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EA Representative: Game Streaming Is the Future and Simply a Matter of "When"

EA's Executive VP of Strategic Growth Matt Bilbey said in an interview to gamesindustry.biz that he expects game streaming to be an unavoidable fact of our lives, replacing traditional consoles and gaming-specific devices with smartphone-based solutions or Smart TV apps. Matt Bilbey spoke on how scaling bandwidth and latency is paramount to this streaming future, and likely one of the reasons streaming services up to now have struggled for acceptance - and even survival.

"(...) today, that [bandwidth and latency issues] is still a challenge. But I think over the next year to two years, that barrier will drop. Not for everyone, but for a lot of people. Bandwidth capabilities will go up so the business model around streaming a game becomes more viable. If you buy into a streaming solution and the experience is laggy half the time, you're going to stop and not do it again, which is the challenge some of the companies previously had. I think there's now a solution where we can deliver on the promise, and we're working with a lot of the companies who create the server infrastructure, and there are a lot of innovative solutions from a lot of big companies we're working with that will actually allow us to bring this to life."

Freebies no More, or the Paid Lunch: EA Abandons On The House Program

EA announced last week its new Origin Access Premier program, which launches today and introduces a new access tier which provides unlimited access to imminent-launch games five days before the official release. This program will cost £14.99/$14.99 a month or £89.99/$99.99 a year. Alongside this launch, EA has decided to axe the freebie On the House initiative - a strange correlation, because these programs hardly interfere with one another.

Users who have already gained access to these freebies will keep them, of course, but attempts to enter the "On the House" page are met with a redirect to the Origin Access webpage. However, users who hadn't grabbed the games will be left in the dust (even if just some metaphorical specks of it, since the games can be easily and quite cheaply had), such as Theme Hospital, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, Dragon Age, Mass Effect or Battlefield series. Read on for EA's remarks on this decision.

EA Says FIFA 19 will Disclose Pack Odds

FIFA (the game) is big in the EU, where game studios recently felt the bite of regulators over the loot-crate controversy, with some voices in the European Commission even threatening to impose gambling sanctions. The post-World Cup release of FIFA rides on the real-world tournament's popularity, and tends to be a major release. FIFA 19, according to EA, will shield itself against the wrath of EU regulation by disclosing upfront the odds that the Ultimate Team pack (a loot-crate) you're about to buy isn't a sack of potatoes.

"For Ultimate Team, when you buy a pack you know what you are getting. You are getting a certain number of assets that are guaranteed - and we're going to start to do pack odds disclosures that'll show you the odds of what you might get," said Daryl Holt, VP and COO of EA Sports, in an interview with Eurogamer. "That'll be in our product year 19 titles. So, at least that aspect of understanding what the chances are of getting X, Y and Z card." The current FIFA 18 includes a more crude implementation of what EA is proposing. It only discloses a vague inventory of the contents of the pack (number of players and consumables).

Uncharted Series' Amy Hennig Confirms Leaving EA Back in January, Starts Her Own Indie Studio

After EA shuttered Visceral Studios, who where working on a new, linear, single-player Star Wars videogame, Amy Hennig's situation never was cleared up by the publisher. Doubts remained on whether the developer, best known for her work at Naughty Dog with the Uncharted series, was still attached, in any capacity, to the newly-pivoted development of the aforementioned Star Wars videogame in EA Vancouver. Now, at the Gamelab conference in Barcelone, the air has been cleared: Amy Hennig has confirmed she hasn't been working with EA since January of this year. And the linear, single-player experience she was developing has been shelved by EA.

Hennig says that she is staying independent, now, and is in the process of setting up her own indie studio - and is likely taking a VR spin with her next creations. We wish her all the best, and hope that the indie liberty gives her enough room - and funds - to develop that dying breed of videogames that is the solo kind. Meanwhile, Henig's also confirmed that EA Vancouver's pivoting of the Star Wars videogame is reworking it into a - can you guess? - open world approach that is barely recognizable from her own work - so it does seem a game in the likes of Destiny and Anthem will be the end product.

EA Reveals Official PC System Requirements for Battlefield V Closed Alpha

With Battlefield V's Closed Alpha already in progress, EA has revealed the official system requirements for PC users. The company emphasized that the specifications only apply to the Closed Alpha and may vary in the final game. The minimum system requirements are more or less in line with the preliminary requirements we reported last month. According to the Battlefield V website, the minimum system requirements include a Core i5-6600K or AMD FX-8350 processor, 8 GB of memory along with a GeForce GTX 1050 / GTX 660 or a Radeon HD 7850 graphics cards. The recommended system requirements bump the processor up to a Core i7-4790 or Ryzen 3 1300X processor along with 12 GB or 16 GB of memory. In terms of graphics power, EA recommends a GeForce GTX 1060 or a Radeon RX 480. As expected, the game requires 50 GB of storage space and a 512 KBPS or faster connection to the internet.

