EA makes me cry

This is getting ridiculous. I mocked EA earlier because they weren’t able to deliver on the on-line community promises. Turns out the data was handled by a third party, and their systems were fried. My bad. They still could have put up a notice about that.

So easportsworld.com is now accessible and so is my NCAA 08 profile. Funny thing is, I still can’t find a way to share my uploaded videos with friends. I don’t even know how to send them a link to my EA Sports World profile. It’s ridiculous. Unfortunately, it gets worse.

I went over to their forums, hoping that someone else was able to figure it out. Surely I’m not the only one who wants to do this. Besides the fact that the forums are populated by 13 years olds who love to use the Caps Lock key, the forums were completely worthless. No one had a straight answer to the question, “How do I sure my uploaded videos?” Simply worthless. So nothing could be worth less than that, right?

Wrong. The forum search is atrocious. I did a simple forum search for “share uploaded video”. “No search results for “share uploaded video”. You should try a less restrictive search.” was the result. Fair enough. I try “uploaded video link” nothing. “Video Link”, “Profile Link” and “I sure wish I could send my friend a link to my cool video” all failed to produce any search results. Deflated, I simply tried to search for “NCAA” hoping that something would result. This is what I got:

EA Search SUCKS!

Did I mean NASA?! No! Why the hell would I be searching for NASA on EA’s NCAA 08 forum? The name of the flipping forum is NCAA 08! Is search that hard for one of the biggest electronic entertainment companies? I can use NCAA 08’s recruiting system to search for a 5-star QB that is 6’2″ and from Ohio and I can’t do a simple text search on their site?

I’m speechless.

Taking EA to task

Good post over at Dubious Quality, wherein Bill takes EA to task about the future of their sports games. Thoughtful stuff. Thinking about this is disconcerting, if Bill’s vision of the future comes true.

In other words, NBA Live might be an absolute train wreck, so bad that EA wouldn’t send out advance copies for review, but fixing that is totally unimportant to EA. What’s important is to make sure we can buy the fourth alternate unis of the Pacers.

Yikes.

Magazine covers and EA Sports

OHIOSTATEV22-COPY.jpgIf you’re a sports fan and you’ve perused the magazine rack at your local bookstore, you’ll notice most of the pre-season rags will have an athlete from your favorite team on the cover. “Cool,” you think, “everyone will see the great Troy Smith on the cover of Althon Sports pre-season magazine.” Well, not everyone. Some will see Troy and Brady Quinn. Others will see Brady and USC’s Dwayne Jarrett. It’s a simple and ultra-effective marketing technique — sell the fans what they want. I know I am immediately drawn to the covers adorned with the scarlet and gray. I might not always buy one, but I’ll at least pick it up and thumb through it.

Fans of EA Sports have been using photoshop for a long time to do the same thing. Every year, while speculating of who will be on the cover of the next NCAA or Madden, fans help out EA and design the cover with who they think deserves to be the next cover. Fanblogs.com has collected a ton of NCAA 2007 covers and posted them on Flickr.

It got me thinking about the marketing that sport magazines use and how EA does it. While it is an honor (and a curse) to be on the cover of an EA sports title, I wonder how many more they would sell if they “customized” the covers for different regions. It would be tricky for a couple reasons: you can’t have a current NCAA player on the cover (nixing my Ted Ginn Jr. dream) and there are only 32 teams in the NFL. Nevertheless, I still think it would work. Sure, this year Reggie Bush was honored with the cover (and rightfully so) but if I was a Texas fan, I’d much rather buy a copy of NCAA 2007 with Vince Young gracing the cover, not the chump your team beat in the Rose Bowl.

Me? I’d personally like to see A.J. Hawk on the cover of my copy.

Sequels, sequels everywhere

This NY Times article is the latest in a long line of both EA bashing and bemoaning of sequelitis that is rampant among major video game publishers. This passage is getting the most attention:

By year’s end, Electronic Arts plans to release 26 new games, all but one of them a sequel, including the 16th version of N.H.L. Hockey, the 11th of the racing game Need for Speed and the 13th of the P.G.A. Tour golf game. The company also relies heavily on creating games based on movies like the James Bond and Lord of the Rings series, rather than developing original brands.

