So where did it all go wrong? Well, I think the start can be traced back to the very days I'm reminiscing about and the release of John Madden Football. At the time it was a fantastic game, even if you didn't like the real sport, but little did we know what was coming. First there was John Madden '92, the NHL Hockey, then PGA Tour Golf, then John Madden '93, then NHL '93, then PGA Tour II... Then came the big one - FIFA International Soccer in 1993.
|The very first FIFA - not bad but look what it started!|
I suppose I should opine that if that's what they want to spend their hard-earned (hopefully) money on, who am I to argue, but surely EA are rich enough now that they don't need to make each 'update' a full release? I suppose I could understand it to begin with - you can hardly release a data-disk for a MegaDrive game (although yearly releases are still hardly essential), but these days there's absolutely no excuse for not releasing new team stats, rosters, even competitions, by way of download for a lower price. All current systems have this service available and many games offer extra/updated content via download, sometimes even for free.
Maybe every few years it would be worth releasing a whole new game, but only when enough has changed as to make it worth it. Some might say that EA's greed and resultant wealth is only a direct consequence of people buying the games they want, year in, year out, but I'm sure even the biggest sports fans wouldn't complain if they could just download new bits and pieces for their existing games. All EA's current stance does (aside from making them richer with minimal effort) is... well, pictures speak louder than words:
Take my recent visit to a local game shop as an example. Although I still have little interest in playing actual games on my PS3, I thought I'd have a quick browse of the titles available, but what greeted me? Row upon row of EA Sports games! To illustrate my point, I went to the trouble of lining up five successive FIFA games to show their prices (the shelf shown was filled only with dozens of copies of FIFA 12 before, with the others similarly occupying numerous entire shelves). Although it's difficult to see at this size, from right-to-left they are: FIFA 13 - £40, FIFA 12 - £6, FIFA 11 - £1.50, FIFA 10 - £1, FIFA 09 - £0.50. Even the game that's only just been replaced is over six times cheaper than the new release! How much better should a 'sequel' be to cost over six times more? Maybe I'm a cynic but I'd say it should feature more than just 'slightly improved goalkeeper AI'.
Regardless, FIFA 13 will top all the sales charts for months, sell millions of copies, and make EA even richer. Then, in less than a year it will be available for a fraction of its price and the cycle will start once again as the same gamers fall over themselves to buy FIFA 14. It's true that you could say similar things about many other products and companies but I've personally never seen such a ridiculously blatant example as the one set by Electronic bloody Arts. Come on EA, do the right thing and admit that your 'sequels' are barely even 'updates' and distribute them accordingly. That way, the next time I go to a game store, I might actually find something other than EA Sports games littering the shelves. And counter. And bargain bins. And floor. And skip at the back of the store. And being used to build houses. And...