News from the video game industry for the week of November 2
Every Sunday Electronista and MacNN report on some of the happenings of the video game industry during the past week. In this week's edition, we take a look at Microsoft's purchase of Mojang finalizing, Blizzard's new expansions for Starcraft II and Hearthstone, Unity asset development payouts, Grand Theft Auto 5 first-person mode on next-gen consoles, and Electronic Arts terminating its multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, Dawngate.
News from the video game industry for the week of October 19
Every Sunday Electronista and MacNN report on some of the important bits of news from the world of video games. In this week's edition we take a look at Blizzard bringing Hearthstone to smartphones, EA's Battlefield 4 lawsuit dismissal, Assassin's Creed: Unity system requirements, Carbine Studios layoffs, and more.
Yearly demo nixed in favor of limited EA Access playtime, adds CoachGlass for PS4
Electronic Arts (EA) has pulled an interesting move with the upcoming Madden 15 and its EA Access program recently, making the subscription program the only way gamers can try out the football title before it is formally released: the company is abandoning its yearly demo trend to give Xbox One owners the chance only to play the game before its August 26 release. News of the demo's absence comes from a Twitter exchange with EA Sports Community Manager Andrew Johnson, who stated no demo was coming.
Company cites PlayStation Plus memberships, EA program lacks 'good value'
Earlier this week, Electronic Arts (EA) announced the EA Access program, which would give gamers access to EA games via a subscription platform. The program is currently exclusive to the Xbox One, but it appears that Sony thinks that the service wouldn't be a good fit for PlayStation 4 owners. According to Sony, a monthly program that only offers EA titles isn't "good value."
Four title available at program launch for free play of subscribers
Electronic Arts has rolled out a new subscription service for some of its games for Xbox One owners. For either a $5 monthly or $30 annual fee, gamers on Microsoft's new console will soon be able to sign up for EA Access, allowing them to play FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4, in addition to saving 10 percent on purchases of all EA digital content through the Xbox Games Store.
Cops versus robbers game pushed to early 2015, Dragon Age pushed to November
Electronic Arts (EA) appears to be in need of additional time for two of its highly-anticipated releases that were scheduled for this year. Battlefield Hardline, which saw a beta test launch after the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2014, and Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third installment of the role-playing series, are seeing their release dates pushed back.
Company demos Battlefield: Hardline, Mirror's Edge 2, sports games and Dragon Age: Inquisition
Electronic Arts (EA) CEO Andrew Wilson came on stage during the company's press conference at E3 to show off some of the projects that EA is bringing to next generation consoles soon, as well as in the longer-term future. Games including Battlefield: Hardline and Dragon Age: Inquisition were displayed, that are due out within the year, but also future projects such as Mirror's Edge 2 and teaser information from Bioware and Criterion.
Over 50 EA games to shutdown at end of month, Halo finds a way to live on
With the announcement of Gamespy shutting down at the end of the month, gamers and companies alike have been scrambling for solutions to keep fan favorite games going. Among them, Electronic Arts and fans of Halo: Combat Evolved have tried to find solutions that would keep the games after the shutdown, to mixed results.
Deal would see many popular EA franchises available for purchase
Cable giant Comcast is reportedly close to signing a deal that would stream game industry publisher Electronic Arts' titles to the company's X1 cable box. Under the agreement, games like soccer title FIFA, football simulator Madden, strategy game Plants vs. Zombies and classic titles like Monopoly will be playable on Comcast's new cable set-top box.
Compromised EA server used to collect Apple IDs, personal information
A web server owned by game publisher Electronic Arts has been compromised and used in a phishing attack against users of Apple services, a security firm has claimed. The server, apparently used to host a calendar under the ea.com domain, is said to be used to try and acquire the Apple ID credentials of potential victims by posing as an account verification site.
Undisclosed number of layoffs 'necessary in order to stay on course'
Electronic Arts has done another round of layoffs, this time affecting PopCap Games. The publisher declined to comment on the number of jobs affected by the layoff, but told Polygon in a statement that the jobs weren't from the PopCap HD team which was responsible for the recent Plants versus Zombies Garden Warfare. PopCap had been split into two teams in the previous month, one to focus on consoles and PC titles and the other for mobile titles. In a statement, General Manager John Vechey expressed his disappointment over the loss, but said that the layoffs were "necessary in order to stay on course with our future plans for mobile games, live services and new IP."
Game hinders users ability to rate lower than five stars
Information has surfaced about the new free-to-play Dungeon Keeper game that has lead to a public outcry against Electronic Arts by gamers and fans of the series. In information reported by Gamasutra, the game uses questionable means in order to secure five star ratings on the Google Play.