The article focuses on the cash cows that are EA sports games. The father of a gamer planning to buy Madden 2006 had it right when he said, “If it wasn’t for free agency, Electronic Arts wouldn’t be doing so well.” Very astute. Sports games do lend themselves to sequels but it’s easy to complain about sequels to other games. But why are we picking on EA for doing exactly what Japanese developers do just as blatantly. We have like, what, 83 different Final Fantasy games? Aren’t there like 27 Dragon Warriors? No one seems to care when those games get a “roster update.” But that’s not my point.

The article got me thinking about sequels. What would happen if sequels weren’t so successful? What would we have missed out on? The first game that came to mind was Super Mario Brothers. The first one is undoubtedly the quintessential video game. A million Marios followed. Super Mario Brothers 2, on the otherhand, wasn’t as great as its predecessor. So what if Nintendo decided it didn’t want to continue with sequels of SMB? We’d never had the pleasure of playing my favorite Super Mario game, Super Mario Brothers 3. And let’s not forget Super Mario World, Mario 64 and a host of other excellent Mario games.

There have been plenty of other sequels that were heads and shoulders above the games to which they are sequels – Diablo 2, Warcraft 2 (did anyone even play the first WC? I did for about ten minutes), Age of Kings (Age of Empires 2), Halo 2 (which I’m sure some would disagree with), and many others. Sequels can be a good thing! A very good thing!

Of course, as gamers, we’d like to see developers augment their library with sequels, not depend on them. New franchises like Pikmin, Viewtiful Joe, and Katamari Damacy would never have seen the light of day if sequels really ruled the roost. While it is apparent that sequels are where the “sure” money is, games like Viewtiful Joe can be a pleasant (and profitable) surprise.

So let’s not be quick to dismiss a sequel. They are an integral part of the video game spectrum. Don’t forget, too, that sequals can tank. There’s probably just as many bad sequels as there are good ones. But that’s another topic for another day.

As an exercise for the reader, what other games would have made you sad if there never was a “2” or “II” after their name?

Update: There’s a rather lively discussion over at Slashdot about this exact topic. I didn’t read all the comments, but this one caught my eye:

“EA Games: Sequel Everything”

Football X’s and O’s

While the NCAA 2006 criticisms are piling up, The Blog for the Sports Gamer points to a forum discussion about a game-stopping flaw in Madden 2006. If you don’t have (or feel like making) an account on Operation Sports, here’s the pertinent information:

20 yard dropback shouldnt be an issue this year. whats going to be an issue is what we talked about on the radio show tonight, which is that animation where the CPU does a jetpack animation for you. Its tough to stop. we labbed with it online earlier tonight. You could send 3 guys in zone on that one WR and it couldnt be stopped a lot of the time.

ok this “jet pack” animation is definitely there and its damn easy to do. You just throw the ball high and the CPU will do the animation for you. Marcus from MM and I tested it. I’d tell him, what WR i was going to. He’d try dime, nickel quater, shading inside, and manually took his safety or DB. It worked, rarely. Most of the time the WR caught it. He could be surrounded by 3 guys andn they couldnt stop it. Even when he was there manually for some reason the ball would just go above him and the wr would catch. Its pretty lethal on curls because the wr jumps. I havent figured out a way to stop it consistently.

BTW, it doesnt really matter how good your WR was. I was doing it with Mushin Muhammed, and he got injured and Justin Gage was just as effective. I could do it to the other side of the field as well and Bobby Wade, who sucks, would make the catch all the time.

The jury is still out on NCAA 2006 for me (I’ve only played a handful of games so far) and I swore off Madden after 2003, but this is still disheartening news nonetheless. It’s a good thing EA has the NCAA and NFL licenses wrapped up for the next two generations of console systems! Now we can expect more of the same, year after year. Wonderful.

It was interesting that when the EA exclusive licensing deals were announced most “gamers” were pissed off (to put it lightly) and some swore of EA all-together (except for something called Battlefield 2). The casual sports gamer, however, was either unaware or shrugged it off with a, “I play Madden anyway, who cares?” Well, if they get release after release of broken, flawed gameplay with the promise of “next year,” they won’t be shrugging it off much longer. They’ll care.

And then what?