EA decided, much in the way Bethesda did last year and in 2016, that their EA Play even was better as an outside E3 event on Day 0. This decidedly smaller, more focused event likely comes a result of the poor reception to EA’s press conference at E3 2015. The one thing EA got right is limiting the event to an hour because much like last year EA put on a poorly planned show that seemingly tried to focus on anything but what people wanted.
The show started with a long winded introduction, explaining how EA couldn’t possibly show us everything we wanted to see about their games in 60 minutes, then wasted almost the first 10 explaining the setup of the show. We bounced back and forth from EA CEO Andrew Wilson in LA and COO Peter Moore in London. Finally we were shown our first game of the day, Titanfall 2. Aftering making sure to remind PS4 players that this time they’ll be included in the fun, Respawn Entertainment commenced to single most gameplay intensive segment of the entire event. Aside from showing off the multiplayer, which is very much more Titanfall, Respawn showed off a bit of the single player campaign. New to Titanfall, the campaign will focus on “the relationship between titan and pilot.” Early impression is that the story will be pretty run of the mill, but having more backstory is better than not.
From there, EA started talking sports with some noncommittal comments on how this year of Madden will be the best event. A brief trailer was all we got before EA decided it wanted to talk about its new tournament programs. EA will be giving away $1 million in prizes at different events in the next year. To celebrate this EA introduced us to two of Madden’s top players through long winded and entirely unnecessary video presentations before bringing out the final 8 players of their tournament of stage in LA. Frankly, it was embarrassing and was arguably worse than the Pele debacle from last year during the FIFA presentation.
FINALLY, MASS EFFECT…wait. Granted, we already knew Mass Effect: Andromeda was delayed until early next year, but I don’t think I was the only person disappointed to find that EA had very little to show in the way of gameplay. We were treated, instead, to a behind the scenes look at the development of the game with bits of gameplay spliced in. I’ll be blunt here, this was EA’s chance to really get people excited for the next Mass Effect title and maintain the hype through the delay. Telling us this game will be bigger, better, and more beautiful isn’t the same as showing it. This tease missed the mark and the Mass Effect segment missed the point.
EA followed Mass Effect with yet another long winded reveal of this year’s entry. FIFA will now run in EA’s Frostbite engine, meaning better visuals and hopefully less glitches. EA also introduced a new single player mode to FIFA in the most awkward way possible by having a real person come on the stage inexplicably and start talking about determination or some nonsense. It will be interesting to see how this story mode plays out (puns). Then there was yet another awkward game meets the real world moment where EA brought out current Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. The mostly one sided conversation with peter Moore wasn’t funny or enlightening, it was just there, and like much of this conference felt unnecessary.
From there, EA talked about the success of their reveal and subsequent release of Unraveled, revealed the year prior in an emotional presentation. A new program, EA Originals, is now established to assist smaller developers survive the rigors of development while making sure the profits get back to the developer. While this is certainly a response to EA’s reputation with gamers as an “evil” company, it is something that should prove quite valuable to many developers. The first game to be shown from the program is Fe, a game about how we exist with nature. There was a lengthy gameplay trailer that showed a beautiful art design and music.
STAR WARS…wait. Another swing and a miss as EA talked about their next three years of plans for Star Wars. They mentioned that there will be a new Battlefront next year with a single player campaign, but didn’t show it. We also got to listen to Amy Hennig talk about her Star Wars game and got a clip or two of pre-alpha footage revealing nothing about the game. Respawn is apparently also working on an action title in the Star Wars universe, but that is all was said in that regard. Once again, EA doesn’t understand how to generate proper buzz by actively avoiding gameplay.
Finally, one of the biggest games at E3, Battlefield 1. The WWI shooter was shown with a new campaign trailer and the promise that there would be a look at the multiplayer…after the EA Play event. It was at this point that I’m pretty sure everyone watching knew EA Play was almost a complete waste of time. As an event dedicated to games, it spent too little time actually showing them. I am aware that most events spend more time talking than actually showing games, but this takes things to a new low thanks to all the nonsense events like Madden players and FIFA Managers. My most sincere hope is that EA Play is not an indication of what to expect at this year’s E3 and that EA is soundly overshadowed by their competition at the event.