E3 2016: EA Press Conference

It’s finally here! E3 week kicked off on Sunday with press conferences from EA and Bethesda. While I wish I could say that the week started off with a bang, EA led off with a less than inspired press conference burdened with long segments dedicated to Madden 17 and FIFA 17. Unfortunately the conference wasn’t redeemed with the announcement of new Star Wars titles or with an in-depth look at Mass Effect Andromeda, supposedly releasing in the next year. Here’s what we got…

Titanfall 2 (5m 30s showing)

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Although the release date and campaign trailers were leaked in the hours leading up to EA’s press conference, I still thought that Titanfall 2 showed extremely well yesterday. Having separate trailers for the multiplayer and singleplayer parts of the game was a nice touch that really drove home the point that Respawn is aiming to pull in more types of players this time around. For those primarily interested in multiplayer, Titanfall 2 will have six new titans with unique abilities, a grappling hook, and new abilities for pilots – teleportation and holding enemies in stasis were shown in the trailer. If single player campaigns are more your speed, Titanfall 2 will have a full traditional campaign (read: offline) that explores the link between a pilot and his titan.

Titanfall 2 launches on October 28, 2016. Links to the new trailers – Campaign, Multiplayer

Madden 17 (7m showing)

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Rather than talk about new gameplay features, EA spent the majority of this segment focused on their plans for competitive play in the future, even introducing the world to the eight finalists in the EA Madden 16 Championship. While I appreciate their enthusiasm for integrating e-sports into their EA Sports brand, this felt like a “know your audience” moment. I don’t imagine many hardcore Madden fans are tuning into E3 to learn more about the next iteration in the franchise, although I could be wrong.

Mass Effect Andromeda (4m 30s showing)

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Mass Effect Andromeda surprised me this year with how little was shown. When the game was delayed out of 2016, reports surfaced with a Q1 2017 release window, keeping the release date within EA’s fiscal year. If that window is still accurate, I’m shocked by how little we saw of Andromeda at E3 this year. While the title could still show up on the Microsoft or Sony stage today, I would have expected EA to own that moment yesterday and dedicate a huge section of their conference to what has to be one of their most anticipated games. Instead, we got a “peek behind the curtain” with some small nods to gameplay and story and an ambiguous promise of more information in the fall.

Either EA is planning a massive information blowout 4-6 months ahead of Mass Effect Andromeda‘s release, or this game is getting delayed much farther into 2017. Personally, my money’s on the latter although I hope to be proven wrong!

EA Play to Give (2m 30s segment)

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While it wasn’t the most exciting part of their press conference, I admire EA’s aim to promote a charitable effort to their audience. Play to Give hopes to promote diversity and inclusion in the gaming industry and beyond by providing support to five charities that share these goals. You can find more information about them here:

HeForShe

Code.org

National Center for Women & Information Technology

CODE2040

Special Effect

FIFA 17 (11m showing)

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FIFA 17 was shown off with two major additional features; Premiere League Managers and Story Mode. Both of these features look like great additions. Premiere League fans will be happy to see their favorite managers on the sidelines and I’m sure a large subset of FIFA fans will be excited to play through their own story, similar to NBA 2k‘s career mode.

The biggest issue with this segment was how drawn-out it all was. We got a long and awkward interview between Peter Moore and Manchester United manager José Mourinho that even touched upon kids spending money in FIFA Ultimate Team. There was even a dramatic reading leading up into the story mode trailer. Again, I liked their announcements for FIFA 17, but some of the time spent on it during the press conference could’ve been used better elsewhere.

EA Originals & Fe (6m 30s showing)

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The next segment in EA’s press conference gave us another look at their newly named EA Originals initiative that brought us Unravel earlier this year. For E3 2016, a new EA Originals project, Fe, was unveiled by Zoink Studios. Fe is an adventure platformer that seems to share DNA with games like Tearaway and Journey based on its reveal trailer. Unfortunately, no release window or platforms were given just yet, but Fe looks like another promising title from the EA Originals initiative.

Star Wars (5m 30s showing)

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So this was by far the most disappointing segment of the conference for me. We’ve known for quite some time now that Visceral Studios is hard at work on a Star Wars project written by Uncharted creator Amy Hennig. We also learned recently that another Battlefront game is in the works for 2017 and that Jade Raymond has joined EA, forming her own studio to work on an original IP as well as Star Wars projects. Unfortunately…that’s pretty much still all we know. While a brief glimpse of Visceral’s game was shown during the montage, we mostly got new information on Battlefront DLC and updates to The Old Republic and Galaxy of Heroes. It was also officially announced that we will see Battlefront 2 in 2017, Visceral’s game in 2018, and Respawn’s game beyond that.

Battlefield 1 (8m showing)

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Battlefield 1 started off as a weird segment with an EA executive explaining how he repeatedly rejected the WWI idea before finally agreeing to one of DICE’s pitches for the game. From there, the Battlefield 1 pitch felt a lot like what we’ve already seen. They talked about the series’ hallmark destruction capability as well as weather effects and the weapon and vehicle variety you’d expect from a Battlefield game. To close out the conference, they showed off the newest Battlefield 1 trailer (above) and then wrapped up. After the conference, they did show off multiplayer for the first time in the form of a full 64 player match live-streamed. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any of that in the conference itself.

Overall Thoughts

As I said at the beginning, I was pretty disappointed with this conference. For the past few years now, it feels like EA has been relying on the promise of something great without showing us why we should believe in it. It’s how they originally announced Battlefront and Mass Effect in prior years and they continue to use the approach today with Battlefront 2, Visceral’s Star Wars game, and even Mass Effect Andromeda to some extent. I think the hardest part for me to wrap my head around is that we know what we’re getting by now with Madden and FIFA‘s annual releases, so dedicating 30% of an E3 Press Conference to those two games just seems like an odd decision. EA certainly has some games in the pipeline that I’m very excited for. I just didn’t walk away from this press conference any more excited than I already was…and that’s a problem.

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