EA’s annual sports series like Madden NFL and FIFA might move away from their yearly release schedules in favor of smaller updates, according to a recent interview with EA CEO Andrew Wilson.
“There’s a world where it gets easier and easier to move that code around—where we may not have to do an annual release,” Wilson said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service.”
These comments follow a recent trend in EA’s thinking in which the publisher seems to favor consistent “live services” like Ultimate Team and streaming services like EA Access and Origin Access to drive revenue.
EA’s shift toward updating a game as opposed to releasing a new title every year are validated by Madden NFL Mobile, which has not seen a significant update in the three years since it was released. Instead, Madden NFL Mobile drives revenue by refreshing rosters and offering microtransactions.
From a business standpoint, updating a game’s roster for a fee and supplementing the game’s revenue with Ultimate Team microtransactions—which already earns EA billions of dollars a year—makes more sense, as it will increase revenue at minimal development costs. Lately, EA has tried (and succeeded, given its major sports releases’ sales numbers) to drive yearly, full-priced releases with story modes in FIFA and now Madden, but those modes cost way more money to develop than simply adding new players, updating rosters, and growing Ultimate Team.
The model has clearly worked for other publishers. Grand Theft Auto Online‘s ridiculously high profit margins basically killed all hope for GTA V story DLC. It’s working so well that Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick recently stated that the company plans on introducing microtransactions in every single game it publishes.
These comments definitely won’t bode well with the conspiracy theorists out there who think (maybe rightfully so) that single-player games are dying as a medium, at least at EA. Wilson previously stated that the closure of Visceral Games and the cancellation of its single-player Star Wars game wasn’t totally about the fact that there just weren’t enough opportunities for microtransactions, but EA’s recent company-culture obsession with “live services” seems to contradict Wilson’s line in a serious way.