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Kotaku has done a wonderful, objective interview with EA's COO, Peter Moore. They did the opposite of the pro-EA article recently posted on IGN, which tried getting gamers to be more sympathetic to the $4 billion dollar giant. Instead, Kotaku leaves gamers with a question: What do you want to see happen to the gaming industry?
EA is trying to experiment, Moore is asking for patience, EA wants to make more money, they don't want to be hated.
All of the above is fine and dandy, but let's get one thing straight: Game developers and core gamers BUILT the gaming industry. Game developers made games, core gamers bought those games. It's not possible for a company to sell crappy games and expect to last in an industry fuelled by passion, verve, competition and camaraderie. Gamers play games to have fun, to be entertained and to venture into stories, artistry and experiences offered by no other medium. What part of that is something the execs at EA don't understand?
Here at Gaming Blend we've been warning gamers a lot about losing your consumer rights for owning games and instead being replaced with services you lease. Moore sees an always-on, free-to-play, microtransaction future that fits right into the very warning bells we've been ringing.
The EA COO tells Kotaku...
"I think, ultimately, those microtransactions will be in every game, but the game itself or the access to the game will be free. Ultimately, my goal is... I measure our business in millions of people have bought our game. Maybe when I'm retired, as this industry progresses, hundreds of millions are playing the games. Zero bought it. Hundreds of millions are playing. We're getting 5 cents, 6 cents ARPU [average revenue per user] a day out of these people. The great majority will never pay us a penny which is perfectly fine with us, but they add to the eco-system and the people who do pay money—the whales as they are affectionately referred to—to use a Las Vegas term, love it because to be number one of a game that like 55 million people playing is a big deal."
Moore isn't lying about the financially lucrative opportunities afforded to the free-to-play arena. League of Legends is a massive success with up to four-million players per day logging in. The free-to-play market is estimated to continue to boom, and quite naturally, most gamers prefer free-to-play titles over pay-to-play titles, when playing online.
However, the large majority of core gamers still hold on to finished products you pay for and own. As many of you know online-only titles, whether they be MMOs, MOFPS titles, MOBA or casual,are leased services from publishers or distributors, and they can shut them down at any time. It's what we've come to expect from this kind of gaming experience. However, we expect those leased services to stay within the online-only, MMO, MOFPS and MOBA genres, we don't clamor to pay for single-player games that you buy in episodes from an only-only environment.
The other downside to free-to-play titles is the pay-to-win factor. Battlefield Play4Free and NFS World are both vile culprits of paying-to-win. In NFS World I found myself on a losing streak to various players utilizing cash shop boost-card packs, basically allowing them to continuously use turbo boosts through an entire race. I quit the game because I wasn't willing to pay to win. Where's the fun in that?
Nevertheless, Moore sets up a stiff predilection for what will happen to gaming according to EA's vision, saying...
"It may well be that there will be games that survive and they are the $60 games, but I believe that the real growth is bringing billions of people into the industry and calling them gamers. Hardcore gamers won't like to hear this. They like to circle the wagons around what they believe is something they feel they have helped build—and rightly so. But we have seen, whether it was with the Wii getting mom off the couch to do Wii Sports or whether it was, more recently EA Sports Active, where we get females who love to work out, all the things that social gaming did—Rock Band did it, Guitar Hero did it—all of the things that elevated it from being a dark art of teenage boys usually sequestered in the bedroom—that it was testosterone-filled content that everybody railed against—to where everybody is a gamer...if you can move your index finger and swipe it this way, you're a gamer. And that has got to be the way it goes."
Why does it have to be that way, though?
It's in this autocratic vision that Moore has completely lost sight of why people "hate EA". It has nothing to do with being cool, it has nothing to do with it being the "in thing". It's that very reasoning he spouts out -- reasoning from a business executive rather than a gamer -- that people hate.
Gamers pay money to delve into creative worlds, unforeseen adventures and sometimes to explore human, alien or animal behavior, mysticism, politics, religion, death, life, love and everything else in between. Various games give us a high of adrenaline, entertainment, sadness, exhilaration, anger, frustration, complement, fulfillment and ultimately, accomplishment.
We "hate" EA because we used to love them. They used to provide for us the kind of experiences I mentioned in the above paragraph. They made money and became popular because of their inspiration and desire to create electronic art, and we rewarded them for their endeavors with our own hard-earned money. This is something that the guys at Rockstar understand, it's something they continue to do. It's something that Valve understands, it's something CD Projekt, Bethesda and even Nintendo understand.
Plain and simple, EA is trying to brainwash core gamers into thinking that we need to stop playing games for all the reasons we enjoy playing games, and we need to start embracing games as a disposable commodity and a potentially profitable business venture.
I'm sure there are a lot of new-school gamers who just don't care, but gaming is a near-and-dear hobby to a lot of us core gamers. People who appreciate gaming for what it is and the work, craftsmanship, artistry and entertainment values that many developers put a lot of effort into, aren't willing to turn their backs on a beloved hobby just so a billion dollar corporation can profit.
At the end of the day, if EA wants to keep making money and stop bleeding money, they need to re-evaluate why people hate them. For starters, here are ten simple reasons.
Next up, if EA wants to survive into the next-gen they need to get back to making quality games instead of trying to figure out how to nickel and dime gamers at every turn. Also, as I mentioned before, if they can't focus on making good games without the gimmicks, and they can't take the criticism and bad PR, then maybe they need to get out of the game making business. But if Valve, Rockstar, Bethesda and Nintendo can make fun games and profit, so can EA.
You can read the entire interview over at Kotaku.
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