Battlefield V System Requirements Revealed

EA has revealed the preliminary minimum system requirements for their upcoming Battlefield V game, which is set to launch in October 19 of this year. According to Battlefield V's Origin page, the game demands an Intel Core i5-6600K or AMD FX-6350 processor as a minimum along with 8 GB of memory. In terms of graphics power, EA is recommending a graphics card that's compatible with DirectX 11. That basically translates to a GeForce GTX 660 2 GB for NVIDIA owners and a Radeon HD 7850 2 GB for AMD owners. Battlefield V will work fine on Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 as long as they are 64-bit versions. Regarding storage, the game occupies around 50 GB of hard drive space. For fluid online gameplay, a 512 Kbps or higher broadband internet connection is highly recommended. The release of Battlefield V is still pretty far off, so these system requirements could change over time.

Battlefield V Revealed: 1942 Reimagined

EA-DICE released the first reveal trailer of "Battlefield V." The reveal shows a slice of what appears to be actual in-game footage. The game re-imagines events of WWII, after the series' excursion with WWI. It portrays a pitched battle somewhere in Europe with British troops fighting Nazis. There's also the depiction of female soldiers, hinting at the possibility of strong female characters, or even a female protagonist (as opposed to second-fiddle female NPCs in the likes of Battlefield 4 campaign). There are no technical details of the game, but it appears to leverage DirectX 12 API with even more features than Battlefield 1. Battlefield V is slated for release on October 19, 2018. It's open to pre-orders on Origin.
The official trailer follows after the break

On the New Subscription Age, EA Acquires Game Streaming Service Gamefly

Seems like almost every industry is looking towards transitioning to a subscription model for its goods and services. Netflix may be the most iconic one such company, having acquired millions of subscribers that allow it to have a relatively stable, monthly influx of liquidity (yes, we can also count World of Warcraft on such a scenario). However, many other industries have taken to the same approach (think lootcrates, all kinds of crates, subscription services for online features, etc).

That said, few industries can take the same amount of data from their subscribers such as these media-consumption based ones, where an Internet connection is required, and user data - be it views or, the most interesting metric, engagement rates - are king in determining exactly what the user base expects and craves more of. Netflix's algorithms and view history have been responsible for the selection of its future investments. The base idea for the movie Bright, for example, was developed based on a mash-up of genres Netflix's algorithms indicated as the more captivating to the user base - and Netflix's sci-fi portfolio, for instance, has recently grown towards becoming the single biggest investment from the company, as users seem to gobble-up such content (I'm dully guilty as charged for that one sin as well, I have to admit).

Battlefield V to Be Revealed on May 23

A mysterious webpage has surfaced on EA's website with new details on the upcoming Battlefield V title. The teaser comes in form of a simple blue background with the date May 23, 2018 written across the middle accompanied by the Battlefield hashtag. The URL also carries the "never be the same" catchphrase. Earlier today, DICE design director Alan Kertz tweeted on his Twitter account that a game he's been working on will be revealed on the 23rd of this month. It's safe to bet that this game is Battlefield V. But, what do we know about the it so far? Although not confirmed yet, Battlefield V's setting will probably be the Second World War. It will have a single-player campaign and various multiplayer modes. It's also possible that EA might jump on the battle royale bandwagon.

EA Confirms Battlefield 5 Will Not Defect From Premium Single-Player Experiences

Games have become increasingly connected and social, with always-on features being both part of a permanent player engagement (and monetization) attempt. As a result, some publishers are already looking to not so slowly eliminate big budget, single-player premium experiences from their games. One need not look much further than one of the industry's behemoths, Call of Duty, which has been confirmed, in its latest Black Ops IV iteration which will launch this year, that single player content has been wholly cut- despite a three-year development window and Black Ops being one of the best storytelling experiences to Call of Duty in recent times.

EA, perhaps picking up on the momentum of backlash against the lack of single player content in the upcoming Black Ops IV, has confirmed the upcoming Battlefield 5 will not eschew a single player component, giving players the premium campaign experience we've come to know. The next Battlefield (which is expected to be set in World War II) will likely release around October of this year, sporting the usual campaign and multiplayer modes, with a chance of a battle royale mode as well.

