Lets be completely honest about this: I love Titanfall 2. So-much-so that I own it on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. To me, it is by far one of the best velocity-focused FPS titles out there and may ever be out there. Respawn drove it home the moment they released Titanfall 2 and displayed an assured fact that they had learned from Titanfall by making it an console exclusive. Let alone did they learn from that, they also learned from the fact it had not a single drop of campaign, and that it didn’t float well with fans.
The team at Respawn has even announced that they have another title in the works for the Titanfall universe, but this time I’m not excited. I’m not jumping out of my seat for joy and running to the local GameStop or Best Buy to see if I can pre-order the game before its official announcement (sometimes I forget I’m a press member and need to act like one). But there’s a reason behind this enthusiasm having died and it’s not because I hate EA at all, but rather I’m confused by the disturbing news that Respawn had been acquired by EA themselves.
The reason behind the fact it’s disturbing? EA just closed down Visceral just a few days ago and axed any IP the team had in the works (goodbye Deadspace). I’m disturbed by the fact that EA doesn’t just own them now, but the fact that EA is all for microtransactions, that they want to push them down our throats. This is a very reason I’ve been hesitant about buying another EA title. I was a huge fan of the publisher back during the days of Kingdoms of Amalur, Dead Space, Madden 2013, and even before that with Black.The company is known for having a tradition of putting studios on the chopping block and taking off their heads. I’ve been sour since their tradition with their history with companies such as Big Huge Games, 38 Studios, and now Visceral Entertainment. I’ve even grown more sour as we’ve lost touch with them and have yet to receive press kits as we used to. But most of all, I’m just pissed about Visceral. The team’s closure had hit like a nuclear warhead and left me reeling for a few good hours, but there’s a really good reason behind it: the studio was already hard at work on an action-adventure title for the Star Wars franchise. They’d already been hard at work for years on it.
More-so the fact that EA now views games as a service, something they can manipulate to benefit them, and press the games to be an online service. EA’s executive vice president of worldwide studios Patrick Söderlund’s statement about the EA closure was even more problematic, and honestly – disturbing.
“It has become clear to deliver an experience that players will want to come back and enjoy for a long time to come, we need to pivot the [game’s] design… we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”
So how are we supposed to take this? Respawn is now stuck in a bad place, one that a fan such as myself wouldn’t want to see them in, and myself as a press member really doesn’t want to see them in. I’ve had a lot of respect for Titanfall since the game launched and even more since the launch of Titanfall 2. Both it and franchises such as Dishonored, Prey, and even Call of Duty: WWII offer paltry returns in comparison to those games that are treated as a service-like method (namely Destiny and Overwatch).But it brings in very real questions we must discuss: How is this bad for business? Why should we actually be concerned about this future? What does this mean for us with games being viewed as a service by EA even if we pay top dollar for them?
Look at games that use microtransactions already. We’re already seeing this platform grow continually. We have games such as Star Wars Battlefront II, Overwatch, LawBreakers, and even non-games as service titles such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare using this model heavily. They have been for quite some time and it is big business. So much so that Activision-Blizzard has claimed nearly $4 billion on in-game microtransactions in 2016 alone. That’s a lot of money and it means there’s a lot more to be made. It’s a disgusting practice and one that many fans are wanting an end off as it already is being viewed as a form of gambling.The truth is? This is concerning. EA’s focus on games has grown concerning. They’re pushing microtransactions harder than ever and the fact is, they are causing a microtransaction buying hysteria, something that shouldn’t exist. A practice that even gamers like myself haven’t plunged into nor do we plan on it. It’s a sick practice that is completely non-rewarding to many of us. This practice helps push forward the games-as-a-service model. It’s something that is problematic. But if you are EA, this is a practice you are proud of, it’s filled to the brim with opportunities to make money off limited edition items such as cosmetics, weapons, and seasonal purchases.
While all of this does make sense from a business standpoint, it doesn’t mean that it’s a great idea, nor does it mean it’s a great practice. Titanfall 2 alone stands as a counter to EA’s games as a service option. The campaign is by far one of the best ones out there. It’s immaculately constructed so that we didn’t need microtransactions, customizations, or DLC. It’s a campaign that is actually what I would have expected from a shooter game nearly ten years ago.And there’s reason for that: Titanfall 2 didn’t concern itself with microtransactions for the story, only the multiplayer, and that’s what made it perfect. Even then, the incentive wasn’t forced upon players. Instead, it was an optional choice players have been given.The reason I point out Titanfall 2 is the fact it’s one of EA’s ONLY games, if not their only in recent days, that doesn’t have forced microtransactions. It’s the only game that they have recently not used the games as a service model, and it shows. Because of how it’s viewed, I have opted to buy a few of its optional content packs, and actually enjoyed the game. I was dazzled by its gameplay mechanics, its paid options, and just how different it is between other games out there such as Call of Duty and Overwatch. I was marveling at the games overall appeal. Within a day of playing the campaign and multiplayer, I didn’t mind moving across the games various settings, its frenzied arena style combat mechanics, and its ever-changing maps. It’s a campaign a style that Söderlund has actually implied in the statement about Visceral – is moving away from.