EA listening to users, may provide offline mode
A post from Electronic Arts last week opens the possibility that the gaming giant will soon grant fan requests to build an offline mode into Sim City. The State of Sim City post from last week was a response to continuing requests to users for EA to remove the requirement that its hit game be played with a persistent Internet connection in order to avoid piracy. That requirement resulted in a disastrous launch for the game, as EA's servers were overwhelmed by millions of gamers simultaneously logging in.
Company looked at external and internal candidates before naming Wilson
Electronic Arts has named a new CEO following the departure of John Riccitiello. EA veteran Andrew Wilson has been selected to serve as the company's chief, following his stint as the Executive Vice President overseeing EA Sports and the company's online portal for digital games and services, Origin.
Users reporting incorrect hardware identification, crashing, install failures
The oft-delayed Sim City for Macintosh has finally launched and in a development that is likely no surprise to anyone -- given the game's launch history -- is riddled with bugs. The EA forums are seeing a wide range of complaints from OS X gamers ranging from a complete inability to install the game, graphical corruption, failure to launch in full-screen mode, and random window resizing. So far, Electronic Arts has no official comments on the Macintosh launch.
Origin codes for all games, Steam keys for most
Unexpectedly, the current Humble Bundle is populated with eight recent Electronic Arts titles, many with downloadable content. Electronic Arts is not profiting from the bundle directly, so all funds generated by the sale are being collected by one of four charities, or the Humble Bundle team themselves, depending on purchaser allocation.
Mac version to be free for those who bought Windows edition
Originally planned for release in mid-June, the Mac version of Sim City will be released on August 29, Electronic Arts has announced, and will be free of charge for those who bought the PC version. The company originally delayed the Mac version by saying it wasn't "ready for prime time yet" and that the company wanted to "ensure the Mac [version of the game] is a great experience for our players." The Windows release was lambasted by early buyers for serious bugs, overloaded servers and poor administrative decisions that rendered the game all but unplayable for months.
Beats out Origin, GameStop
Apple has become Electronic Arts' "biggest retail partner as measured by sales," EA COO Peter Moore revealed yesterday during a conference call with investors. The achievement is particularly notable since it means Apple beat out EA's own Origin download service, and more traditional retailers like GameStop. In all EA made about $90 million from smartphone and tablet games during the last quarter, although the publisher hasn't explained how much of that came from iOS versus Android and other platforms.
Electronic Arts to discontinue Online Pass policy for new titles
If a report at VentureBeat is accurate, Electronic Arts has decided to rid itself of the reviled online pass. According to the report, the EA senior director of corporate communications John Reseburg confirmed the cancellation of the program, saying “Yes, we’re discontinuing Online Pass, none of our new EA titles will include that feature." Viewed as a countermeasure to used game sales, the pass included in the purchase of new games allowed game play on the company's servers across Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. Used purchasers, or customers borrowing a game, must purchase a pass if they wish to play online, with access costing approximately $10.
Fate of existing titles uncertain, Disney retains limited social gaming rights
The Walt Disney Company and developer Electronic Arts on Monday announced a new multi-year exclusive licensing agreement to develop and publish globally new games based on Star Wars characters and storylines for the "core gamer audience." Under the agreement, EA will develop and publish new Star Wars titles, spanning all platforms and the most popular game genres, while Disney will retain certain rights to develop new titles within the mobile, social, tablet and online game categories.
CEO under fire from gamers, investors since 2008
Citing "accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year," game publisher Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello is stepping down. Former CEO and current chairman of the board, Larry Probst, is taking over the position while the board searches for a candidate.
Maxis Sim City server problems continue, EA offers free game
Electronic Arts and Maxis launched the newest iteration in the venerable Sim City series earlier this week. While initially praised for its accomplishments and integration with other players by previewing media, the game was marred by monumental server and connectivity issues. Since launch, Electronic Arts claims to have brought on 150 percent more server capacity, as well as shutting down some in-game functions to lighten the server load, but the problems persist. Electronic Arts is offering a free title to people who register the game prior to March 18. The issue, and a similar issue with Diablo 3 emphasize a disturbing trend in gaming -- the requirement to log into remote servers like EA's Origin service to play the game, even in single-player.
Mobile game publisher Chillingo launching '100% indie' program
In an unusual move for Samsung, it has teamed up with Electronic Arts in an effort to lure developers to the Korean company's app store, offering strong financial incentives to expand its library of games. EA's mobile division Chillingo will lead the "100 percent indie" initiative, and offer its developers 100 percent of a game's revenue for six months.
