|Dear EA: No one outside of the USA cares about UFC|
After sitting through EA’s show at E3 2013, a couple of key points really stuck out to me; the company is increasingly American-centric and as such what it offers is less and less of value to everyone else.
The show was bookended well, to start on a positive note. Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare looks like an endlessly charming third person shooter set in Popcap’s happy little universe. Peggle 2 was announced, and that frankly was enough to get us excited even if we didn’t see any footage, and right at the end of the show EA showed some footage of Mirror’s Edge 2 which sent my Twitter feed into meltdown. All of this was great to see, but it was what was sandwiched between these announcements that disappointed.
For instance, some dude got up on stage and recited some poetry about Basketball that was meaningless to non-Americans. I nearly turned the show off during the presentation of the UFC game when the people on stage went into such graphic detail about the visceral nature of hitting another human being and revelling in the violence of the sport. Violence-porn sports might go down well in America, but for many other audiences around the world it is borderline offensive. Culturally, we respect athletes like boxers because they are athletes and the sport of boxing is one based on extreme skill, not because of the “visceral reaction that the human body has to being punched” – paraphrased, but to hear those people speak the only appeal of UFC is the potential for broken bones.
All of EA Sports’ games, with the exception of FIFA, are American-centric. Madden, NBL, UFC – people outside of American might play these sports, but it’s the American teams and the American leagues that are represented and in most cases these sports are niche in the extreme outside of the US anyway.
I understand that the US is the biggest games market there is, but it’s not the only one, and believe it or not it’s possible to turn a profit by building games for other cultures. Look at Codemasters; that publisher has had success with sports that don’t appeal to the slightest to most Americans, like F1 and Cricket.
I would love to see what a developer could do with the sport of Cricket or Rugby if they had access to EA Sports’ physics and graphical engines. Instead of publishing shooter after shooter, why not stick with DICE’s Battlefield game, which looks great and has a new “Commander” mode that promises to bring something new to a very stale genre, and that Star Wars Battlefield game. Do we really need that other multiplayer-focused one with the giants robots and stuff when I’ve already forgotten it’s name? The only answer there is “no,” and if EA actually limited how many me-too games it published that are designed to appeal specifically to one market, it could invest resources in developing or publishing games for the Europeans and Japanese.
Microsoft pulled a similar stunt with the original unveil of the Xbox One, and I continue to question the wisdom of using a show that the entire globe will watch to talk to a single market. Regardless of how big that one market is, it surely can’t be worth alienating everyone else?
By so carefully constructing its product portfolio to appeal to the Americans first, and treating the rest of the world as bonus sales, EA risks losing the attention of the bulk of the world. Perhaps it should take a leaf from Ubisoft’s book and develop a product portfolio that offers something for everyone instead.