EA’s Lack of Remasters is Foolish

You can’t keep a fanbase without building franchises

Electronic Arts should remaster their catalog titles for new consoles. The fact that they haven’t is nothing less than profoundly stupid, and only serves to damage their software catalog.

Over the last five years, I’ve watched as Ubisoft, one of their game publishing rivals, quietly updated almost every single Assassin’s Creed game for the PS4 and Xbox One.

The only title in that franchise you can’t play natively on the latest consoles is the original, and I’d imagine some kind of anniversary remaster is coming for that one too.

Heck, Ubisoft has even started bringing the series to the Switch, and next years Gods and Monsters, which runs on the same engine as the most recent Origins and Odyssey, is coming to Nintendo’s low-powered platform as well.

Meaning that the door is open for the whole Assassin’s franchise to go portable.

Meanwhile, EA sits quietly on a literal goldmine of both non-sports and sports classics, and refuses to port them to modern platforms in any fashion.

Dead Space. Mass Effect. Dragon Age. Medal of Honor. The Sims. Sim City. Need for Speed. Burnout. Mercenaries. Mirror’s Edge. American McGee’s Alice.

Okay okay, maybe I’m stretching it with those last three.

Still, most of those franchises have large fan bases who are desperate for literally any kind of new product, and all of those games have old PC versions ready for low-budget conversion to modern machines.

Remasters are usually an easy business proposition. They cost less to develop than brand new games. They’re quick sells to fans of a franchise. They prop up brands that haven’t had a new game in a while.

And there’s now an entire ecosystem of studios who will do the work on contract, so publishers don’t even have to take people off current projects.

Panic Button and Iron Galaxy have both made names for themselves on high quality conversion projects. I’ve also enjoyed several remasters from Virtuous and Blind Squirrel.

But EA isn’t getting falling for this “trap” of free easy money. Instead, this generation they’ve let their catalog languish in a slow decline. Their overall number of franchise IP’s dwindles as they focus on Madden, FIFA, Battlefield, and The Sims 4 expansions.

And occasionally a questionable Star Wars game.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

All of those franchises still do make money, sure, but leaving all these old games out there is like leaving free money in the ether while simultaneously ignoring die-hard ready-to-spend fans.

EA would probably argue that PC gamers who have Origin Access can easily play these old games, and that a handful of the old console versions are on Xbox’s backwards compatibility list and the PSNow streaming service.

But the old console versions pale in comparison to their PC counterparts, and getting old PC games to run on newer hardware isn’t always that easy.

EA used to invest the resources for PC-exclusive visual features of their console games, just like they did recently with Battlefield and ray tracing.

I’d much rather play the PC version of Dragon Age II in 2019, with its enhanced textures, lighting, and tessellation effects, than the slightly janky 360 version.

That PC version could run easily on new consoles, and even the Switch, but EA doesn’t seem to care.

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

They got off to a strong-ish start this generation in building on their old non-sports franchises, but it quickly petered out.

Dragon Age Inquisition would have been a great launch title for PS4 and Xbox One…had it not been delayed a year. It was still a solid game, but the multiplayer was riddled with microtransactions and the game was so large that many players never finished it. And now the fourth game languishes in development hell.

Need for Speed has seen more reboots this generation than across its entire life time. Instead of remastering the timeless schlock classic Need for Speed: Most Wanted, EA had a go at making a new live-action-footage-laden game in Need for Speed (2015), and when it didn’t light up the charts they pretended it never existed.

This year’s entry is about to come out and has such a small marketing push the franchise might as well be done.

Mirror’s Edge somehow got a neat open world sequel this generation…but it wasn’t accompanied by a remaster of the original to help bring new players up to speed, and it vanished from the market and the minds of consumers seconds after launch.

And Star Wars: Battlefront II, while featuring a competent-if-short single player campaign, had such a controversial loot box implementation that it set the whole industry on fire with regulatory hearings and user rage.

Photo by Moritz Mentges on Unsplash

BioWare fell far after Dragon Age Inquisition, with the half-finished Mass Effect Andromeda and simply terrible Anthem. The latter only came out a few months ago and it’s already easy to find for less than $20, and it’s also available as part of the cheap $5 subscription tier on EA’s various digital services.

Its player base is gone, back to better games like Warframe, Destiny, and Borderlands 3.

(Incidentally, 2K released a remaster of the original Borderlands just before Borderlands 3 to build hype. What a concept!)

But millions of BioWare fans are still out there. And nothing would make them more excited right now than “Legacy Collections” of Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Gently restored PC versions and all the DLC, bundled together for new consoles.

They’d cheer. They’d pay full price all over again.

But EA isn’t doing it.

Literally every other major game publisher has figured out that they can use remastered classics to both fill holes in their yearly schedules and maintain fanbase hype, while also drawing in new players curious about older games.

But EA would rather double-down on Ultimate Team revenues and half-hearted racing and Star Wars games.

The only thing exciting about the upcoming Jedi: Fallen Order for me personally is that Forest Whitaker is in it for some reason.

With consoles being closer to PC hardware than ever, developing remasters has never been cheaper or easier.

Why are you sitting on this EA? Why not exploit these games with new versions?

Photo by Christopher Alvarenga on Unsplash

So yes, I could just use Origin Access and go through the troubleshooting steps to get the old games running on my PC. That’s exactly what I do when I want to revisit a legitimate EA classic.

But that’s ignoring 100 million+ potential consumers on consoles who might like to play Mass Effect 2 again, or for the first time, without having to mess with settings and driver crap.

EA can clearly do better. But I know they won’t without a serious course correction.

The fact that current leadership thought Anthem was in a releasable state tells you all you need to know about the inner workings there.

I write independent tech, game, music, and audio reviews and analysis from a consumer perspective. Support me directly at https://ko-fi.com/alexrowe

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