No more closed doors: EA embraces the bold world of openness

No more closed doors: EA embraces the bold world of openness
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

June 10th 2014 at 2:35PM

Publisher takes first steps into community-driven future, and should be praised for it

You could argue that EA's E3 press conference was light on the wow factor, and that the publisher didn't have much to announce in the way of soon-to-be released games.

You could even argue what was showed, bar a completely bombastic gameplay video of Battlefield Hardline in which it seemed the only logical conclusion was the the entire universe exploding, didn’t exactly set the heart racing with excitement.

But this is a new EA. With a new CEO. And it’s one seemingly driven by a new approach inspired by openness and early access.

As Andrew Wilson took the stage, he quickly told the audience and viewers around the world that the publisher, scorned by many consumers during the last few years it continued to win the “worst company in America” gong, would be trying something different this E3.

Persistently expressing EA's renewed commitment to its players, viewers got to a behind-the-scenes look at games in the early stages of development, including concept art for Mass Effect and early in-engine footage of games like Star Wars Battlefront, Mirror's Edge 2 and the new game from Criterion. An exceptionally early look at Criterion’s new game in fact, and its fresh approach to game development.

People are probably sick of hearing developers fling around phrases like “openness” and “community-driven” without really meaning it or understanding it – I know I am. It’s almost as bad as a 50-man team appropriating the term “indie” for their own nefarious means.

But I was pleasantly surprised by EA’s fresh approach, particularly for a company that gets a lot of stick.

You want a look a Mass Effect? Here it is. Star Wars Battlefront? Here it is. And they’re all a long way off from release. It feels like EA really wants to invite fans on the game development journey, bringing those developers (remember them?) to the forefront of its marketing and promotion.

EA has seemingly taken a look at the indie approach (sorry, whatever that means) to building communities, and at the highly successful Steam Early Access games that bring in players on the development journey and make them feel a part of the process.

And why would big companies ignore this approach? Steam's top sellers have been full of Early Access titles such as DayZ, Rust, The Stomping Land, Starbound and many more hits. And take a look at Epic, it has released the source code for Unreal Engine 4 and streams the latest developments on the tech every week.

It’s early days though. Maybe it will all come to nothing and we won’t hear of these games until next year’s E3, with developers taking the backseat again once marketing hits full speed.

But it’s a great start under a new CEO. And if offering openness is working for companies like Epic, Facepunch, Chucklefish and Bohemia, why not EA?

It doesn't fix all of EA's problems, people won't forget SimCity in a hurry. But here’s to discovering more about the people behind the games, and working with them to make the games we all want to play.

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