Wednesday, December 02, 2009

EA And The Future Of College Sports Games

This popped up on Reuters today:
EA currently publishes more than 50 titles and plans to cut that back to about 40 next fiscal year to focus on quality games. Riccitiello said he could see EA publishing even fewer titles going forward.

"Thirty wouldn't shock me at some point in the future," Riccitiello said at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York on Tuesday.

This isn't being widely discussed at this point, but I think the writing is on the wall for NCAA Basketball, and I think NCAA Football is in serious trouble as well. Dollar for dollar, it should be significantly more cost effective to develop a pro game with 1/5 the number of teams, stadiums, playbooks, etc. It's just less labor-intensive to be accurate.

EA recently put up a survey about which features people would most like to see in NCAA 11, so it's seemingly safe for next year, but the survey itself is a good example of just how clueless this series has become. There was a laundry list of potential "new" features, and people were asked to select their top three. Here were a few of the options:
--Locomotion Gameplay with authentic momentum based physics (more dynamic cuts, AI reacts more realistic)
--All-New Spread and No-Huddle Spread Gameplay (Teams look to the sideline as they increase the tempo of the game)
--Authentic offensive styles of play (USC will actually PLAY like USC utilizing their key styles you see on Saturday)

Physics-based gameplay, an offensive style that is now common, and "authentic offensive styles of play" are possible additions to the game? WTF have you guys been developing for the last ten years? If you've been developing this game for ten damn years (at least) and teams aren't ALREADY playing like they play in real life, then that's a fail.

Here's the problem in terms of development, though. There are 117 teams (if my counting is accurate) in this year's NCAA Football game. That's 117 stadiums to model, 117 sets of field artwork, 117 uniform styles (with alternates), 117 different playbooks (if they did it right, which they don't), and the complexity is greater in every single situation.

NCAA Basketball? Same problem, and even though the presentation was significantly improved this year, the game didn't review well and doesn't appear to be selling well, either.

So the the complexity is much higher for a college title, but sales are much lower. In EA's current environment, that's a deadly (and potentially fatal) combination.

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