The Weekly Dish – EA's Scapegoat

The Weekly Dish – EA's Scapegoat

It's a great week for PC gaming fans like me: Steam has just started its annual Summer Sale, offering tons of games at rock-bottom prices every day. Thanks to Steam, more video game publishers are learning that discounting games that have been out for a while actually leads to increased sales. Who would have thought it? Even Nintendo, a bastion that stands against the "race to the bottom" of $1 app games, has started discounting a game on the 3DS eShop every weekend.

Beyond game sales, there are lots of interesting things going on in the game industry this week, so here we go!

The Weekly Dish – EA's Scapegoat

Enter the Ouya

A wild Kickstarter recently appeared for the Ouya, a proposed Android-based home console that welcomes hacking and independent game development. There appears to be quite a hunger for this kind of device, as the Kickstarter has (as of this writing) earned over four million dollars—over three million more than the project needed to be a success. That all happened within the first few days of it going up, mind you.

I don't doubt that the Ouya will be a fine device for people who enjoy tinkering and hobby development, and it's certainly true that the current console market could use a nice shake-up. I'm skeptical about the Ouya's business plan of offering all free or free-to-play games, however. I believe that game developers, independent or no, deserve to make a living from their work. While putting out free-to-play games with cash shops offers the possibility for making a living, the free-to-play model has yet to produce many of the high-quality, deep projects that gaming enthusiasts prefer.

Perhaps the Ouya will spell a revolution in the free-to-play model, but we need to know a whole lot more about how the system will attract quality development talent and allow good games to be made. One only has to look at the mass of trash obscuring the few good titles on Xbox LIVE Indie Games to know that providing cheap development tools and a community-driven vetting process doesn't necessarily promote a great deal of great game development. We'll have to see if the Ouya team can find a way to turn this Kickstarter bounty into real success, because otherwise, there are going to be tens of thousands of disappointed donators.

An Incoming Change at the Top for EA?

Word is that things aren't all sunshine and roses between EA boss John Riccitiello and the company's shareholders. EA's stock hasn't been doing too well lately, and the fact that Star Wars: The Old Republic seemingly isn't becoming the next World of Warcraft (never mind that it took World of Warcraft several years to become World of Warcraft) is being blamed on Riccitello. It's scapegoating, sure, but when you get paid the big bucks, sometimes you take the blame.

The Weekly Dish – EA's Scapegoat

Earlier this week, Riccitiello apparently confided in (in)famous industry analyst Michael Pachter that he was worried about keeping his job. Pachter turned around and "confided" this fact to the entire Internet, thereby ensuring that nobody in the industry ever tells him a secret again. Two days later, the rumor was circulating that Riccitello is likely to be replaced by EA's current Chief Operating Officer, Peter Moore.

Riccitello is reportedly a bit confused that EA's stock is going down when the company's earnings are actually going up. The problem here is that the stock market is based on perception, not reality, and the current perception is that EA isn't a smart bet in terms of stock profit. Would replacing Riccitello with Moore create any major changes in the way EA does business? Moore is a big proponent of the free-to-play, microtransaction-laden gaming model, so perhaps we'll see more of that in EA's future. Hooray?