My Thoughts on…EA Play Live

The EA Play Live Logo

I think I must preface this every time I write, tweet, do anything around EA is that I was employed by the company for almost five years from 2013 until 2017. It’s been nearly three years since my departure and I wasn’t aware of anything that was announced here. While I knew of some stuff before I left, none of what is mentioned here was known (except for some stuff around no plans for a follow-up to Skate.

EA Play Live 2020 is in the books and my emotions are all over the place. Like the last few years, the show was pretty disappointing, and outside of a few minor exceptions, there were only a couple of surprises and a whole lot of padding. However, there are things that I cared about and I wanted to share my thoughts on what I saw and what it could mean for the future.

I need to play more Apex Legends

My Thoughts on...EA Play Live

I really need to get back into Apex Legends. When it launched last year, I was playing as much as I could but other factors in my life prevented me from continuing. The updates look really cool and I think the fact that it’s coming to Steam and Nintendo Switch later this year with cross-play is really going to make this game even better.

My only concern and something they didn’t address as more EA Games incorporate crossplay are how accounts will work. As someone who has every major console and multiple accounts, how will they allow for account migration? They are probably looking at what Bungie and Epic have done with Destiny and Fortnite respectively but that is super important and needs to be addressed before cross-play gets turned on.

I am ready for Star Wars: Squadrons

I was shocked that the only announcement around EA Star Wars was Squadrons. Before the show started, I honestly thought we’d see some teaser for another Star Wars game, be it Battlefront 3 or Jedi: Fall Order 2, but we only got one new game. Thankfully though, it looks fantastic!

Star Wars: Squadrons is going to be a Day One purchase for me and I’ll probably play it on PC as it will incorporate VR Support. I think that while the story mode feels very much like a tutorial mode for multiplayer, the dog fight gameplay sections of the trailer looked solid. I am almost certain there will be an Open Beta between now and late September before the game releases.

Sports! SPORTS!…sort of

My Thoughts on...EA Play Live

While I love sports games, they really don’t need to be a part of a show like this. When I was still at EA, I remember suggesting that the sports games should have something separate from the regular show. You could still tease them here with an added “check out more from our sports game in July during our EA SPORTS Showcase…”

What they did show, with FIFA and Madden was actually pretty disappointing. When comparing the “Next level sports” teaser to the “IGNITE Engine” reveal in 2013 I didn’t get the same kind of excitement. For me, FIFA and Madden have been pretty stale over the last few years and I needed more than a sizzle reel of fewer than two minutes that featured minimal in-engine gameplay.

I wish EA SPORTS were pushing sports harder for PS5/Series X. My concern here is that the other sports games at EA (NBA LIVE, NHL, and UFC) still use the IGNITE game engine while FIFA and Madden use Frostbite. The different engines are probably why they didn’t feature more here. This also means that for NHL 21 on PS4/XB1 will still be on IGNITE and not Frostbite. Before the show started, there were rumors that FIFA 21 was moving to the Unreal engine but that turned out to be false. 

With regards to Frostbite and Unreal, the question here might be age. Frostbite 3 is six years old, so I’m hopeful Frostbite 4 is coming soon. The fact that EA Dice didn’t reveal anything today might mean they are working on a new engine and just weren’t ready to show anything yet. Unreal 5 is slated for 2021, so to make a game with Unreal 4 now doesn’t really make sense.

FIFA has always used Gamescom and the month of August to really push their messaging, so I don’t expect to hear anything more outside of maybe some league/club partnership announcements. As for the other sports games, NHL 21 will get shown in early July (I suspect once training camps start for the restart of the 2019-20 season) while anything else will probably happen later in the year. Again, I would love for there to be an EA SPORTS Showcase later this summer, but that probably will only be a dream in my head.

Well, Skate is back!

My Thoughts on...EA Play Live

What a way to close out the show! It’s fun to joke about the whole ‘We’ve got one more thing to show you…’ but they really pulled it off with the announcement that Skate is coming back. Unfortunately, we don’t know what it is. Doing some sleuthing (which means searching LinkedIn), one of the producers is listed as currently working for PopCap (a division within EA) while the other is still listed as working at Kabam (mobile studio). So, the game will most certainly still be developed in Vancouver but they probably don’t have a team set-up yet and that this announcement is super premature 

This is so early, we must temper our expectations. I am confident this isn’t just a mobile game but I really don’t know what else it could be. The smart move here would be to do a remaster of the original trilogy or at the very least, Skate 3 and get it out the door quickly (within the next 18 months). After that, start working on a proper Skate 4. 

While I suspect that people don’t want just a remaster, I think you have to start somewhere, especially considering how weird the timing is for this announcement. There is already a lot of pressure on EA to deliver a Skate game and now that we know something is coming, they cannot mess it up. In the meantime, you probably should consume other skateboarding content.

Other Odds & Ends

My Thoughts on...EA Play Live

I’ve already mentioned how I was expecting a lot more from this showcase than what we got. I really thought we would see something from EA Dice and EA Bioware, but we got nothing except for some ‘next-gen’ test footage. We know a Battlefield game is coming and that Bioware is working on Dragon Age 4 and trying to fix Anthem, so they both have stuff in the works.

Considering EA didn’t tease anything during the PS5 showcase a few weeks ago, leads me to think they have more planned with Microsoft in the coming months (Madden 21 was shown during the Series X showcase in May). There is a first-party Series X showcase in July and they probably have something planned for August, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see EA highlight more of their next-gen content on Series X.

While they went strong with three EA Originals, I think that EA hasn’t really done that great of a job with them. Sea of Solitude came and went last year with no real push from the company. Hazelight Studios will do their own strong push for It Takes Two but I’m not sure Rocket Arena will get much support from EA Marketing when it releases in a few weeks from now.

Conclusion

My Thoughts on...EA Play Live

2019 was a down year for EA saved only by the two solid Respawn developed games (Apex Legends and Jedi: Fallen Order). They really need a bounce-back in 2020 and while Squadrons is really promising, they just did not show enough for this year to give me any sort of confidence. They needed to show more, especially with stuff releasing in calendar 2020, even if that meant more remasters like the recently released Command & Conquer Remastered Collection. I am hopeful that EA and Microsoft have a branding partnership in place for Series X and that there is more to show in the coming months,. If this was all we see from EA until September, then I am very worried.