EA Finished with Single-Player/Offline Games [Update]

Update: September 10, 2012: In response to comments Frank Gibeau made, “I have not green lit one game to be developed as a single-player experience. Today, all of our games include online applications and digital services that make them live 24/7/365.”, he has offered a clarification to Kotaku stating that he meant EA is done with offline games:

“Let me clarify,” Gibeau began. “What I said was [about not greenlighting] anything that [doesn’t have] an online service. You can have a very deep single-player game but it has to have an ongoing content plan for keeping customers engaged beyond what’s on the initial disc. I’m not saying deathmatch must come to Mirror’s Edge.”….

“That was more where I was coming from,” Gibeau explained. “That should not be misunderstood as the death of single-player games, or single-player experiences or telling stories. Narrative is what separates good games from bad games. Or great from good, even.”

I guess it really should not be all that surprising. EA is moving away from single-player/offline games. Electronic Arts has been moving this direction for a few years, with their Origin.com launch, their move to take control of the digital distribution of their games (Such as Star Wars: the Old Republic) and in general driving everything through the EA social networking sites.

Forbes is running an article, EA Turns Its Back On Single-Player Games, Embraces The Cloud, which focuses on comments made by EA Labels President Frank Gibeau in the presentation Cloud Gaming Prospects for 2012.

The presentation is being made next week at the Cloud Gaming USA conference, and while Gibeau’s target audience were the participants in this conference, what he says applies across all of his labels, including BioWare, parent of BioWare Mythic:

Origin had a very successful first year with nearly 13 million downloads, over 50 publishing partners and over $150 million in revenue. Being able to store game data in the cloud gives Origin the flexibility to reach all platforms and create a positive experience for our users.

We are very proud of the way EA evolved with consumers. I have not green lit one game to be developed as a single player experience. Today, all of our games include online applications and digital services that make them live 24/7/365.

One of our biggest growth opportunities is Play4Free titles that allow customers to play at no cost and make purchases via microtransactions. We see this as a huge opportunity, and one that’s powered by our hybrid cloud model.

If you had dreams of a single-player Ultima in the future, then you are going to have to be happy with the GOG.com releases or attach yourself to one of the Ultima fan projects/re-makes.

I’m not surprised. EA has been moving this way. As much as they neglect the Mythic MMORPGs, Dark Age of Camelot, Warhammer Online, and Ultima Online, they put the resources into converting them to the Origin.com accounting system last year, even if they aren’t making us use the Origin.com client (yet). Ultima Forever fits into this scheme perfectly – cross-platform online play.

It’s bad news if you were an Ultima fan holding out a little bit of hope for a single-player Ultima RPG, but it opens the door for a lot of small and medium-sized studios who are more than happy to fill that void.

Game tools these days, including tools with cross-platform capabilities, are cheaper/easier/better than in past years. Thanks to digital distribution platforms like Steam, Apple’s App Store, Amazon’s download services, and yes, even Origin.com, it’s much easier for a smaller or medium-sized studio to get their product out there in front of people. For all of the Gamelofts, EAs, Zyngas, etc. the top-20 and top-50 charts of many of those distribution platforms still have a large number of independent developers. Distribution systems like the App Store, Steam, even Amazon.com’s online store, make for a much more level playing field in some ways.

Finally, thanks to the very same social networking platforms and the other technologies that are behind EA’s decisions to move everything online, indie developers can make themselves more easily heard and known, as well as keeping their distribution costs down.