Star Wars

Is EA the Right Company to Make Star Wars Games?

It was a sad day just over a month ago when Disney announced that they’d be closing LucasArts. LucasArts was one of the more revered game developers, especially during their peak of success in the 90s. Now, Disney has recently announced that EA will be taking over the development and publication of Star Wars games.

It’s a really difficult pill for gamers to swallow. One of the most beloved licenses is moving from one of the best developers and is now in the hands of a company that is the only two time winner of the Worst Company in America contest.

EA’s flaws are well documented. From publishing half finished games to forcing DRM on the players, nearly ever gamer has some sort of issue with them.

EA has always been interested in publishing games for the biggest licenses. In the 2000s, they produced games for both the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises. Ten years ago, you couldn’t imagine there being a movie series more popular than those two. Thanks to this high popularity, EA managed to produce weak, uninspired video games on both franchises that still managed a profit.

Despite LucasArts always getting a lot of praise, Star Wars games have been hit or miss over the past several years. In fact, both EA and LucasArts produced an RTS game based on the movie licenses that they had at the time. Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth came out 15 months prior to Star Wars: Empire at War, but it could be argued that the Lord of the Rings RTS was more innovative and fun to play than the Star Wars version.

With that in mind, it might not be a disaster for EA to be the publisher in charge of creating Star Wars games. Though EA has rarely made a licensed game worth raving about, they do have the ability to keep a game from being complete garbage. The worst possibility would have been if some lesser known company started producing Star Wars games that were on the same level as ET for the Atari. Though it likely could have been better, at the same time it could have been much worse.

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Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts Teaming Up with Microsoft?

When Sony announced the PS4 just two months ago, one publisher that was noticeably absent was the largest third party, Electronic Arts. As we get closer to Microsoft’s reveal of the next Xbox, it has started to look more and more likely that EA will be offering some type of exclusive deal with Microsoft.

The latest nail in the coffin comes as Respawn Entertainment, a new studio under the wings of Electronic Arts, announced that their anticipated multiplayer shooter will be exclusive to Microsoft consoles. Respawn was founded by the original creators of the Call of Duty franchise.

Other evidence comes as Microsoft has begun to actively promote some of the EA Sports games on their twitter account. EA has been very quiet on next generation games coming to the PS4, despite the console likely being released in less than seven months.

With the rumors that the next Xbox will require an internet connection in order to even play a game, it isn’t surprising that the kings of DRM will do what they can to back that philosophy.

Microsoft would have quite a bit of trouble selling consoles with all things being equal other than an anti-consumer DRM policy such as an always online console. There are absolutely zero benefits to the consumer, who would otherwise be fine with online being optional. The only people that this helps is the game developers and publishers.

Electronic Arts has a history of trying to push DRM on their consumers. They came up with the idea of limited installs for PC games, online passes required to prevent used game sales, and they had the bright idea of having a historically single player franchise be forced to be played online, only for the launch to blow up in their face.

It all seems to fit together. Microsoft knows that they will seriously hinder the size of their consumer base if they had an always online console. They need exclusive games to convince gamers to still buy their console. EA doesn’t like used game sales and piracy eating into their profits, so they’re likely willing to take a short term loss in order to get rid of these practices. With Peter Moore being in such a prominent position at Electronic Arts, it’s likely that he was able to negotiate with some of his old buddies in Microsoft’s console division to make such a deal happen.

Although nothing is official yet, it’s looking likely that we’ll see some type of exclusive deal between Microsoft and Electronic Arts for the next Xbox when the console is revealed in just three short weeks. Here’s to hoping that our worst fears aren’t realized.

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Extension Made for Claims to EA Football Lawsuit

Did you buy Madden or NCAA Football any time between 2005 and 2012? If you did, then the US District Court of Northern California has ruled that you have been a victim of price gouging by the biggest publisher in gaming, EA. EA is required to return $27 million to the owners of these football games, and the deadline to file a claim has been extended due to a slow response.

This lawsuit was created in response to EA Sports’ handling of their exclusive license to both NCAA and NFL football games. Back in 2004, 2K sports released a new football game for just $20. In response to this, EA went to the NFL and negotiated an exclusive license, allowing them to publish the only game with the official players and teams. This took 2K out of the football games market, and gave EA a monopoly which they used to keep the price of sports games high.

