Dead Space 3 | Visceral Games

WHAT THE SHUT DOWN OF VISCERAL GAMES REALLY MEANS

Future of Singe Player Left in a Dead Space?

by Felipe Parada

I always hate hearing news of studios being shut down through no fault of their own. So when I heard that EA was shutting down Visceral Games I became so infuriated. Why so mad? I'm glad you asked. Everyone knows that EA has been rated as on of "The Worst Companies in America" for 3 years straight (2014-2016) so it's not surprising to hear that EA has shut down yet ANOTHER studio. Visceral Games has become yet another victim of the EA machine that has shut down other studios like Maxis (SimCity), Bullfrog (Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper), Pandemic (Star Wars Battlefront) just to name a few. 

So why has Visceral Games shut down make such an impact? Well for starters Visceral Games actually developed great games like the Dead Space Series, Army of Two Series and Battlefield Hardline. With that impressive resume there should have been no reason for EA to just shut them down, especially when they were working on the much anticipated Untitled Star Wars Game. EA has been very silent on the reasons why they decided to shut down Visceral but with their track record it doesn't take a genius to figure out that they need no reason to do so. It's just another big publisher chewing up and spitting out a much smaller developer.

Is there a much bigger cost to do business with these publishing giants? Well yes. Developers are always looking for projects to take on just so they can keep the lights on and publishers know this. You can be sure that the game publishers are going to push their weight around and try to suck out as much as they can from the smaller developers. EA has proven this time and time again but a recent announcement from Executive Vice President of Electronic Arts Patrick Söderlund shows a larger concern than just a shut down.

In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design.

Could this mean the death of the single player experience? Remember that back in 2014 Amy Henning joined Visceral Games to work on  a linear story based Star Wars game that had a similar formula to the award winning Uncharted Series. We all remember how good the Uncharted Single Player was and I personally couldn't wait for a Star Wars game to get similar treatment. But it seems like EA does not want to go down that route because there is no money in a single player experience. Games still get released at a $60 price point but after DLC's and Season passes a game an run you up to $120 (I'm looking at you Star Wars Battlefront).

Star Wars Battlefront 2 DICE/Motive Studios/Criterion 

At first it was difficult to get a sense of what EA was really up to but with the inclusion of a single player story in Star Wars Battlefront 2 we were led to believe that EA really listened to the community and that they really cared. Those positive feelings were quickly turned to anguish once the beta was released and the dreaded loot boxes were introduced. Now its become clear what their intentions really are. In order to get something we must give something up of equal value "Law of Equivalent Exchange" is what they call it (for all you Full Metal Alchemist fans out there).

We just have to accept the fact that loot boxes and micro-transactions are here to stay. Development costs of AAA games are just becoming too expensive that companies like EA are looking not only to shut down developers but they are willing to omit the development of the single player only experience. EA has their reasons behind this as we have clearly seen games like Prey, Watch Dogs 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided not meet their sales expectations. Are we witnessing a pivotal shift in game design?

It seems like we will no longer see AAA single player games like Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4 and The Witcher 3 without some sort of inclusion of micro-transactions. Online focused games like Destiny, future release of Anthem have similar costs of a AAA game but those games will have an easier method to secure a steady stream of income because they can just keep adding content and charge players for it. But it looks like this is the path games are taking now.

 

As it stands the future for linear single-player games is dark but hopefully not all us lost. Maybe, just maybe there’s a chance that major publishers will figure out a way to justify the development cots and find alternate ways to do so. I really hope that the single player experience isn't going away because it offers such a unique experience that even Hollywood wishes they can produce. Can there be a proper balance between micro-transactions for cosmetic items? Looks like only the future will tell. 

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