Like the hapless humans in a monster movie, it’s easy to feel insignificant up against the might of a major publisher. Triple-A games development is after all a high stakes, multi-billion dollar business. So, while Electronic Arts‘ Mecha-Godzilla may be all-too eager to tear into Activision’s own Mothra, neither side is particularly moved by the concerns of the screaming people below.
Sure, there’s always petitions, negative Metacritic ratings, infamous consumer studies and more, but at the end of the day almost all decision-making power remains with these mammoth commercial entities. Take EA’s 2013 performance as an example. The publishing powerhouse endured not one, but two major controversies last year, when it botched the release of both SimCity and later, Battlefield 4.
Despite issuing a series of vague-at-best explanations and apologies, a recent interview conducted by RockPaperShotgun appears to find the company in a largely unrepentant mood. Taken at this year’s D.I.C.E developers summit in Las Vegas, the lightning quick Q & A begins with an open criticism of both episodes, an opinion EA’s chief creative officer Rich Hilleman fails to share:
“Battlefield 4 has been an exceedingly successful product on both consoles and PC. From a sales perspective, from a gameplay perspective… I think there was a lot of noise about the game, but some of that is a function of your surface area. The more customers you have, the more noise becomes available. We did things wrong. We know that. Weâ€™re gonna fix those things. Weâ€™re gonna try to be smart about what customers want in the future.
“But Iâ€™m not willing to accept â€“ and I donâ€™t think most of my customers are willing to say â€“ â€œitâ€™s a bad product, I wish I didnâ€™t buy it.â€ Thatâ€™s not the conversation weâ€™re having now. I think what weâ€™re hearing is, â€œYou made a game we really liked. We wouldâ€™ve liked it a little better if it didnâ€™t have these problems.â€ Many of those problems we can fix, and we have and will.”
Knee-jerk reaction or not, it’s likely many early adopters would describe their experiences of SimCity and Battlefield 4 as “bad.” Hilleman’s attempts to defend the games as high quality products essentially side-steps the real issue: the question of whether ill-considered limitations and poor planning hampered the potential enjoyment of both titles.
Asked how the company intends to improve upon its internal testing, Hilleman continued:
“Some of the problems we had were related to systems that were not released. Beta testing on an unreleased system is difficult. What I would say is, there were dynamics that were different this time. There were organizational differences. Some of those have been fixed already. Many of those conditions will not be the same next time. Some of those fixes arenâ€™t going to solve the problem next time, though.
“The obvious and glaring issues â€“ the ones we heard most about from our customers, the ones that matter most to them â€“ weâ€™ve really gotten on top of those and theyâ€™re fixed. What is most important is to know how to not have the problem next time, and thatâ€™s kinda what Iâ€™m proudest about.”
Interestingly, Hilleman goes on to state that the “80″ percent change in development process between console generations will also affect the “next major number release forÂ Battlefield.” We hope that his optimism is grounded, but no one will argue that a company can’t avoid past mistakes unless they fully acknowledge them.
Are Hilleman’s statements intended to create breathing room for future failures? Is EA willfully ignoring the concerns of its customers? Â How can the company better address its issues in public? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check in with all of the latest EA news, right here on Game Rant.
You can follow Sam on TwitterÂ @GamingGoo.