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EA Sports, Are They Stubbon Or Sensible?

Published September 18, 2009 by |

Sports titles flood the market, there is no escaping it. In 2009 alone EA released the next iteration of a range of titles, including NASCAR, NCAA, NHL, Madden NFL, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, FIFA and several others. It could be assumed that due to the sheer volume of titles, that some of these releases may not offer the high quality experiences gamers have come to expect; quite the opposite in fact. Fight Night Round 4 received top marks right here on Gamebrit, while Madden NFL 09 and FIFA 09 also scored favourably.

However despite being quality gaming offerings, this is where the problem makes its grand entrance. When 2010 rolls round, without doubt we will see yet more countless follow-ups to the majority of the popular sporting titles. So are gamers being taken for a ride year in year out, paying out for a few small additions here and there, or are the sporting offerings truly worth the annual investment?

The developers would arguably tout their efforts as worthy of gamers pounds. Electronic Arts revealed that on average the Madden NFL series sells in excess of four million copies per year, an impressive amount given the consecutive annual releases. Other sports titles have shown similar annual success. Naturally, it goes without saying that a high volume of sales equates to high profit margins, so it’s understandable that EA would seek to keep a firm grip on the market.

By having a regular annual release, in addition to holding exclusive licenses, Electronic Arts are not only flooding the market, but are also saturating it, leaving little to no room for rivals to establish their own sports titles. Of course if Electronic Arts were not to release a franchised title one year, not only could they risk loosing ground to competitors, they could also risk confusing consumers who have become so accustom to these annual ‘re-releases’. So are Electronic Arts stuck in an release schedule that is religiously expected of them, and have they become a victim of their own success. Is it the expectations of the consumers that is holding back true innovation in sporting titles, or is it plain simple good business sense.

From the gamers perspective, whether Electronic Arts’ repetitiously predictable schedule is worthy of the annual investment purely depends on the individual. Does 09 offer enough changes over 08 to warrant that purchase? To the hardcore fanatics, the expected update can mark a true highlight in their gaming calendar, as they look forward to playing with all new team rosters and the various new alterations. But for many the lack of change and supposed drip feeding of features make the purchase unwarranted.

A decade ago the minor alterations and roster updates delivered through yet another instalment could be excused, however now with the prevalence of downloadable content and the infrastructure to deliver game patches with such ease, the reason for annual updates to exist is by no means valid.  A large number of developers have utilised this technology, fixing errors and providing new content through game patches. Even Electronic Arts have offered updates to their titles, fixing bugs, and offering new DLC such as the popular 2009 addition, Ultimate Team. Yet despite these updates, the company continue to push annual releases, whereas they could simply update changes via downloadable content. However, in one game at least, this stubborn practice could be set to change, as Electronic Arts have recently introduced a new service dubbed ‘My Season Live’. Available for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the weekly FIFA 10 service will provide gamers with updates to players information such as injuries and suspensions in addition to league standings, fixtures and game results. Of course this up-to-date season long information comes at a cost, priced at £3.99 for a specific league, or £7.99 for all available data. It could be argued however that paying this fee for current and relevant additional content provides a more attractive offering than forking out the forty pound price tag at retail.

Will this new approach to providing information on the fly to gamers change the future of sporting franchises? If Electronic Arts’ latest venture is a success then the potential impact could be huge, and not just to FIFA, but to the companies entire sporting catalog. Through offering minor alterations via download a weight would be lifted on the development teams, allowing them to make bigger and better strides between releases. As for whether this will happen though, is yet to be seen.