciting experience. It is one of the rare live-service games that managed to work with this model.
Will EA go The Division 2 route? It is highly unlikely given the track record and now the latest statement from EA CEO Andrew Wilson.