Mod Brings Split-Screen Support to PC Version of Star Wars Battlefront II

Unlike the Xbox or PS4 versions, the PC version of Star Wars Battlefront II lacks support for split-screen multiplayer gameplay. Why? It's beyond us. Luckily modders 'benji' and 'Cade' were able to create a mod to trick the PC version of the game into thinking that it's running the console version. This mod even adds a nifty 'ENTER SPLIT SCREEN' button in the pause menu so players can reload their current map in split-screen mode. However, this feature only works with offline maps. Using it in online matches will immediately crash your game. It's also important to note that using this mod might violate EA's terms of service, so use it at your own risk. To get the split-screen mod to work, you must have Frosty Mod Manager installed on your system. The split-screen mod is available here.

Batman: Arkham and LEGO Batman Series Arrive on Origin Access

Electronic Arts announced that they've added six Warner Bros games to their Origin Access subscription service. The new titles belong to the Batman: Arkham and LEGO Batman series. This is an important feat for EA as it's the first time that a third-party publisher has allowed their games to join The Vault. According to EA, this is just the tip of the iceberg as they are planning to add five more games, including the award-winning indie title "The Witness", in the upcoming weeks. For those players who are interested in trying Origin Access, EA is currently offering a seven-day free trial from now through March 26, 2018.

Battlefield V Takes Players Back to World War II

If there's something that Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: WWII have taught us, it's that nostalgia sells - and it sells a lot. The numbers don't lie. Battlefield 1 not only sold faster than Battlefield 4, but it also broke the 25 million players barrier not so long ago. Call of Duty: WWII didn't do too shabby either becoming the best-selling Call of Duty installment since Black Ops II. The ultimate goal for EA now is to keep the traction going and that's where Battlefield V comes in. Battlefield V, originally known internally as Battlefield 2, is the direct sequel to Battlefield 1, and as thus, the game's setting and story will take place in World War II. Hardcore Battlefield fans might recall that EA previously visited the World War II era in Battlefield 1942. However, the publisher has promised that Battlefield V won't a mere remaster but a completely new game from the ground up.

For better or worse, EA and loot boxes always seem to find themselves together in the same sentence. Anonymous sources have confirmed that Battlefield V will have loot boxes However, the loot boxes are limited to cosmetic items to customize your soldier just like in Battlefield 1 - so no worries there. EA has promised a playable "next Battlefield experience" this year at the E3 event in June. Battlefield V is expected to launch later this year.

EA Publisher Sale on Origin and Amazon with Discounts Up to 75%

Electronic Arts is currently running a big sale on Origin and Amazon that you simply cannot miss out on. There's an excellent selection of titles that includes Battlefield 1, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Titanfall 2, and many others. The good news is that the discounts also extend to several DLCs and game bundles. It's worth taking a look even if you're not a big fan of Origin. The EA Publisher Sale runs through until Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 10 am Pacific time. As is the custom, we've highlighted some of the more interesting offers.

Lucasfilm Rumored to Ditch EA for a New Game Publisher

Rumors are going around that Lucasfilm isn't too happy with how the Star Wars franchise is turning out since they handed the license on a silver platter over to Electronic Arts in 2013. Up to now, EA has produced a total of two titles under the Star Wars: Battlefront sub-series. Their first Star Wars: Battlefront game was released in 2015 and many considered it a reboot of the previous games. Regardless, Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) was highly criticized for its lack of a single-player campaign. EA's solution to keep die-hard Star Wars fans happy was to release a multitude of free expansions and paid DLC packs to add more content to the game. And then came Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2017, a sequel that received even harsher backlash because of the over aggressive loot-crate system that was implemented into the game. In an attempt to put out the fire, EA temporarily eliminated the microtransactions.

Then, to make matters even worse, EA closed Visceral Games last year. The studio was working on the single-player driven Star Wars: Project Ragtag title, but apparently it didn't fit into EA's business model so they decided to pull the plug. With all that has occurred, EA's relationship with Lucasfilm hangs on a thin thread right now. The gaming giant's lackluster record of releasing two games in a five year period allegedly forced Lucasfilm to explore other options. Ubisoft and Activision were the two big names that have been mentioned so far. If the rumors were true, who would you rather have working on the next Star Wars game?

