August 2004

Usenet post

My point was to ask why Madden isn't better than NFL2K when it's outselling it by such a large margin. Why is Madden so overwhelmingly more popular when NFL2K has been the innovator just as often, if not more often, especially in the AI and physics, and online department? The reason, I think, is simply that fans don't want a better or newer game, they just want more of the same. Why millions of "gamers" will pay $50 each year for slight tweaks on the same game, and a new roster (which ought to be downloadable in previous versions) is beyond me.

( Reviews list summary from Madden 99-Madden 04 demonstrating EA's lack of progress while Visual Concepts had the 2K football games improving by leaps in bounds most years.)

There are differences, in both NFL2K and Madden, but which company has the greater amount of profit, and therefore the greater amount of ability to improve on their game? Neither game is anywhere near perfect, especially in AI and physics, these two areas alone could be improved upon greatly, and EA has had by far the greatest opportunity to do so and has chosen not to.

The amount of money EA is making on this franchise alone would allow for a brand new graphics, physics and AI engine every year, and they'd still have cash to spare. *That* would justify the huge gap in popularity. Instead, just like Gran Turismo, we have a bunch of fans that want that familiar feeling, not innovation. I'm not sure which is worse, the fans for being that way, or EA for feeding them. When new hardware comes out they'll get around to a significantly improved gameplay experience, but that experience could be getting refined today on the current hardware.

December 2004

Electronic Arts has been a major player in the Video Game Industry for a very long time. There has been a distinct trend in their business decisions the entire time, that doesn't quite match that of their competitors. No, this article will not accuse EA of being a sequel factory, cash cow farm, or the next Acclaim. It is important to note though, that as of now, EA has an absolute monopoly on the NFL franchise, in getting a:

"Five-year contract [that] gives EA sole rights to the NFL, including teams, players, and stadiums" which "encompasses action simulation, arcade style, and manager games made for PCs, consoles, and handhelds (both the DS and PSP, included), giving EA a firm hold on the football gaming market. The deal does not include titles for mobile phones or internet-based games, but does include online features of consoles. With next-generation consoles scheduled for release next holiday season, EA looks to handily dominate the professional football market for the duration of the license."

It is possible that ESPN sports games published by Sega will be safe from this agreement, since ESPN no doubt has the right to use the player's names and such, but only time will tell. This would be better than nothing, because it was Sega's NFL2K series that was the first online console football game back in 2000, and it was Sega's series again that was first on Xbox Live because EA refused to support it, even though they were online on PS2 the previous year.

This is not a new thing for EA, not at all. Going back from the most current event, it's important to remember that Electronic Arts has developed for *every* game console, except the Sega Dreamcast. According to EA's own press releases, the reason they would not develop for the Dreamcast was a challenge, if it sold one million units, they would develop for the console. When the Dreamcast broke all previous sales records in the US and sold one million units in 90 days, EA had to be badgered to reply. When they eventually did issue another press release on the subject of Dreamcast development it was to say that they would *never* make a single Dreamcast game, and to begin over-hyping the PS2 which was still ten months off from its US release.

So, the company that developed for everything including the Atari Jaguar, 3DO, and even announced pre-launch that it'd support the Xbox and Gamecube, both of which sold slower than the Dreamcast did initially, completely blocked out the Sega Dreamcast, and purposefully led the way to the PS2 instead. Why would a cross-platform 3rd party company make a move to cancel a competing console out, and promote one over the other?

The 3DO is actually an excellent place to look for the answer. The 3DO was another console heavily promoted by Electronic Arts in the early 90's. Avoiding the typical discussions on tech specs, library and marketing, the business model of the 3DO, created by EA, is the most revealing aspect. 3DO hardware was meant to be licensed out to hardware manufacturers who intended to profit from the hardware manufacturing process. By contrast, the current, for now, business model for the console market is that manufacturers release their hardware and price it competitively, effectively losing money on each unit sold for the first couple of years while they build a user base and make money back on 1st party games and 3rd party software royalty fees.

Now, it is, of course, debatable as to whether or not the 3DO model could have worked, and not shot console prices up due to the manufacturer attempting to earn a profit on each unit sold, but the facts are that the 3DO model did cause the console to be much more expensive. That alone might not exactly point to the deed of the day, but, understand that the requirement for this "licensed hardware" was that said hardware would be have to be Number 1 on the market in order for manufacturers to actually pay to produce it. For varied and occasionally intriguing reasons, the 3DO failed for EA, and they continued on as a 3rd party software publisher and developer, going on to become the biggest publisher of games by the current generation, if they weren't already.

Taking a page from the evolutionists, the conclusion, obviously, cannot be based on one single fact, or one event, but it is the combination of events that is intriguing. That EA just signed a deal that makes them a monopoly on the absolutely huge and crucial, NFL game market in the US, that they've gone out of their way to promote a one console market on multiple occasions, and the general trend of their software is, in fact, the best current example of monopolistic tactics in the Video Game Industry. What this bodes for the future will be left up to the reader, and the forums and message boards.

May 2005

This has proven to be a far worse situation than it looked in December. Sega sold Visual Concepts to Take Two and has gotten out of the sports game business, as a result of EA's actions. Take Two responded by buying the exclusive rights to the Major League Baseball license, and the NBA is, to date, still floating around taking offers for the same. What this means for the gamer, is that if one wants an football game from this season, it will have to be bought from the company that has stated every year that cost of gaming is going up, and next year games will be $5-10 more. Last year games were $20-30 cheaper, and competition was the only thing forcing EA to update their software significantly. Commercialization at its best folks, happy gaming.
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