EA’s end-game strategy is to focus on multiplayer components and help push that. But why? Titanfall didn’t do that well. It was hamstrung by its focus on being an Xbox One exclusive with purchasable DLC drops that fractured the games community. A practice that has been problematic even for games such as Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises. Games like LawBreakers, Overwatch, and various other titles have even opted out of this practice. Titanfall 2 has joined this practice in dodging the need for DLC and it worked well. It was a relaxed practice that myself and many out there enjoyed since we wouldn’t be split apart. But for EA, it’s not enough, it didn’t meet their expectations, even with reviews like our own that rated the game above the average 89% on metacritic.
Were they wanting a Battlefield 1 reception? Wait, it’s only sitting at an 89% as of writing this opinion piece. So what’s the deal? Did they want more money, a bigger community, and a bunch of newcomers who would just throw out as much money possible towards the game? It makes literally no sense as to what EA’s trying to do and it shows. They have no solid foundation to stand on when it comes to their games as a service model. Hell, even Titanfall has a lot of room to grow, but so does Respawn. They have a lot of time to grow if EA gives them that time. Unfortunately, if they don’t perform as EA expects, we very likely could see them get shuddered like Visceral did, and their IPs go into a vault.
Even with BioWare’s renowned pushes into the action-adventure market with titles such as Mass Effect and the upcoming Anthem, I can’t help but be concerned for the legendary studio. Until Mass Effect 3, they didn’t do microtransactions; they didn’t do online focused multiplayer. They simply focused on giving us great stories, but that all changed with Mass Effect 3, and it seems that Mass Effect Andromeda suffered because of it. Sure, the game is beautiful, but it still suffered heavily. For me, it’s now hard to see Respawn having a third chance to REALLY make Titanfall really have a community like that of Battlefield, Overwatch, or even Paragon.
To be honest, I don’t trust EA at this point. They could send me all the games in the world, a Xbox One X, and even a PlayStation 4 Pro designed to my wants, and I doubt I could still trust them. Actually, I couldn’t. I’m not one to be bought out. I trust the actions of a company more than the gifts, the back pats, and money that could be offered. I’m not a walking bag of cash, which we are viewed as since EA is focusing on increasing their “revenue per player,” which is a new buzzphrase that’s being banged about during the companies earning calls. So what the f*ck are we really to the company? Just that. We’re walking, trees made of money.
Even with Vince Zampella, founder of Respawn Entertainment, having told VentureBeat that they need the resources EA has to offer, we can only hope he’s right that they need them to “make bigger games that are at the right level of competitiveness.”
But competitiveness with who? Why are they really worried about competing against titles such as Call of Duty or Battlefield or any other big title out there? Are they worried about Bethesda knocking them around during a big release week with titles such as DOOM or Wolfenstein? No, they’re worked about having “knowledge for live services”. He (Zampella) has even stated that we won’t see any major changes to Titanfall because of this transition. I’m calling it now: we will. We will see loot boxes, paid DLC, and even microtransactions being shoved down our throats. I can’t be apprehensive about this, even with Zampella stating to GamesBeat that they “are still Respawn”.
How can I? We’re now in an environment where we have already seen leaders at EA pursue trends, dumping studios as well as their goals in order to earn as much profit as possible, and scalping players for every penny they are worth. Can I really be excited about this future we have? Can I really be happy with a product that could easily be as bad as Destiny 2 was for me when I reviewed it? It has a lot of problems and all of it because the game was viewed as a service before a game. I’m already seeing our next Titanfall experience incorporating features from Destiny, Battlefield, and even Warframe. The latter being one of the few games I don’t actually mind being a games as a service title.I understand that video games are a business, just as my writing is, and I understand that there are trends that should be followed. At this current juncture, I have no faith in EA, and I have no faith that they will win myself or many of us back at any point. I do wish tehy would learn to find a comfortable medium between games as a service and games as a product. I would love to see franchises I know and love return to their former glory days. I would love to see Anthem by the Destiny killer I hope it can be. I hope EA is evaluating every possible opportunity they have.
If they can prove me wrong on my doubts about their purchase of Respawn Entertainment, I would love for them to do it! I invite them do it. If they do? I will gladly write an essay on why I am wrong, why I should have thought more openly about them, and why I shouldn’t be upset that I feel like Titanfall 3 – or whatever it will be called – won’t be a microtransaction filled slot machine.
A machine that will buckle and fail because of players being forced to spend real money for digital items they may only use once or twice before moving on. Until that point happens, I won’t be moving on with EA, and I wish Respawn the best of luck. If their closure happens, I don’t look for writing it up, and I certainly don’t want to do so in the near future. If it happens though, it will happen, and I’m not looking forward to it at all, as stated above.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.