Launches are messy things. For hardware and games alike, several major releases in recent history have gone astray of expectations. Be it server issues or game quality crippling sales, there are hundreds of things that can go wrong at a video game launch. Of late, EA has had a few launches that haven't quite gone its way. Earlier in the year SimCity was ravaged by gamers and press alike for forcefully including always-online DRM, rendering it unplayable due to unreliable servers, despite warnings from fans that this would be the case. The same thing happened with Blizzard's long-awaited Diablo 3 and it was a hot point of contention for a long time. In the cast of SimCity, the game's reputation has struggled to overcome the stigma of the ordeal.
Add to EA's woes, two marquee games for the company haven't turned out as well as it might have hoped. Battlefield 4 and NBA Live 2014 have both had troubled beginnings by failing to meet EA's standards. Yet, like Medal of Honor, a title they admitted didn't meet their expectations, these all released in arguably broken states.
Starting with Battlefield 4, EA and DICE both had huge hopes for next-gen transition of the series. The reception out of E3 was great and some thought that this year would be the year that it really closed the cap on Call of Duty. That was all before the game launched with a rather limited offering of features (read our review for details on that) and with serious server issues that still plague the game for some. General Manager of DICE, Karl Magnus Troedsson took to Battlefield's Blog to apologize about the issues players have been experiencing across platforms.
"Resolving the launch issues is our #1 priority. In fact, we are so serious that we have the entire team working to stabilize the game and we will not move on to other projects until we are sure that Battlefield 4 meets — and exceeds — your expectations. It is the right thing to do."
He went on to say that he understands how player progression has been stunted because of the launch and to make up for it DICE would offer double XP in multiplayer from November 28 through to December 5. To sweeten the deal, he also said that the studio would be rewarding player's patience with the previously developer-only M1911 pistol scope to those who login on December 5. The scope is cool but the double XP is a joke. Still, while the game is suffering crippling errors for some, EA and DICE are quickly selling DLC which on principal, is making the situation infuriating for some since it's becoming increasingly clear that the game wasn't ready for launch.
While Battlefield 4 is generally well regarded despite its problems, NBA Live suffers from much more severe issues. The game's endured being one of the most panned current generation titles and the EA Sports team aren't burying their heads in the sand about it. Over at the official website, the division has released an open letter recognising the game's failings and have promised to improve all aspects of the game as soon as possible.
"I’m not going to lie; it’s been a rough week. As you can imagine, this isn’t exactly the NBA LIVE comeback story we were hoping for this year.
We hear loud and clear that some of you are disappointed in various aspects of NBA LIVE 14, and I’m sorry if the game doesn’t live up to your expectations. Looking at your feedback, we have laid out a plan to make NBA LIVE 14 a better game as quickly as we can."
The team goes on to say that they are going to make the game easier to understand and "pick up and play." Interestingly it was also promised that the team is working on patching "significantly" better graphics into the game. The letter admits:
"In order to get gameplay up and running this year we had to prioritize. We felt authentic gameplay, control and the connected experience would provide the best foundation for the future. As a result, game visuals and animation polish suffered."
While the admission is candid, it is also revealing. It points to a development cycle that wasn't long enough and a game that was rushed out before it was ready. Sound familiar? It isn't clear exactly how much is the developer or the publisher's fault, but one thing is clear and that's that the series' return is far from the NBA 2K killer EA would have hoped it to be.
What do you think of this? Is EA's (and the gaming industry's) release date focused strategy hurting their games and hence, their fans?