There was a time, not that long ago, when making single player games were the last thing EA wanted to do. Throughout the 2010s decade, the company proved that time and time again in more ways than one, from shoehorning multiplayer into single player games that didn’t need it, to killing off beloved single player franchises, to, of course, flat out saying on several occasions that it did not see single player games as a financially viable model that would make the company the sort of money it wanted to make. According to EA, single player games were a thing of the past, and going all-in on multiplayer games and live services was the only real way to grow as a financially-driven entity.
Interestingly enough, however, EA has started pivoting away from that. Live services and multiplayer still obviously remain a massive (and even primary) focus for the company, and its aforementioned recent change in strategy hasn’t been too drastic, but in recent years, it’s become clearer and clearer as time has gone on that EA is, impossibly enough, beginning to see the value of single player games once again. It’s the sort of pivot that none of us really expected to see from EA, of all companies, but we have to give credit where credit is due- because the publisher has already put out a number of great games that cater to solo players to varying degrees – games that have also been considerable commercial successes for it – while it still has several more in the pipeline.
This started, of course, with the launch ofStar Wars Jedi: Fallen Orderin 2019, which in so many ways was exactly the sort of game you wouldn’t expect a company like EA to make. Open world? Multiplayer? Microtransactions? Live serve elements? It had none of that. WithFallen Order, developer Respawn Entertainment focused exclusively on telling the story it wanted to tell in a single player Metroidvania experience. And it was excellent. Though not without its issues, the action-adventure title was praised by critics and audiences alike, while the level of commercial success it enjoyed also proved to EA the one thing that so many had been telling the company for years- single player games, especially well-made ones, will always hold the potential for great critical and commercial success.
So far, 2023 has seen EA doubling down on that with a couple more significant single player releases, with theDead Spaceremake launching in January andStar Wars Jedi: Survivorreleasing in April. Both games are stellar in their own right-Dead Spaceis an incredible remake of one of the best survival horror games ever made, whileJedi: Survivorbuilds upon the foundations of its predecessor with significant improvements across the board. Both have enjoyed widespread praise (even ifJedi: Survivordid endure some backlash due to the technical state it launched in), while both have also sold well.Dead Space,for instance, was the second best-selling game in the US in January, while EA recently confirmed thatStar Wars Jedi: Survivoris “pacing very strongly” against its expectations.
In addition to these games, meanwhile, the company has also released a number of games that might not be exclusively single player, but do certainly cater to that audience to great degrees. For instance,Star Wars Squadrons’multiplayer component was obviously a big part of the experience, but it also had a solid single player campaign who just wanted to experience a cool newStar Warsstory. Then there’sNeed for Speed Unbound,where, again, multiplayer is a core component of the game, but still something that’s easily ignorable for someone who just wants to play a well-made solo experience. The same can also be said ofWild Hearts,which was published under the EA Original label earlier this year.
And looking ahead to the future, it’s clear to see that there’s still plenty more to come. In July, for starters, we’re getting Ascendant Studios’Immortals of Aveum, published under the EA Originals label, which is promising to be a big, ambitious, narrative-driven single player magic shooter. There’sDragon Age: Dreadwolf, a game that was reportedly set to feature live service elements in the early stages of its development, but ended up pivoting away from that to focus solely on crafting a solo RPG experience. EA recently confirmed that that won’t be coming out until sometime after April 2024, so clearly it’s still a ways away, but ifDreadwolfcan get to the level of quality that we know BioWare can deliver, it’ll be a game worth keeping an eye on. Of course, BioWare also has a newMass Effectgame in the works, but it’s safe to assume that that is a long,longway off.
Meanwhile,Dead Spacedeveloper Motive Studio is also currently working on a single player narrative-drive action-adventureIron Mangame. Gaming audiences have clearly gotten sick of superhero IPs being wasted on live service experiences, as evidenced by the critical panning of the likes of Marvel’s Avengers and Gotham Knights and the pre-launch backlash againstSuicide Kill: The Justice League, so to see an EA-developedIron Mangame choosing to do the smart thing and instead focus on a solo experience is an incredibly refreshing change of pace.
There’s evidence of EA’s increasingly lessening aversion to single player elsewhere as well. For instance, Respawn Entertainment is currently working on aStar WarsFPS, and while that may very well end up having some multiplayer elements, back when it was first confirmed to be in development, game director Peter Hirschmann described it as “a story [he] always wanted to tell.” Significantly enough, the studio also described the title in a recent job listing as a “story-driven single player game”. Beyond that, you also have something likeBattlefield, which, after having ditched a campaign inits most recent instalment, has now seen EA establishing an entire new studio that’ll be dedicated solely to developing single player campaigns for the series.
In fact, even going into the rumour mill, you can see future solo titles that EA could potentially work on, or could already be working on. Last year, for instance, leaks emerged claiming that EA has a single player open worldBlack Panthergame in the works. Meanwhile,Star Wars Jedi: Survivordirector Stig Asmusses said shortly before its launch that his aim had always been to make a trilogy– and given the success thatJedi: Survivoris enjoying, it wouldn’t surprise us in the slightest to see EA greenlight another instalment to round off Respawn’sJeditrilogy. Then there’sDead Space, where, sure, we don’t have any overt evidence of future instalments, but do have plenty of evidence of the fact that developer Motive Studio wants to keep working on the franchise, and already has ideas for its future.
This wasn’t a position that any of us would have expected EA to be in until not too long ago. It was the company you’d least expect to be investing in big-budget single player games, so to see it once again beginning to see the value of that side of gaming has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the industry in recent years. Sure, live services are still the bulk of EA’s business, and obviously, that’s always going to be the case- but we’re finally at a point where the company has figured out that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. As long as the games are well-made, both styles can coexist.
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