EA wants to release more games with “monetisable” open worlds, ex-BioWare staffer Manveer Heir has hinted in a 90-minute interview with Waypoint published over the weekend. The comments come in the wake of Visceral Games’ closure, where a statement from bigwig Patrick Soderlund seemed to suggest that the Dead Space developer’s single player Star Wars title was scrapped in favour of something “that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come”.
“It's definitely a thing inside of EA,” Heir said. “They are generally pushing for more open world games. And the reason is you can monetise them better. It's the same reason we added card packs to Mass Effect 3: how do you get people to keep coming back to a thing instead of 'just' playing for 60 to 100 hours?”
Heir spent many years at BioWare Montreal, working on Mass Effect 3 prior to Mass Effect Andromeda. “The problem is that we've scaled up our budgets to $100 million-plus and we haven't actually made a space for good linear single player games that are under that,” he continued. “But why can't we have both? Why does it have to be one or the other? And the reason is that EA and those big publishers in general only care about the highest return on investment. They don't actually care about what the players want, they care about what the players will pay for.”
So people are actually buying these microtransactions, then? “I'm not allowed to say the number but I can tell you that when Mass Effect 3 multiplayer came out, those card packs we were selling, the amount of money we made just off those card packs was so significant that's the reason Dragon Age has multiplayer,” Heir explained. “I've seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards.”
EA, of course, will also be aware of the power of microtransactions because of its sports games; FIFA and Madden lean heavily on their Ultimate Team modes these days, and clearly make the company a significant amount of money as players fawn over the rarest, most valuable players. It’s all very interesting stuff from an industry perspective, but it’s terrifying news for fans of old-school, single player campaign.