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It seems pretty clear that the games industry is moving closer and closer to an all-streaming format. That may still be many years off, but that doesn't mean big publishers aren't already looking in that direction. EA, for instance, has already started to think about life without annualization.
The writing on the wall seems to be that, eventually, major games will be streamed directly to players. That still poses some interesting questions about ownership but, when the latest games for Xbox One X are clocking in at more than 100GB, it's clear that simply moving from physical to digital isn't going to be a big enough step forward for the industry.
To that end, PlayStation and Microsoft (among others) have already started dipping their toes into the streaming games business. And based on the latest comments from a recent interview with Bloomberg, Electronic Arts is thinking very seriously about moving gaming to the cloud. According to Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wilson, this will not only bypass the huge file size issue, but it might also create a situation where games like Madden and FIFA no longer have to be annualized.
There's a world where it gets easier and easier to move that code around -- where we may not have to do an annual release. We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service.
It makes perfect sense to imagine games like Madden and FIFA in the increasingly popular games as service format. Giving sports games continuing tails based on regular updates, microtransactions and the like makes a heck of a lot more sense than seeing that stuff in titles like Shadow of War or Battlefront II. Similarly, while it feels like a bit of overkill to annualize games like Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed, constantly updating rosters, facilities, uniforms and the like make sports titles ideal candidates for a frequent refresh.
But, while those aspects noted above are constantly changing, the games themselves aren't necessarily in need of such regular re-ups. According to Wilson, again, that makes them ideal candidates for cloud-based gaming. If the code is really becoming easier to move on the fly, wouldn't it be great to simply have Madden, with no year or subtitle, and players can expect to keep playing the same game for several years or indefinitely? We certainly like the idea of sports games going the Destiny route, offering a major release every now and again, with new modes and updates coming on a regular basis, pain-free, thanks to cloud-based gaming.
There are still a bunch of hurdles in the way, but it's not surprising EA is already pondering how to bypass them.