An interview with Electronic Arts’ Chief Operating Officer, Peter Moore, recently went live discussing the various degrees of “change” culminating within the interactive entertainment industry. According to Moore, us hardcore gamers just don’t like change. We’re apparently the troglodytes in an aging machine that’s moving towards something grand and mystique. The only problem is that Moore has it wrong: us gamers love change, we just don’t like crappy change.
The interview takes place over on GamesIndustry.biz where the COO doles out a rather peaceable bit promulgation to get things started, saying…
“I think the challenge sometimes is that the growth of gaming… there’s a core that doesn’t quite feel comfortable with that,”… “[GamesIndustry.biz] readers, the industry in particular. I don’t get frustrated, but I scratch my head at times and say, ‘Look. These are different times.’ And different times usually evoke different business models. Different consumers come in. They’ve got different expectations. And we can either ignore them or embrace them, and at EA, we’ve chosen to embrace them.”
No one is against the various forms of video game expansion. In fact, it was gamers (core or otherwise) who gave warez sites a lot of business in a bid for gaining access to digital distribution in the PC market during the late 90s and early aughts. It was later torrent sites and peer-to-peer services that began a rising tide of use from within the core community that eventually led to Valve answering the unspoken plea for digital consumption with Steam. In that regards, gamers were first to the table and the rest of the industry slowly came up to par (for the most part).
Heck, it’s because of nostalgic, new-age and forward thinking hardcore gamers (and not publishers) that services like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Desura and Greenlight have been deemed successful (some more than others, but you get the drift). In fact, Kickstarter had a record year in 2013, with the games division pulling in $75 million, according to an ICO Partners report.
In this regard, gamers aren’t averse to change for the sake of change; the change itself has to have some sort of intrinsic value to the end-user for them to feel as if it’s worth embracing.
However, Moore states that EA’s old business model of making a finished product with the “fire and forget” mentality is done and over with. GamesIndustry wrote in the article that…
“…the company has changed strategy away from the “launch and leave” or “fire and forget” model that used to dominate the industry. With games-as-a-service, Moore said 35 percent of the company’s staff is involved in live ops, providing support services or developing extra content for games that have already launched. Now he said the company averages about 11 or 12 games a year.”
In plane ‘ole English, the “games as a service” model means that games aren’t released as “complete” and then the company focuses on the next big game. Instead, the 35% of staff working support services or developing extra content make up for all the countless forms of pre and post launch DLC, as well as the innumerable game patches and fixes that come along with them.
In essence, all this “additional” content doesn’t really benefit the gamer, especially when the product launches in the dire state that a game like Battlefield 4 did. Gamers would prefer a product that launched complete and usable right from the get-go.
Heck, the proof is in the pudding given the fact that the poor launch of Battlefield 4 has irked the perception of gamers so badly that they now feel as if Battlefield Hardline isn’t worth it. Polygon recently wrote an opinion piece stating that gamers shouldn’t buy Battlefield Hardline because of EA’s treatment of Battlefield 4 as a progressive service instead of a polished product.
That’s not to mention that selling a game broken out of the box is the best way to get on the bad side of everyone who expects their $60 purchase to work as intended.
The above stance isn’t just some fleeting, ethereal opinion that fades with trends. According to Cowen Research, the pre-orders for Battlefield Hardline are far lower than Battlefield 3 and 4 and the game is likely to fall in line with the sales of Medal of Honor: Warfighter, which performed pretty badly in you case don’t remember (I’m sure Farming Simulator 2013 remembers).
Nevertheless, Moore goes on to say that…
“I think the core audience that dislikes the fact that there are play-for-free games and microtransactions built into those… fine, I get that,” … “I don’t think anybody has to like it,”…. “I think that’s where it goes. It’s like me; I get grumpy about some things, but if the river of progress is flowing and I’m trying to paddle my canoe in the opposite direction, then eventually I’m just going to lose out. From the perspective of what needs to happen in this industry, we need to embrace the fact that billions of people are playing games now.”
Really? Billions of people are playing games but their engagement is not exactly where Moore thinks it is. In fact, according to Recode, half of mobile games revenue seems to be generated from 0.15% of long-tail whales. In other words, only a small fraction of a percentage of the most dedicated (or addicted) gamers are spending money on these free-to-pay games. The rest are just dabbling and then moving on. I would hardly call disinterest from a vast majority of players a “positive change”.
Essentially, Moore is advocating that gamers accept the publisher’s stance that games-as-a-service has nothing whatsoever to do with the game being good quality fun, but rather that the game-as-a-service model is a financial hook for a small percentage of players, and that the low-cost effort put into free-to-play/microtransaction titles is a perfect business benefit for the publisher.
In other words: greed tactics are good tactics for the publisher.
I don’t think there’s any Sims fans out there who are cheering that toddlers and swimming pools are no longer in the game… or at least, the petition certainly doesn’t seem to reflect that sentiment.
But let’s get one thing clear here for a moment: hardcore gamers aren’t entirely against free-to-play titles. Myself and millions of others love games like Warframe, APB: Reloaded and War Thunder. It’s not the business model that core gamers are averse to, it’s how the business model is handled. Gamers hate content gouging. They hate feeling ripped off or getting goaded into pay-to-win tactics.
Let’s get another thing clear: mobile gaming isn’t evil, some mobile games are actually pretty cool like Riptide or Chair’s Infinity Blade series. Just like with free-to-play titles, no one wants to deal with scheming microtransactions like the ones found in Dungeon Keeper or Ridge Racer Driftopia, where consumer protection agencies have to get involved, as reported by BBC News . Again, it’s not the business model of producing mobile games that’s bad, it’s when the game is built around greed tactics that makes it bad.
TL;DR: EA’s COO, Peter Moore, accuses hardcore gamers of not accepting change in the industry, when in reality core gamers have been at the forefront of change for many big transitions within the industry. Core gamers just hate change that affects the industry in a negative way, or puts the gamer at a financial disadvantage while publishers pursue low-effort, low-quality titles.