Beyond The Disc – EA @ E3 2012

For one of the largest publishers in the world, you’d always think that EA would go large – getting crazy guests to host their E3 shows, get the hottest of bands to tie into their upcoming works and play at the conference, and drop plenty of bombs. And yet, they never do. Their events are always pretty low key and very straight forward – and their 2012 showing was no different. Even after knowing everything that was going to be shown in advance, and one pretty damned huge surprise later, it remained a good showing.

EA presented ten teams to show off ten of EA’s big titles for the remainder of 2012, as well as the early parts of 2013. There wasn’t much explaination on each game by its developers, preferring to mostly just let the game speak for itself. Each game was linked together by the general theme of using social media and game related connectivity to extend the life of the game beyond the initial purchase. This included things like Battlefield 3 Premium, a $50 USD subscription to future BF3 content, which extends the life of the game till March 2013 – offering early access to expansions and more weaponry. Bioware co-head Dr Ray Muzyka also made an appearance to inform us that Star Wars: The Old Republic is getting a huge batch of content, and that starting from July, the game will be free to play until characters hit Level 15.

It also involved connecting the game to mobile platforms, which is a huge emphasis on the EA Sports brand – with Madden 13 allowing you to check in on your season via smartphones, tablets or browsers, or FIFA 13 expanding on the EA Sports Football Club content, even linking to an iOS app that allows you to make trades/bid on auctions in Ultimate Team. Even the mobile version of FIFA 13 will connect to the console game. Weirdly enough, EA’s mobile division wasn’t a part of their press conference – given how successful they are, it at least warrants a mention.

The last part of EA’s strategy is constantly feeding challenges and fuelling competition into the game – which makes for a huge part of the upcoming Sim City and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. In particular, the latter claims to constantly be keeping a leaderboard of everything you do, expanding on the Autolog system and further making competition more compelling. In addition to all this, it seems that social media will play a huge role in future EA titles – with many trailers and screenshots showing the ability to share content to your Facebook wall or even go as far to include a virtual Twitter feed.

As mentioned before, there wasn’t much in the way of new announcements, but one announcement in particular came to a surprise – with EA announcing a multi year deal with the UFC to create new MMA games. While we got UFC head Dana White basically saying how awesome it is to be partnering with EA (which comes as an amazing about face, given some of his comments regarding EA in the past), there wasn’t any official confirmation of a new EA MMA – but we know that it’ll be coming sometime in the future, and it’ll have UFC content.

But as far as the highlights and lowlights of the presser are concerned, the highlight for me was easily Need for Speed Most Wanted. While it seems that it’ll be ignoring some of the more memorable parts of the 2005 game (such as the glorious Razor Callaghan), what was shown reminded me of a slightly slower Burnout Paradise, what, with its open world, more aggressive driving – it’s everything I’ve want in a successor to that game for so very, very long. And it looks like I’ll have it this year!

Though the lowlight was easily Dead Space 3. Perhaps it was the recent plunge back into Dead Space 2 I’ve been making (trying to finish the bloody game), or perhaps it was something else, I don’t quite know, but what was shown was everything that I didn’t want in a new Dead Space game. From a cover system, to constantly bombarded in sunlight, to some more…dudebro dialogue, it looked nothing like Dead Space. Granted, it’s a small slice of the game, and hopefully not representative of the final product, but out of all the games they could’ve started with, Dead Space 3 was far from the winner.

But otherwise, it was another fine showing from EA. Again, all stuff we knew about, but it was interesting to see how EA are planning to take their games beyond just the disc – particularly, their ideas of connecting their sports games rang the most true. With Nintendo’s conference tomorrow, it’ll be interesting to see just what else the rest of E3 has to offer.