EA Play 2017 has brought a lot of talk about innovation, but the bulk of the company's live stream was spent on their sports line-up and safe bet sequels. Here is a short and strongly opinionated rundown of the stream.
"[...] we are talking FIFA, Madden, PvZ Garden Warfare 2, Star Wars: Battlefront and much more. So, jump in; bring your friends; have fun with some great games this week, while you're getting ready and excited for what's to come. Now, without further ado, we bring you Star Wars: Battlefront II", EA CEO Andrew Wilson said before surrendering the stage to some Stormtroopers and Janina Gavankar - the deliberately but subtly sexy femme fatale voice actor for the upcoming Battlefront II, with a distinct Kardashianesuqe vibe to her.
There wasn't anything really innovative or revolutionary about the gameplay on display. It all seemed like a result of the creeping evolution that the Battlefield series has been delivering on a consistent basis throughout recent years. Slap a Star Wars skin onto it and add a healthy measure of stuff that was supposed to be in the cancelled Battlefront III from 2008 and that's pretty much it; a lot of tried and true, old-as-rust mechanics, with some new Star Wars visuals and animations, and call it innovative. You have now earned the right to whistle all the way to the bank. Why the decision was made to kick-off the gameplay footage with a map based on the prequel movies is beyond me. But then again, I already had hair on my neck when the prequel disappointment peaked, so it might just be me.
What followed was more talk about EA's mobile Star Wars game, Galaxy of Heroes - because when you have your own show lasting for days, you can talk about whatever you want. Even if it's your mobile non-canon microtransaction mine.
Zombie BioWare also flashed their rumoured work-in-progress title Anthem on the big screen as well. The way I understand it, everyone who totally wasn't responsible for the Andromeda fiasco, and hasn't left BioWare around the time the company founders did, is working on this one. So EA has one more shot to prove to everyone that they haven't already run one of the most successful RPG developers of all time into the ground with record speed. If the project actually is an RPG, it would seem that BioWare have found a way to get a game from that genre to work on Frostbite, since a part of the company blamed Andromeda's failure on the engine recently.
Anthem's forge and Javelin showcase
Next up was Need For Speed: Payback - The Narrative Power Fantasy. EA will be heading in a story-driven direction with this one, same as with their regular sports titles, until they manage to get their hands on the Fast and the Furious licence. Give it time, someone might actually be absent-minded enough to let go of it someday.
At this point the live stream watching now counter had steadily descended from roughly 150,000 to somewhere around 60,000. Understandable, since it's hard to keep the modern gamer interested in your presentation for 2 hours. Especially, when you design your games to be compatible with a 20 minute attention span demographic. To be fair, AAA console game design is conscious of the fact that the modern mature gamer might not have enough time to play more than a lunch-break worth of content at a time. Must be that same mature demographic was busy spamming ASCII dongs and swastikas in the stream live-chat.
I didn't really count how many time the word new came up during EA's presentation, but I don't think I've been really surprised by anything during the portion of the presentation I sat through. The only exception might be when lead writer of Hazelight, Josef Farez presented A Way Out - a new original EA funded IP promising a two player co-op only game that looked like an interesting concept. A split-screen narrative experience might sound a little too much like Kane and Lynch, but the studio behind it is the same one that made the critically acclaimed A Tale of Two Sons, so there might be something to look forward to coming out of the conference after all.
Most of the talk about EA's sports line-up boiled down to sports commentator style chatter about how ripped Ronaldo is and the games appear to be collectively adopting something similar to FIFA's Journey mode. I wish it were different, but in spite of the popularity and incredible sale figures these titles enjoy, I can't be bothered to look into it more than barely - out of fear I might grow a six-pack.
You will notice that most of the media coverage of EA's stand-alone presentation contain E3 in the title, in spite of the presentation taking place outside of E3 proper. Somewhere, a PR/marketing genius is stroking his pussycat and thinking exactly as planned to himself. We talked about EA's attempts to hijack E3 previously, but the state of current media coverage probably goes above and beyond any expectations the company might have had for their event.
I salute the brave souls who are still watching the live stream and are determined to sit through the entire thing. Telxvi has had enough surprises for one night.