EA’s been marching to its own E3 drum for a couple of years now, but last weekend saw the publisher putting players at the heart of its event like never before. It not only had 300 content creators at its presentation, but also a barrage of YouTube co-hosts and an army of ‘Game Changers’ to showcase 30 minutes of Star Wars Battlefront 2.
Even its latest EA Originals title, A Way Out, was a strictly co-op adventure from the team behind Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, showing a marked move away from the smaller, single-player indie titles EA’s championed in the past. Indeed, Zoink Games’ Fe, the first game to be announced as an EA Original last June, was nowhere to be seen, and Jo-Mei Games’ Sea of Solitude, which was added to the Originals roster last December, was similarly absent.
A Way Out’s unique take on co-op games wasn’t the only thing that set it apart, however. With its pair of tough male leads, gritty, realistic prison setting and almost triple-A style graphics, A Way Out seemed to herald a new era for EA’s indie label, suggesting the publisher’s original mission statement – to help bring "first-time" experiences to market and help support "small developers" with funding and advice – may have begun to shift in order to satisfy a broader audience.
Does this mean smaller, quirkier titles like Fe are going to become much rarer beasts on EA’s release schedule? Probably not. After all, EA’s executive vice president Patrick Söderlund said A Way Out was just one of "several new [Originals] titles in development" during its presentation, so it’s possible there are dozens of Fe-like titles waiting in the wings. It does suggest, however, that E3 is no longer the place to talk about them anymore.
Indeed, apart from Microsoft’s brief ID@Xbox sizzle reel, indie titles received very little airtime at this year’s show. Even Sony, the usual arbiter of left-field indie darlings, played it surprisingly straight, concentrating most on its 2018 blockbusters and leaving its more experimental products for PlayStation VR. Instead, the biggest indie showcase came from The PC Gaming Show, with a new title from Klei Entertainment being one of its main headliners.
Indies are still alive and well, then, but with mainstream audiences now playing a greater role than ever before at E3 – both around the world and at the show itself – it seems the best way to speak to fans has now shifted firmly to a triple-A-style lexicon.
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