EA Bleeds $3.1 Billion in Stock Value Over Battlefront II Fiasco

Electronic Arts (EA) bled USD $3.1 billion (£2.3 billion) in stock value at the markets over the week, as the company scaled down its controversial loot-crate system deployed in "Star Wars: Battlefront II." The company is fighting a PR debacle as gamers complain of terrible pricing of the base-game, DLC, and an aggressive loot-crate system that's drawing the attention of government regulators around the world, who are threatening to impose gambling regulations against the game.

The concept of loot-crate is simple. You pay a seemingly small amount of money for a "mystery box" containing either something great (like weapon-attachments), or something of no tangible impact on gameplay (like skins). You're incentivized to buy more loot-crates in hope that you'll get something better. This becomes a gamble. In 2016, EA earned over $800 million in profits selling loot-crates among other micro-transactions, across various game franchises, such as Battlefield and Need for Speed. With EA scaling down several of its ancillary revenue models for the game, the studio's stock bled 8.5 percent month-to-date. Drew Crum, an analyst with investment firm Stifel also attributes underwhelming Black Friday sales of the game to EA's bear-hug.

Latest Need for Speed Payback Update Accelerates Progression System

Following the launch of Need for Speed Payback, we've been working on addressing feedback by making changes to the progression system and other aspects of the game. These range from decreasing the amount of time for parts to refresh within the tune-up shops to the way events, bait crates and roaming racers work. Players in Ranked Speedlists will also notice an increased amount of parts being paid out. Win the Speedlist and you're guaranteed a new part, while simply participating means you get more chances of receiving an item of your own. We've already pushed a number of these updates live and will continue to listen to our players to make Need for Speed Payback the best experience possible.

Soon players will see a client-side patch going live and will benefit from a range of updates including improved game performance, multiple fixes to improve stability and tune-up shops stocking a higher quality selection of parts.

Battlefield 1 Turning Tides Expansion to Drop on December 11

Players will soon be able to experience battles on land, in the air, and at sea on the newest front with Battlefield 1 Turning Tides, the third expansion pack available for Battlefield 1. Battlefield 1 Turning Tides will be released in two waves - the first wave is coming on December 11th for Battlefield 1 Premium Pass owners. Players will be able to fight across a duo of epic maps, including Cape Helles and Achi Baba. In a new Operation set on these maps, players can take part in the 1915 British amphibious assault of the Gallipoli peninsula. There will be a new Infiltrator Elite Class, six weapons and two melee weapons added to your arsenal, and you'll get to rule the waves with the L-Class Destroyer. The second wave, coming January 2018, puts players in the North Sea to tackle two other unique maps: Zeebrugge and Heligoland Blight, with the chance to charge into battle with the new Royal Marines and spawn on the C-Class Airship.

Under Fire, EA Backs Down on Star Wars Battlefront II Microtransactions

In an announcement on EA's website, Oskar Gabrielson, General Manager at DICE, came forward to respond in no uncertain terms to the issues looming over Star Wars Battlefront 2. In the post, Gabrielson vows that EA and Dice have "(...) an ongoing commitment to constantly listen, tune and evolve the experience as it grows. But as we approach the worldwide launch, it's clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We've heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we've heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn't get this right."

This culminates on a decision to abandon all microtransactions as they were coded into the final version of the game, or, as Gabrielson puts it: "(...) we're turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we've made changes to the game." So, it's not a total, definitive cut as it is; it's more of a "back to the drawing board" kind of approach. which only makes sense, as EA has been loud and clear in saying that they consider these microtransactions as essential components of a given games' development.

Overwatch, Star Wars Battlefront II Loot Crates Under Gambling Scrutiny

According to Belgium's VTM Nieuws, the Chancellor Commission from that country has opened an investigation into both Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront II loot crates, so as to rule whether or not these constitute gambling. Loot boxes being compared to gambling isn't a new debate, but up until now, a clear ruling that characterizes loot crates as such still hasn't made its way onto the courts or commissions that have been looking into these issues. That loot crates and other microtransactions are resounding successes in ever increasing monetization of game experiences is no secret: Digital River has released a report that stated microtransactions and the whole "Games as a Service" model has tripled the industry's value.

EA has been receiving a lot of flak for the way they implemented their loot boxing mechanics in Star Wars Battlefront II, which has led to repeated cycles of posturing, bullying, and ultimately some small steps backward for the company, regarding its initial stance on Battlefront II's specific implementation. Already has the company decreased costs for unlocking characters in-game, though some are reporting that for players to unlock everything the $60 game supposedly offers, they'd have to play it for at least 4,528 hours - or pony-up $2,100 to unlock all the base content.