Due to that decision made by EA, consumers no longer had a choice to buy a quality product for just $20, but instead were forced to buy a $50 game of relatively equal quality if they wanted to play a football video game with authentic teams and players. That price was raised to $60 with the latest generation of consoles.

The class action lawsuit allows anybody who purchased a Madden, NCAA Football, or Arena Football game for Xbox, Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii between January 1, 2005 and June 12, 2012. This includes all titles with the years 2006-2012 on the game. You can file for up to 8 claims per generation. The amount that you receive is $20.37 per game bought last generation (Xbox/PS2/NGC) or $5.85 for games you bought for this generation of consoles (X360/PS3/Wii).

In addition to paying back costs to many of the consumers, EA is banned from receiving an exclusive license with the NCAA for football games for 5 years. They are also banned from having an exclusive license with the Arena Football League for 5 years if EA decided to resurrect that series. Their exclusive license with the NFL remains intact.

If you’d like to file a claim, you can do so at the litigation webpage here. The deadline has been extended from March 5 to May 15, 2013.

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EA Lays Off Staff

In preparation for the next generation of console and mobile gaming, EA has laid off a large number of employees. Currently, sources are indicating that upwards of 300 people have been fired today. Rumors also indicate that the heaviest studio hit by layoffs is none other than their Montreal studio which specializes in mobile development. This includes all of the developers at that studio.

Electronic Arts gave the following statement in the aftermath of the firings:

EA is sharpening its focus to provide games for new platforms and mobile. In some cases, this involves reducing team sizes as we evolve into a more efficient organization. These are difficult decisions to let go of good people who have made important contributions to EA, and whenever possible we retrain or relocate employees to new roles. Streamlining our operations will help ensure EA is bringing the best next-generation games to players around the world.

EA most recently was in the news for winning The Consumerist poll for “Worst Company In America” for the secondtime in a row. They are the first company to ever win this award twice. Many consumer complaints come from rushed game releases such as Mass Effect 3, and anti-consumer policies such as the always-on connection required for SimCity.

Electronic Arts is also still looking for a new CEO after John Riccitiello stepped down almost a month ago. Game sales dropped on every platform at the end of the last fiscal year for the publisher, so it is not surprising that they are going for a change in leadership across the board.

Despite the large number of firings in Montreal, the studio will still be open. EA is definitely looking for a more streamlined workforce as they begin production of their next generation of video games. Changes need to continue from the top though, as many former employees have talked about the toxic environment in many of the studios.

To all those who are now looking for jobs due to these decisions, we wish luck to you and your family as you begin to look for new employment. Hopefully you won’t be down and out for too long.

Source: Kotaku

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CEO of EA John Riccitiello Resigns

After a failed MMO that cost nearly half million in lost revenue, a Mass Effect ending disaster, and SimCity always-online debacle, it’s no wonder why John Riccitiello is hanging up his publisher pants and finally calling it quits.

We all had high hopes for games like SWTOR, Mass Effect 3, and the new entry into the Sim City series that came out last month, but one by one John showed us just how wrong we were to put our faith in a company which had shown itself to be nothing but ruthless, uncaring, and broad-stroked in its blatant attempts at cashing in on any IP they could milk dry.

Good riddance.

EA’s once unshakable domination of the video game industry has been jostled something fierce these past few years, and even though they’ve injected millions of dollars into some of gaming’s greatest legacies, each release was plagued by a pack of idiotic moves that even a competent publisher wouldn’t make more than once. And their scoreboard is currently through the roof.

His resignation “all comes down to accountability,” Riccitiello said in his letter. “EA’s shareholders and employees expect better and I am accountable for the miss.”

“Accountable” is the delicate way to put it, but at least he’s willing to take the rap for ruining some of the greatest gaming and sci-fi franchises in history. No word on who’s set to replace him yet, although rumors have been circulating about current CTO Rajat Teneja and his possible bump up to head honcho.


Source| San Jose Mercury Photo Credit| Reuters/Phil McCarten

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