Last year was not a great year for EA and online games. While never known to offer flawless online play, 2013 was especially rough on EA, and those issues have already continued into 2014. From launching an always online game, to simply offering an online component to two major franchises, EA needs a game focused on the solo gamer, like an Uncharted or Skyrim.
Back in March, EA Games and Maxis launched the newest iteration of SimCity. One of the more anticipated SimCity games in recent memory for me. The game was launched with a requirement of always being online, something gamers later helped changed for the original concept of the Xbox One. You could not play SimCity offline. This idea alone conceived numerous questions. What about those with unstable internet connections? Those who can’t play online (in flight, internet outages, lives in nuclear subs)?
If you are going to require an always on connection, then there should be an expectation that the servers will be ready for it. The game can be played no other way than online. Sure enough there were server issues. Not just day one, try the first few months. There continues to be issues, they’re just not as headline grabby as they were back in the Spring 2013. The SimCity launch was a disaster. It was hard to find any positive feedback coming out of that time period for the game.
The game was rather well received by numerous outlets, but many went back and revised their scores to reflect the online trouble of the game. How can you give an always online game a near perfect score when you can’t even access the game? If the internet problems were on the users’ side, I could see an argument not to revise the score, but considering the troubles were from EA’s servers, the revisions were justified.
SimCity launched for the Mac in the Summer with similar issues, just not as high profile. The always online method caused EA to come out and say that they’ve already nixed the idea for the newest Sims game.
In August, EA Sports launched their annual release of Madden. Every year we see a vocal minority speak out against Madden. This has been a common trend since 2005 when EA bought out the NFL license. This year many of the problems seemed to plague the online experience. Many took to EA’s forums to complain how their game, no matter the console, would freeze up during modes like Online Leagues, Exhibition, and the ever popular Ultimate Team. Some complained about disconnections that were not from either user in game, others remarked about how stats weren’t properly updating. Take away a win from a Madden addict, you only cause yourself to get a mouthful.
Online issues plagued arguably EA’s most popular, and important, franchise. This wasn’t anything new, but considering not five months ago users were complaining about another online EA franchise, this didn’t help matters.
Then comes the October – November release of Battlefield 4 for current gen and next gen. We are in the midst of reading numerous game of the year awards from all the major outlets. Battlefield 4 seems to be a common title amongst best looking games, but when it comes to best multiplayer, some refuse to give it the honors due to the connection woes. Since release, the game has been having issues on nearly all consoles it launched on. From disconnections to lack of connections, Battlefield 4 is still having problems resolving its issues as we enter 2014. Many wonder if the game launched prematurely, to get it out before Call of Duty: Ghosts. The multiplayer issues only fuel the argument.
What’s comical about both SimCity and Battlefield 4′s troubles is the fact that both launched betas prior to release. The objective of the beta is to test the servers, and see how the servers hold up. Understandably the betas don’t see as many users online as compared to when the full game launches, but what were the point of the betas if these issues were present, and remain to this day? Was the beta meant to test your servers, or simply give the game some publicity in a controlled environment?
This is why EA needs a single player savior in 2014. A game that, while will offer online in some capacity, is more centered around telling a story, rather than taking on others online. Dead Space is not that option, for multiple reasons. We most likely won’t see a Star Wars title until 2015. One that, hopefully, is similar to KOTOR or Jedi Knight. Mirror’s Edge has been given no timetable, as DICE currently is focused on fixing their online woes with BF4 before moving on to their next two projects outside of BF4 DLC.
EA’s next major release is Titanfall in March 2014 for the Xbox One, 360, and PC. Guess what? The game is online only. I expect we will see a smoother launch for it, since Microsoft is set to be hosting the game via their own servers. Later this year it is anticipated that Dragon Age: Inquisition will launch; a single player focused game, from BioWare. The franchise is fairly popular, but is it popular enough to take away all the bad PR EA has been getting from their online woes?
Speaking of BioWare, they have a new IP on the way that is already playable, but there’s no details outside of that. A new Mass Effect is in the works, though a 2015 release is likely.
Over the past Summer, EA’s COO Peter Moore said that the publisher will no longer offer offline only experiences. Every game will offer an online component. This does not necessarily mean that you are required to be online, it just translates to the fact that the game will offer something for the player online. It could mean downloadable content, leaderboards, amongst others outside of online multiplayer.
Give us something EA. Something that betters your reputation and takes you away from all the online controversy. Not so long ago you were succeeded as the villain of the game industry by Activision, but it seems like you want the honor back. Activision may only have two franchises (Call of Duty, Skylanders), but their online woes are not as extensive as yours.