In news that shouldn’t surprise many, EA’s quarterly results were slightly lower than last year. Recall that this Q included:
- Launch of BF5’s Battle Royale mode. Which made waves due to its mediocrity.
- Launch of Apex Legends. Which broke all sorts of initial records, partly due to EA paying streamers to promote it.
- There’s a content “drought” that makes for a moral quandary regarding development “crunch”. Fornite is like friggin’ crack with it’s non-stop updates – a digital FOMO if ever I’ve seen one.
- This doesn’t dismiss the quality of Apex Legends, simply re-enforces that groupthink is what makes these games popular.
- Launch of Anthem. Solid box sales. A dumpster fire since then.
- Related, the patch on Monday removed Elysian Caches (cosmetic rewards) but also removed some boss loot from Heart of Rage. I truly feel bad for their community managers.
And to the surprise of no one, EA wants to port Apex Legends to mobile and get it in China. Mobile, I get. That’s a stupidly massive money pot. PUBG and Fortnite are both making chunks of change there (and cross-platform I might add).
Breaking into China though… unless EA has pictures of someone in compromising positions, that’s not going to happen. PUBG just got reskinned to have no blood and have people stand back up and wave when they are killed. The draw of money though, that is a true test of morals. Just look at Google.
The real question here after having seen EA and Acti-Blizz come to the table, is how are big publishers going to tackle the growing tide of developer resentment. Rome fell because of internal problems, not because of some other power. Epic, Rockstar, Bioware… all have made the rounds for internal drama. The “dream job” of working for a publisher doesn’t seem all that attractive anymore. Why deal with the demands of a big publisher when the entry fee to game development is so low?
We’re still going to have blockbusters like God of War, or Link/Zelda but looking at the gaming landscape… indies are rocking it fierce. Dead Cells, Celeste, Obra Dinn, No Man’s Sky, Life is Strange, Florence, Into the Breach…all worthy of attention.
The big devs will have to do with mediocrity and internal resentment. People who aren’t invested in a company eventually do just enough not to get fired. As that population grows within a company, it gets harder and harder to fix.
No easy answers. It would be foolish to assume that leadership has any idea that this is a problem (aside from the PR lip service). That would require them to actually talk to their developers instead of their board of investors.