EA, Bioware, and The Future Of Single Player Games

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Photo Courtesy Of Bago Games

Bioware’s Anthem announcement at 2018’s E3 was a big deal for the company. Bioware’s reputation had wavered since it’s height in the early 2010’s. This new release would pioneer a new direction for the company while allowing it to maintain the RPG element they were famous for. Or at least that was the intention.

What Pushed EA Toward Single Player?

I’ve been on the edge of my seat over the past few weeks as games developer Bioware and publisher Electronic Arts decided on the future of their game Anthem. The 2019 release marked a low point for developer Bioware. Anthem was a move into multiplayer games as a service. By most metrics, it was also a failure. Anthem released in a broken state, and was unplayable for many. Not much has changed in the two years since its release. Talk about its abandonment has continued since its launch. 

Anthem was not in a vacuum however. EA also produced Respawn’s Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order the same year. This single player game was opposite the results of Anthem. At the time, Respawn’s most recent games were multiplayer. Fallen Order met all expectations and illustrated the world’s maintaining interest in single player games. Fallen Order had sold more than 10 million copies. This dominating performance became very relevant this year as many speculate it was the failure of Anthem and success of Fallen Order that pushed EA to refocus Bioware towards their upcoming sequel to their acclaimed series Mass Effect and their remaster of the original series. 

Not All Good News

It’s good that this helped to refocus EA into supporting the development of single player games. However, given the EA business model it’s also concerning how this will affect future games. The fear stems from the growing trend in the games industry of games as a service. Live services where companies like EA sells in game items and currency is well fitted to online multiplayer games. 

This doesn’t work as well with strictly single player games however. But the prioritization of maintaining a steady or prolonged stream of profit seemingly does. This is where things like Ubisoft’s heavily criticised “timesavers” come into play. Pay-to-win shortcuts for games you’re intended to play on your own like these serve as an example of possible ways game publishers can monetize single player games beyond initial purchase.

I feel like this is very concerning for the future of games because what may seem good to a lot of fans, like Bioware moving away from Anthem in favor of Mass Effect, might also mark a new emergence of trends that change the face of games for the worse. All by splitting development focus from the core game to both the core and its systems of monetization. Overall, I’m keeping my hopes and expectations low, as whatever the horizon holds isn’t as clear as it might seem at a glance.

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