In the world of games-as-a-service, sports titles seem like the ideal candidates for experimenting with new models that don’t rely on the traditional release structure.
We already have a few examples of games that build from a base release, such as Hearthstone and League of Legends. We’re unlikely to ever see a Hearthstone 2 or League of Legends 2, because the games themselves exist in a non-static form. They constantly evolve, with new characters and mechanics added through live updates.
With games such as FIFA and Madden becoming so reliant on their online modes, and the importance of annual gameplay changes decreasing, many have pondered when a company such as EA might try and shift their sports titles over to a similar model. Indeed, EA has done exactly that with its mobile iterations of the series, but the console games remain rooted in the established console annual release model.
“There’s a world where it gets easier and easier to move that code around — where we may not have to do an annual release,” EA CEO Andrew Wilson told Bloomberg. “We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service.
"There’s a few different things that have got to happen first. We do a lot in a FIFA game every year [and] there’s a lot of code that we make available as part of a new iteration. When we look at what we do in Korea or China, we don’t do it that way… What we see in Korea and China, what we see on mobile – I think there’s a world where that will happen in other parts of our business."
EA is already one of the few companies to offer a subscription service, with EA Access on Xbox One and Origin Access on PC. The evolution required to add per-game subscriptions feels ever-more plausible. However, until that method is able to replicate the revenues generated by a yearly £50 game, we’re unlikely to see any significant changes.