EA Says People Don't Really Enjoy Linear Games As Much Today
"You gotta cut the bridge when you realise you can't make a lot of money on something."
When Electronic Arts closed down Visceral Games and announced that the studio's in-development Star Wars game was changing directions significantly, some wondered if this had to do with the game's more linear, single-player nature. Given the huge success of multiplayer games like Destiny and PUBG that use the games-as-a-service model, was EA re-tooling Visceral's Star Wars game to respond to this industry trend? EA CEO Andrew Wilson said it wasn't necessarily, but now EA CFO Blake Jorgensen has acknowledged that linear games are fading in popularity in the current market.
"As we kept reviewing the game, it continued to look like a much more linear game [which] people don't like as much today as they did five years ago or 10 years ago," Jorgensen said during the Credit Suisse Technology, Media & Telecom Conference this week (via DualShockers).
For his part, Wilson said the decision to close Visceral and pivot the studio's Star Wars game wasn't about the game needing to have a live service element. "It wasn't about, 'This was just a single-player game [and it] needed to be a live service.' It was more about, 'How do we get to a point where the overall gameplay experience was right for players,'" he explained earlier this month.
Going back to Jorgensen, he said Visceral was trying to make a Star Wars game that "really pushed gameplay to the next level." He also acknowledged that Visceral was a "sub-scale" studio, staffed by around 80 people which is on the smaller side for a AAA game made by EA. Because of this, EA brought in teams from Vancouver and Montreal to support Visceral on this project.
EA ultimately decided to close Visceral and significantly shift the nature of the Star Wars game because "it was an economic decision at the end of the day." Jorgensen thought about how many copies the game would have to sell and he determined that EA "probably wouldn't be able to" reach that unspecified mark. "You gotta cut the bridge when you realise you can't make a lot of money on something," Jorgensen said, adding that he is a big believer in sunk costs.
Also during the call, Jorgensen mentioned that this wasn't the first time EA decided to significantly change a game. But while EA likes to do this early in the process if it can, the new Star Wars game from Visceral got further out, making the decision that much more difficult for the developers and fans alike to stomach.
Jorgensen added that EA is trying to re-assign developers from Visceral to other projects, but the wording of his comments ("we're trying to keep as many as possible") suggests that there will be some amount of layoffs in the process.
When EA announced the closure of Visceral, EA's Patrick Soderlund said its team at EA Vancouver will lead the future development on the Star Wars game. But during the call this week, Jorgensen made it sound like the game may never come out. He said EA's conversations currently are more focused on if what Visceral made can be pivoted into something new, potentially in a different style; another option, Jorgensen said, is for some parts of the game to be used in other games. Right now, EA is "trying to go through that," Jorgensen said, so it sounds like nothing has been decided on the future of the game as of yet.
One part of the decision to change Visceral's Star Wars game came down to what Soderlund described as "fundamental shifts in the marketplace." He added that EA wants to make a game that "players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come." The wording here suggests that EA wanted the game to have more of a live service element to it, and if and when it does come back, we wouldn't be surprised to see that happen.
In the wake of the Visceral/Star Wars game news, Xbox boss Shannon Loftis said she believes single-player-only games aren't dead but they do have questions to face around their economic viability.