Electronic Arts Pre-E3 2012 Press Conference: Franchise, Franchise, Franchise

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Electronic Theatre ImageElectronic Arts’ pre-E3 press conference was something of a shock last night. We all knew it was coming, we all knew videogame franchises would be at the forefront and we even knew some of the titles that would feature, but exactly where the world’s largest videogames publisher would be taking their beloved universes may have been the biggest shock of all.

Suggested as running under the name ‘Download 2012’, despite the British music festival of the same name kicking off this weekend, Electronic Arts kicked things of with Dead Space 3, promising ‘the most immersive, spine tingling adventure yet’. Presenting a new character and drop-in/out co-operative play, questions remain over just how the team at Visceral Games hope to deliver on such a promise. From the brief glimpse of his character that was offered, John Carver appears to be the kind of guy that any marketing team will tell you appeals to the Electronic Theatre Imagecore 16-24 year old male demographic, and that anyone with an ounce of imagination instantly despises. He’s a washing machine to Isaac Clarke’s sleek and sophisticated home cinema; a Marcus Fenix to Clarke’s Jane Fonda. And just as Carver epitomises all that’s wrong in action videogame character design, so too does Dead Space 3 itself: eschewing the survival horror roots and becoming a cover based shooter, set for release February 2013.

The first of EA SPORTS’ titles to be showcased is Madden NFL 13, now set to deliver extensive role-playing game (RPG) inspired features for its career mode. Maxis were next on the stage, showing off two new entries in the critically acclaimed SimCity franchise. The first was a light-hearted take on the franchise, SimCity Social, which is set to launch on Facebook in the not-too-distant future. The second is the recently revealed reboot, promising to deliver the first multiplayer SimCity experience. While you may baulk at the thought, offering a multiplayer component alongside the single player could be an interesting statement, especially if it delivers on the promises made: players will each build their cities in a universal space, next door to one another, and decisions made in one city will affect others. For example, if two players choose to build airports, transport and trade between cities will grow. SimCity is set for release in February 2013, and it certainly looks to be one to watch.

After the not too subtle addressing of the attendance of West and Zampella, following the recent and very public lawsuit between the pair and Activision, Peter Moore and Patrick Bach come onto the stage backed by Battlefield 3. This is the reveal Battlefield 3 Premium, which will offer five themed expansions packs. Available now for $49.99 USD, the first expansion, Close Quarters, is live on the PlayStation Network for PlayStation 3 now, and coming to Xbox 360 & PC coming next week. Battlefield 3 Premium is, of course, Electronic Arts’ answer to Call of Duty Elite, and isn’t hiding away from any such comparisons. This is the start of ‘videogames as a service,’ and that’s a road Electronic Theatre isn’t too keen on travelling.

Speaking of services, Dr. Ray Muzyka of BioWare enter the stage to discuss Star Wars: The Old Republic. Claiming the ‘biggest MMO launch ever,’ Star Wars: The Old Republic will allow newcomers to play up to level 15 for free from July 2012.

Next up was the simply astounding looking Medal of Honor: Warfighter, being played live and denoted as running on the Frostbite 2 engine. Launching on 23rd  October 2012, the nest four months will surely be spent debating whether that footage was from PC or console, but at least the playable build on the E3 show floor might offer some hints.

EA SPORTS return, presenting the overarching schemes that will be applied to many of their sporting franchises. Madden NFL Social is a Facebook title that will combine with a mobile app, offering cloud based save data so gamers may continue to progress no matter where they are. NBA and FIFA will follow suit, with the latter tied to the FIFA Football Club service. “FIFA Football Club is football’s social network,” and this proclamation will only be further assured by the ability to maintain your progress through transferring FIFA 12 data to FIFA 13. All actions tied to the FIFA Football Club will earn players currency to buy new kits and celebrations etc. But also, FIFA 13 on iOS and Android will connect to FIFA Football Club, allowing players to access their squad and play matches anywhere.

The final showing from EA SPORTS was arguably in poor taste. The publisher has secured the rights to the UFC licence, with President Dana White enthusiastically chastising his previously relationship with THQ, despite having seen the release of three hugely popular titles. This is clearly a move directed by the finance available to back the videogame and the potential revenue it could generate, not in the interest of the videogames’ audience; a sentiment that was echoed by THQ’s closing of their San Diego office reportedly as a result. White may be incredibly happy with the move, but hundreds of videogame developers, publicists and administration staff are feeling the rough edge this morning.

Next we come to the best of Electronic Arts’ British contingent, with Criterion’s new Need for Speed: Most Wanted. An open world title releasing this year, boasting the ‘second gen autolog technology,’ Everything you do in Need for Speed: Most Wanted earns speed points which drives you up the most wanted list. Need for Speed: Most Wanted launches on 30th October 2012, and is looking set to rights the wrongs of last year’s Need for Speed: The Run.

Rounding off Electronic Arts’ tidal wave of videogame reveals was Crytek wth the recently announced Crysis 3. Set to feature seven distinctive areas in the videogame’s ‘urban rainforest,’ Crysis 3 was actually very disappointing in its live play on stage. The videogame looks very generic, and is visually poorer than the Halo 4 footage Microsoft demonstrated earlier in the day. As with many of the biggest titles revealed at E3 2012 so far, Crysis 3 will launch in February 2013, so there’s not too long a wait to find out if the aging tech can withstand the onslaught of fresher faces.

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