EA : One Size Fits All?
Around the start of this soon-to-be-over console generation, I clearly remember EA experiencing a protracted period of general revilement from the gaming community. The exact reasons escape me but you can probably do the math and boil it down to a) greed, and b) insulting your target market’s intelligence.
Then things seemed to change for the better. Common-sense and good-will appeared to prevail. New IPs were introduced in the form of Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge (where art thou?!) and the general consensus was that EA had turned a corner and seen the light. Having Bobby Kotick painting a big, fat target on the back of Activision-Blizzard around about the same time probably didn’t hurt either. God love him.
It’s with a sense of irony, then, that it’s the Dead Space franchise that has seen an apparent return to the dark-side.
The widely derided IAP mechanics that featured in Dead Space 3, whereby players could purchase weapons and resources to basically cheat (let’s be honest about this, shall we?) their way through the game, were clearly a vanguard to a wider business strategy:
“We’re building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way, either to get to a higher level to buy a new character, to buy a truck, a gun, whatever it might be”
“Consumers are enjoying and embracing that way of the business.”
So says EA’s Chief Financial Officer, Blake Jorgensen.
Let’s just break down a couple of things here: “are enjoying and embracing”. On what market research is this conclusion drawn? None, I would wager. It’s based upon a balance-sheet that shows that a fair amount of money has been made. The amount of “enjoyment” that individuals have gained from bypassing the game’s intended trajectory is completely unknown as is the degree to which they are “embracing” what was, at the time, a one-off experiment. To embrace implies a more long-standing affair, no? Although I now assume that’s what EA is hoping for going forwards…
And note that this entirely subjective announcement comes from not a game developer, let alone a representative of the gaming community more broadly, but from a Chief Financial Officer.
The heart of game design?
Now, I’m not naïve, Voxelites. I work (even beyond the realms of VoxelArcade) in a customer-facing, privately-funded industry and therefore fully appreciate the need for savvy business-tactics in any field; even one as apparently irreverent and supposedly idealistic as the games industry. I don’t blame Mr Jorgensen or his superiors for seeking out innovative revenue streams and nor do I bear a grudge against those that fuelled this particular experiment by giving-in to the IAPs in DS3. Indeed, I recently waxed lyrical about the storm-in-a-teacup that surrounds the whole concept of F2P and IAPs.
No, what worries me here as that if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt in life and learnt well, it’s that one size certainly does not fit all.
Politicians try their very best to legislatively frame us; organisations thrust their petty policies upon us; our parents tried their damnedest to instill it in us; our partners expect nothing less from us and yet all are desperately clutching on to thin air, chasing largely their own tails.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt
The truth of the matter is that the human spirit is as rich and varied as anything that you may care to find in the universe and that any organisation in any walk of life that suddenly announces that one policy shall rule them all and in the darkness bind them can, quite frankly, shove it.
That is, of course, unless I can pause FIFA and purchase a five-goal-lead in the dying minutes against my irritating nephew who beats me every time?
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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.