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EA enters game-changing FY2012 – complete details

Monday, 4th April 2011 12:41 GMT By Brenna Hillier

EA entered its fiscal year 2012 on Friday, and is now looking at a product slate likely to define not only the next 12 months in games, but third-party publishing in this generation full stop.

EA’s fiscal 2012

Runs April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012.

Major calendar Q4 hitters Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect 3 are likely to be two of the biggest games this year.

Star Wars: The Old Republic will be 2011′s most important MMO event by far.

EA has a strong line-up for the entire year, with quirky releases Alice: Madness Returns and Shadows of the Damned propping up summer.

Large new EA game announcements are expected at both E3 and gamescom.

A far cry from its all-things-evil days, EA’s star is on the ascendency. The mega-publisher is wooing disenchanted gamers with dedication to new IP, a public disdain for complacent sequel churning, and a progressive attitude to digital distribution and platforms.

After a depressing 2009, EA clawed back in 2010 and with a stellar line up, some goldmine properties, and the likelihood of a year chokers with new announces to keep us keen, 2011 may be its best year ever.

Up, up and away

In February, EA raised eyebrows in the financial world by announcing a $600 million share buyback, its first since 2004. While this move advertised the publisher’s confidence in new strategies, it did more than convince investors to keep share prices high – it also granted EA just a little more financial independence from the vagaries of shareholders.

This is important, because EA has twigged to something many gamers have been avowing for years: the investor-friendly approach to games publication stagnates and may ultimately harm the industry. The “milking” attitude of recent years -over-saturated sequels and rushed development, which analysts call the “Blitzkrieg” approach – leads to amazing profits, but has analogies with the steep decline which smashed the games industry in 1983.

EA has bought itself some more breathing room to focus on the slow build of carefully nurtured new franchises like Dead Space; low-earning forays into more explorative development; the resurrection of older properties; digital distribution; and social and mobile gaming – all concepts anathema to conservative investors.

EA’s 2011 Fiscal year ended on Friday, in all the fanfare of Crysis 2, reliable license Tiger Woods with PGA Tour 12, and, tellingly, the launch of freemium Facebook title World Series Superstars, developed by PlayFish using the EA Sports license. FY 2012, known to those of us at home as “April 2011 to March 2012,” kicks off this week – and you can expect it to kick hard.

Fiscal Year 2012

After a short pause to catch its breath, EA kicks of FY12 with Portal 2. EA’s distribution deal with Valve is something fans of the latter tend to overlook, but this apparently mutually satisfactory business arrangement is likely to be a major player in EA’s first quarter. Look for it on April 19 in the US, and April 21 everywhere else.

EA has bought itself some more breathing room to focus on concepts anathema to conservative investors.

Next up is Darkspore. Built by EA Maxis on the Spore engine, this PC exclusive was delayed from March for a last round of polishing and testing – a frustrating decision for eager fans, but one which may help woo back alienated PC gamers. The action RPG-strategy hybrid launches on April 26 in the US and April 28 in Europe.

Things go quiet for a few months in the build up to Northern summer, but June 7 brings Shadows of the Damned, a collaboration between the eccentric Goichi Suda and Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, to PC, PS3 and 360. Western hype is low, but the Grasshopper Manufacture fanbase is gleefully anticipating an over the top descent into hell.

Just a week later, American McGee answers the decade old prayers of fan with Alice: Madness Returns. Sequel to a massive cult hit, the multi-platform release drops on June 14 and will take a hearty slice of the nostalgia dollar as well as the gloom-and-doom crowd.

Normally we’d see a new Madden in June or July, but with strikes putting this year’s NFL season in jeopardy, EA hasn’t put a date on it. Reports suggest a delay, but EA Sports is unlikely to skip a year altogether. To keep sports fans sweet, July 12 brings the NCAA Football 12 on major consoles.

After observing another traditional lull, EA Sports will strike back with NHL 12, FIFA 12, and FIFA Manager 12, all of which will likely appear between early September and the end of October on every possible platform. Perfect exceptions to the annual-sequel-of-death curse, these yearly titles are sure to perform as well or even better than their precursors.

The Big Guns

Mass Effect 3: dead cert smash.

As Christmas draws near, the big guns come out. Battlefield 3, the first core entry in the series for over six years, debuts on November 2 on the major platforms. The hype is already powerful, and has barely begun to ramp; this will be major, even if it turns out to be a platformer about a an adorable puppy and crashes every thirteen seconds. Which it won’t.

Mass Effect 3 is yet to be dated, but EA will get BioWare’s dead cert smash in before the Christmas shopping period ends. A major stocking filler, and the first to hit all three platforms simultaneously, the final entry in Commander Sheperd’s adventures will likely outsell both its forebears.

Sliding into 2012, EA has the next entry in the SSX series scheduled for the post-holiday period.

Other less certain releases in the closing quarters of FY12 include the long-rumoured Syndicate, and a Need for Speed title from Black Box, possibly a follow up to 2008′s Undercover.

Somewhere among all this, EA and BioWare will unleash the beast: Star Wars: The Old Republic. Investors are wary of the MMO gamble, but with two major draw cards – an incredible license, and one of the highest-ranked RPG developers – EA is backing it all the way, to the tune of an unconfirmed $100 million investment.

EA has already said that the game will release this calendar year.

2011 events, reveals and announces

Despite Dead Space 2′s strong performance, EA is unlikely to reveal Dead Space 3 at either E3 or gamescom. Riccitiello’s comments at the 2011 Goldman Sachs Technology Conference suggest the publisher is turning away from the industry’s reliance on rapidly-developed sequels, despite their attraction for shareholders. This is the franchise’s “off year”; 2010′s Dead Space 2 release almost exactly two years after the original, and made no showing in the first round of events between the two. However, EA may reveal a less resource-intensive spin-off or port, as it did with Wii prequel Dead Space: Extraction at E3 2009.