Resignation comes following removal of game development duties
Just weeks after being stripped of his responsibilities as chief of game development, John Schappert has resigned as chief operating officer of Zynga. As part of a July reorganization following poor quarterly financial results, Electronic Arts and Microsoft veteran Schappert's duties were divided amongst Chief Mobile Officer David Ko, and Executive Vice President Steve Chiang.
Strike Force built in HTML5, may be showcased on Nexus 7
Electronic Arts has been showing off a sophisticated, multiplayer video game built entirely in HTML5, allowing users across multiple platforms to play against each other. The game is called Strike Force, and EA says it was developed over the course of five months, using a number of college interns. As The New York Times's blog reports, EA will demonstrate the game at Google I/O, Google's annual software developer conference, leading some to believe the game is intended to show off the gaming potential of Google's new Android 4.1 operating system.
Reverses course, now says message was 'in error'
Update: Electronic Arts has now issued a statement saying that "Rock Band for iOS will remain live -- the in-app message users received yesterday were sent in error. We apologize for the confusion this caused," and added that it will share additional information "as soon as possible." EA had in fact put up a notice on its website that it was suspending support of Rock Band as of May 31st, and users received a message that the game would no longer be playable (see picture, below). The company has offered no explanation for how both errors occurred, but now says the game will remain playable, at least in single-player mode.
Electronic Arts in mass layoffs rumor
Electronic Arts is allegedly in the process of laying off hundreds of employees after the completion of several big-name games. According to Startup Grind, the game publisher stands to lose between 500 and 1000 people (5-11% of its workforce) in the near future.
Kindle Fire will get access to thousands of apps
Amazon on Wednesday confirmed that it will bring a plethora of existing Android apps to the Kindle Fire when it begins shipping next week. They will number in the thousands and include such popular ones like Netflix, Facebook, Pandora, Twitter and more. Games from Rovio, Electronics Arts, Zynga and other established developers will also be instantly available.
Exec claims 3D gaming not well received
Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello has reportedly downplayed the significance of 3D technology in the gaming market. In a shareholder meeting, the executive suggested 3D gaming has yet to prove profitable. The company is said to be focusing instead on social and web-based features.
iOS gaming industry consolidates
Major PC and console games publisher Electronic Arts has bought out Chillingo, according to the LA Times. Although the deal is said to have cost less than $20 million in cash, Chillingo is a significant publisher of iPhone and iPad games. Two titles in its library -- Cut the Rope and Angry Birds -- are currently leading in the App Store's paid charts. The company is also responsible for distributing occasional movie/TV show tie-ins, like Predators and Numb3rs.
Spore Galactic Adventures
Electronic Arts is expanding its Spore series, releasing Spore Galactic Adventures. The expansion features 16 missions in which the players earn new game elements such as weapons and experience to move through the ranks to become a space captain. The game also includes new planets that players can beam onto and play new adventures or use the "Adventure Creator" tool to create their own missions. User-generated characters and missions can be shared online through Sporepedia, the Spore library, which already totals 105 million creations.
Spore Galactic Adventures
Electronic Arts has announced Spore Galactic Adventures, a customizable expansion pack that adds new content and features to the space game in Spore. Gamers can choose from dozens of Maxis-created adventures, with a variety of mysteries to solve and battles to fight. Space creatures can be upgraded with 32 new accessories, including the Plasma Pulser, Energy Blade, Stunning Charm, Jump Jet and Hypnomelder. Users can play as a Warrior for battling enemies, a Bard for dabbling with friends, or choose from a number of other roles.
EA Sports Active for Wii
Electronic Arts today sought to build on the formula set out by the Wii Balance Board with a new peripheral and game combo of its own. EA Sports Active centers around a pair of leg straps that hold both the Wii remote and nunchuk in place as well as a single resistance band for the upper body. The set lets Nintendo's own controllers properly track exercise across the whole body and also introduce enough physical stress to provide strength-based exercise.
Spore for pre-order
As Spore's September launch rolls closer, GameTree Online has listed the game for preorder from its website for direct download. While still just over a month away, Spore is expected to draw much attention from gamers as Will Wright's next big franchise, after the widely successful The Sims series. Players will take a species from a once-celled organism all the way through to intergalactic domination. Spore is available for pre-order for $50 from GameTree Online
Spore cellular life stage
EA on Tuesday unveiled a new high-definition movie trailer of the cellular stage in Spore – a highly anticipated, all-encompassing simulation of evolution and civilization. The trailer shows how basic gameplay works during the entry stages of a Spore organism, illustrating the differences between jaw-bearing carnivorous entities and filter-mouthed plant feeders. It goes through several stages, from birth through to evolving the desire to come above water. Spore is expected to ship September 7th.