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EA's confusing focus for single-player games

Written by xaraan on Friday, September 07 2012 and posted in Columns
EA's confusing focus for single-player games

EA head honcho, Frank Gibeau, stirs up fan fervor with statement on single player games.

Source: CGCon

   EA Games president Frank Gibeau, in a recent document for Cloud Gaming USA Conference & Exhibition, addressed the future of the company and game development.  One comment in particular stood out to gamers:

We are very proud of the way EA evolved with consumers. I have not green lit one game to be developed as a single player experience. Today, all of our games include online applications and digital services that make them live 24/7/365.

   The reason for this growing concern over game makers' waning focus on single player games is that the additional multi-player content will water down the single player experience for those types of games.  Recent release Mass Effect 3 received some of these interactive mutliplayer abilities, Dead Space 3 will receive a co-op mode for the first time and there are even rumors that Dragon Age 3 will contain a form of multi-player as well.

  The concern doesn't only sit with EA, fans of games like Call of Duty, Halo and similar titles that have seen a large following for online multiplayer, have seen the shift toward that game type and the amount of single player gameplay decreasing with each new release.  This is all well and good perhaps for a game that markets to both components, but is it a fit for all game types, including those that benefit from a more personal, solo experience?

   Gibeau later clarified his remarks as the online ire rose:

You can have a very deep single-player game but it has to have an ongoing content plan for keeping customers engaged beyond what's on the initial disc. I'm not saying deathmatch must come to Mirror's Edge.

   He went on to explain that online gameplay wasn't necessarily a requirement, but it was more about interconnectivity. Allowing other types of competition with friends, co-operation or social interaction with them.  He pointed out that many of their games aren't interruptable through social interaction like Sim City, Mass Effect 3, FIFA and more.  His vision aligns with that of his boss: Peter Moore, COO of Electronics Arts, where they see day-one downloadable content, micro-transactions and several other aspects of modern gaming, playing a key role in the future of video games.  i.e. Something comicbook fans can relate to: Everything a gamer says is wrong with the industry, yet still buys.

   Gibeau says he still "passionately believes in single-player games" and that they should continue to develop them.  But that they need to become a digital service business that evolves and changes over time instead of making a game, sending it off and having fan interaction end there.

   Nothing Gibeau says is wrong, a company must evolve with time, especially one based completely in a technological market.  But there are good and bad ways to go about change, most fans see the latter in the words of Gibeau and Moore.  Game makers like Valve and Bethesda have showed us great methods to involve your fanbase with your game after initial release and keep them interested well into the future.  You don't have to micro-transact your fanbase to death selling them features built into the game before release, but held back just for that purpose.  You don't have to turn a well known single player campaign into a social extravaganza in order for it to be hugely popular.  And you don't have to chain players down with always-online DRM requirements.

   The biggest mistake some businesses make is treating customers as if they fit into some formula they've mastered.  Not only does that formulaic approach cost a game or franchise its soul, but it pushes the most important thing about game making down the priority list: which is a simple thing in theory, if not so simple to master: Make a great game.



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About the Author - Jeremy Shane

Jeremy was born in a small mountain village of a strange foreign land called Weystvurginea.  Banishment for liberal views saw him spend years wondering the east coast until he decided to bike to California.  When he saw how long a trip it was, he drove instead.  Now he's living it up in a low humidity climate, sometimes working on his photography and when not, he writes for us covering books (by way of his blog: Reading Realms), gaming, tv, movies, comics, conventions in the SoCal area, and creates a weekly webcomic: A Journey Through Skyrim.  If you look for him offline, start in the L.A. area; online start at: for his profile and all the social networks he's on... or just follow him on twitter, he seems to be on there a lot: @jeremyshane.


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