Last month, PC Gamer ran a piece about Anthem and EA focusing on EA’s belief that the way the industry goes about releasing games is changing fast. “You’re moving from what was initially a BioWare game which would be somewhere between 40 and 80 hours of offline play to 40 to 80 hours of offline play plus 100 or 200, 300 hours of elder game that happens with millions of other players at scale, online,” EA CEO Andrew Wilson says, suggesting that Asia’s trend toward lengthy soft launches allows companies to grok how online games perform at scale, while Western companies have been slow to adapt. But they will, he argues, and that will change how companies like EA make games.
“You should expect that we’ll start to test things like soft launches—the same things that you see in the mobile space right now. And it also comes down to changing how we communicate with players. Our entire marketing organization now is moving out of presentation mode and into conversation mode, and changing how we interact with players over time.”
The article doesn’t use the term games-as-a-service, but that’s essentially what he’s describing. But MMORPGs have always run this way – it’s not new. It’s the rest of the market wildly pivoting to be eternally monetizable faux-MMOs that is causing so much distress for ponderous companies like EA. I thought this would be an interesting one to reflect on for the Daily Grind, particularly given the MMO community’s disdain for the soft launches we’re so frequently saddled with. I mean, isn’t “conversation mode” just a fancy way of saying “get the players to test and hone the game for us for months?” And is this actually what we want?
Is the future of online games development really “conversation mode” rather than “presentation mode”?