EA Makes it Tougher to Cancel Battlefront 2 Pre-orders

EA is under fire for predatory pricing of DLC and add-ons for its upcoming "Star Wars: Battlefront 2" release. Gamers complain of the company effectively pricing it above $80 just to play as Darth Vader, and giving game reviewers a faster in-game content unlock progression, compared to paying gamers, misrepresenting the product. Pre-orders of the game can be cancelled and so gamers took to Reddit, and other forums, to distribute links to the pages on EA's website that let you easily cancel your pre-order. With pre-order cancellations gaining traction, EA pulled out its bag of dirty tricks.

The publisher has reportedly changed the way you cancel pre-orders. Instead of simply clicking on a web-based form to cancel your pre-order and get the reference number to your refund, you now have to speak with a sales agent via chat to cancel your order. Trouble is, that the process is bogged down by too many people trying to cancel their orders (due to a finite number of agents), and thus EA has effectively made it impossible for everyone who pre-ordered to cancel. Only those who can endure the long agent waiting queue to chat with an agent, can cancel their pre-orders, as the November 17 release-date (beyond which you can't cancel pre-orders), looms closer.

EA Acquires Titanfall, Titanfall 2 Developer Respawn Entertainment for $455M

Publisher EA has just announced that they are acquiring Titanfall and Titanfall 2 development studio Respawn Entertainment. The deal, which includes cash, equity, and performance milestone payments valued at $455M, will add one more studio to the publisher's wing, just weeks after EA announced the shuttering of Visceral Studios and the end of its single-player, linear, story-driven Star Wars game. EA fought for this acquisition, outbidding South Korean publisher Nexon, who also had their eyes on Respawn.

"We've had success as an independent company but as we look to how we want to compete in the future, and the challenges that face us in a rapidly changing landscape, now is the time for us to combine forces with a global industry leader like EA," said Vince Zampella, Respawn Entertainment's CEO in a blog post on Respawn's website. "EA will provide us with more resources, access to new technologies, and expertise that we can tap into to that will help us make better games, and Respawn will retain the same creative freedom and culture we've always had," he added. "We've been talking closely with the leadership at EA and we share their values and vision for the future of being a developer-focused company that puts the players first."

DICE Revamps Star Wars Battlefront II's Loot Crate Mechanics

We went into Star Wars Battlefront II with a goal to make the deepest, biggest Star Wars game you've ever played. That meant transporting you to all three eras and handing you a huge assortment of heroes, classes, and vehicles - as well as bringing tons of free post-launch content to all Star Wars Battlefront II players.

The Beta gave us a welcome chance to test all of our systems in action and tune things up for better balance. A few weeks back, we mentioned we were going to take another look at how the progression system works. After incorporating feedback from the Beta, we're happy to share our plans for launch.

EA Shutters Visceral Studios, Pivots on Unreleased Star Wars Game Design

The death knell is sounding in Visceral Games (creators of the Dead Space series), courtesy of EA. The publishing company has shuttered another one of its studios, and is looking to move employees from Visceral to what others remain. Apparently, the Star Wars game, which had a tentative release date for 2019, was shaping up as a "story-based, linear adventure game": not that much of a surprise, considering it was being helmed by Uncharted series veteran Amy Hennig. A development team from across EA Worldwide Studios will take over development, led by a team from EA Vancouver that was already working on the project.

Apparently, EA wasn't much enjoying the way the game was developing; usually, linear, story-based games don't lend themselves much for microtransactions or loot boxes, now do they? Citing "shifts in the marketplace", EA says that "It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design," so that it "allows for more variety and player agency." All in all, this sounds much like Destiny, or upcoming Bioware game Anthem. But it will also certainly lend itself better to further monetization, considering how it's one of the industry's most important sources of revenue.

EA Incentivizes Pre-orders with Exclusive Graphics Effects

Electronics Arts announced that pre-ordered copies of its upcoming flagship motorsport simulator "Need for Speed: Payback" will feature exclusive graphics effects not found on copies bought after its release. The pre-order page for the game lists out benefits for paying for the game before reading or watching a single review from a neutral source; including "the platinum car pack," a selection of exclusive vehicles, and a curious-looking "exclusive tire smoke."

While giving away bonus content, a tiny headstart in the game with more in-game currency or items, isn't new to pre-orders, this is one of the first times that a big production title is presenting exclusive graphics effects, the tire smoke color in this case, that otherwise won't be available even on machines with the most powerful hardware, or the most powerful consoles. If successful, this model could lure more gamers toward pre-orders of untested and unproven games.
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