In this CNet interview, EA president Frank Gibeau talks about the new direction he has planned for the company:
I’ve noticed this already. A “service” model. They have been moving towards this for some time now. Why sell me a game, when you can lease it to me and hold the experience ransom for a monthly fee? What better way to get closer to your customers than to enter into this economic suicide pact with them? If we die, we’re taking your games with us.
Having said that, I would welcome this a bit more if the “service” wasn’t just an artificial restriction and hassle placed on the consumer. Signing in to World of Warcraft to enter their 10-million-player world is reasonable. Connecting to a server so I can be allowed to play Mass Effect is not. If you want to provide a service, you have to actually offer me something I want. Something besides permission to play my game.
Sure, System Shock 2 was an incredible and deeply immersive experience, full of tension and thrills, but think of how much better the game would be if you could share it with a bunch of random XBox Live douchebags, typing incomprehensible nonsense and teabagging each other. How much better would KOTOR be if every planet was crowded with Jedi Knights asking you, “how u find key 4 forse field in kashik i cant get thru blue wall PST” The multiplayer experience isn’t just “a single-player game, but with friends”. I actually wrote about this two and a half years ago: In terms of mood, gameplay, and pacing, multiplayer it a completely different experience.
Maybe I’m just on the wrong side of the cultural change. Maybe people really are clamoring for multiplayer everything, all the time, everywhere. I’m not seeing it, but maybe me, my friends, and many of the people who frequent this site are all just… radically different from the average gamer?
I’m not against multiplayer, I’m just not hungry for it. And when I see the biggest game publisher announcing that they aren’t interested in single-player games anymore, it makes me suspect there is a lot more going on here than a response to “the market”.
Snarking aside, this is actually really good news for indies. Big-name publishers are embracing multiplayer games with lots of visual glitter, and moving away from making games with personality and depth. The opening is there for indies and small-time developers to step in and make games rich in atmosphere and storytelling. It’s hard to compete with big-name publishers on their own turf, but if they abandon that turf to build Halo clones, then it will leave an untapped market that indies can pursue.