EA announced yesterday that David Rutter would be taking the helm of the company’s European-based studios, citing his work in reviving the waning FIFA franchise in the late 2000s and his work on the explosively lucrative Ultimate Team mode as critical factors in his appointment.
As it is wont to do, the gaming community mounted its trusted soapbox to question what impact Rutter would have on franchises like Battlefield. Images of future games as skeletal fronts for more paid cosmetics and thin-veiled gambling made the rounds.
Rutter’s appointment as supremo for EA’s European operations signals more of the same hyper monetization we expect. And, although knee-jerk reactions lead us to fear his involvement in finessing the Ultimate Team model, he was instrumental in raising the overall quality of the FIFA games.
Rutter made the football part – the part we care about – better. The chance he may very well do the same with existing and upcoming DICE, Ghost, and Criterion games should make us cautiously optimistic.
Yes, the likelihood of new, novel monetization mechanics are par for the course, but we already expect no less from EA. Despite making a show and dance of offering free post-launch Battlefield V content, Battlefield V has been on that path since introducing the Battlefield Currency back in April. The situation is so dire that new blood may be the kick up the proverbial backside the game needs.
On usual sounding-boards like Reddit, player sentiment veers towards boycotting EA. Stop buying its games is a popular refrain. Penalize them by using the full force of a concerted consumer snub. And therein lies one of the critical obstacles to divesting EA of the impetus to trudge ever forward with his predatory monetization practices.
These communities are populated by what, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll call gamers. These are people from all walks of life who dedicate their free time, and sometimes more, to playing video games – the people who have strong opinions on the merits of the latest titles and are au fait with some of the more sinister sides of the 21st-century’s quintessential art form.
These aren’t the people who line EA’s coffers. Instead, it is the growing contingent of casual gamers (once again, a gross-generalization for the sake of argument) who religiously buy each iteration of EA’s teeming roster of iterative franchises. That is, the football fan drawn to the lights and glitz of an official FIFA endorsement – the fair-weather player who has sworn allegiance to the Battlefield brand through sheer force of habit developed over the years.
And, it’s that idea of branding that verges on the toxic. The casual gamer buys EA games like FIFA and Battlefield for what they represent rather than for what they are; rather than for a perceived notion of quality.
With this massive consumer base more or less guaranteed to buy each yearly entry, there’s a little incentive for EA to stop what it has been so successfully doing for years.
The idea here isn’t to place the blame on casual gamers or engage in misguided gatekeeping. Gaming is uniquely positioned to offer an experience for virtually anyone out there, and that is very much the beauty of the medium.
On the contrary, it is EA’s iron grip on the market that needs calling out; the way they lure players who don’t know any better into the trap of gambling-like mechanics by throwing around the might of the names in its portfolio.
Rutter is merely the latest captain to steer the ship on its well-charted course.