A surprise reveal may come out of EA Los Angeles at E3. The Danger Close team, responsible for Medal of Honor’s single player campaign, has been hiring, and the wider studio has been chasing a multiplayer network expert. Danger Close has already confirmed it’s working on the next Medal of Honor, and EA may want to release a major expansion soon.

Battlefield 3: DICE’s ultra-hot military FPS.

The next entry in the Need for Speed series, in development at Black Box for over almost two and a half years, is almost certain to appear at E3.

EA LA will also probably reveal one or more mobile titles at gamescom rather than E3, based on recent recruitment, the rapid turn around of smaller titles, and the German event’s friendlier attitude to non-core titles. If so, expect something based on Pandemic property Mercenaries, as well as tie-ins to current and upcoming properties as EA exploits the cross-platform potential revealed by apps like Autolog.

EA Canada, Salt Lake, and Montreal are also likely to unveil new mobile or digital-only titles this year, although EA Montreal’s suspicious silence may be leading up to a new Army of Two at E3.

EA’s newly-forged strategy studio, Victory Games, is unlikely to make an appearance with the new Command & Conquer so early in development, but it may turn up at gamescom. With so much other stuff going on, though, don’t bet the farm on it.

EAP’s question marks

EA Partners is a whole new world of doubt and speculation, but one thing seems certain: this will be the year we see Starbreeze’s rumoured Syndicate. The game’s long development period suggests it will probably be ready by E3, and would benefit from the hype ahead of a possible 2011 release, but EA may choose to take the game to gamescom to cater to its strong European fanbase.

Funcom’s The Secret World is expected to build on past appearances by showing up to both major western shows as well as the Tokyo Game Show, but Funcom is taking a “done when its done” approach and EA seems unconcerned with hurrying along a low-resource distribution arrangement.

Respawn Entertainment, the studio largely composed of ex-Infinity Ward staffers, is unlikely to make a showing this year, although an announcement and tease cinematic may come out of E3. If not, EA is likely to keep the reveal for E3 2012 rather than debut at gamescom.

Likewise Insomniac Games’ secret project, which was only announced in March, is unlikely to see an official reveal this year, as the studio continues Resistance 3 development.

Whichever way you look at it, though. the next 12 months for EA are certain to be banner. Expect a major update on the company’s titles from this week’s European spring showcase in London.

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17 Comments

  1. viralshag

    All the best to EA, I say. I have never not been a fan of EA and this year the line up looks fantastic.

    As for the year on year sports franchises, I love FIFA, NHL and Madden so they can just keep on coming. FIFA has been getting better every year. As for Madden, I would really like to see a much improved Superstar mode.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Hunam

    I dunno, Mass Effect and Dragon Age are getting mego-rushed these days instead of taking their time with it. Dead Space 2 was good but the story was very poor, and the DVD tie in film was terrible compared to the one that went along side the original.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. jamjam

    Good article, but guessing:

    “FY 2012, known to those of us at home as “April 2011 to March 2010,”

    should read “April 2011 to March 2012″? :)

    #3 3 years ago
  4. UuBuU

    @1 – I don’t know how EA get away with FIFA every year. Yes, the gameplay gets a tiny bit better each time, but aside from that the changes they make would be considered patch-worthy in any other genre of game (not even expansion-pack worthy let alone new game-worthy).

    I mean, people complain constantly about Activision churning out shooters annually, but they’re noowhere near as bad as EA for selling the same damn game every single year.

    What bugs me most about FIFA is the little things they’re too damn lazy to update, like the commentary. The same old catchphrases every year is bad enough, but when the commentators talk about teams being in (insert league) when that team hasn’t been in (insert league) since 2007/08, it’s pretty unnacceptable.

    Despite all this very few people seem to complain and the game constantly gets great reviews. :/

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Patrick Garratt

    @3 – I’ve changed that. Ta.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. viralshag

    @ UuBuU, Yeah, I agree with you on the commentators for sure. They do suck pretty bad. I understand what you are saying and I guess I should probably have said I wouldn’t be against a FIFA release every two years or so.

    I would put the good reviews down to the fact that it normally is an improvement over the previous game and they are “good” and for the most part solid games. That said I have friends who preferred FIFA 10 over 11. Acti’s shooters are often the same game riddled with the same bugs and issues as the previous release.

    I might be totally wrong on this so please correct me if I am but one reason I imagine they do release every year is probably because of the costs for development, upkeep of personnel in charge of squad updates and the cost of the actual license.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Hunam

    The thing is, FIFA sells every year because people want to buy a new one every year with the new kits and roster updates. With sports games, if you don’t want to buy it every year, the game probably isn’t meant for you. Personally, I think they’re harmless, and EA are trying to improve them with each version now so it’s best to just leave them to it. Each sports series has it’s fans and broad appeal so whilst most of us might piss and moan about it, it’s not for us.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. UuBuU

    @7 – I love the gameplay, so the game definitely is for me. And I really wouldn’t have a problem buying it every year if they put that little bit more effort into making it feel like a new game. £30-£40 just feels like a lot of money for roster updates and a few gameplay adjustments, especially when some of the core features aren’t being updated at all.

    I’d be quite happy playing older versions of FIFA with outdated squads if EA wouldn’t keep shutting down online support for their “old” games.

    But you’re right, the game has a pretty big fanbase who just aren’t bothered by such complaints and are more than happy to rush out and buy a new FIFA every year. I suppose if they’re getting enough hours out of the game it doesn’t really matter.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. viralshag

    @8, That’s it for me, FIFA is normally the game I play for at least an hour in bed before I pass out and let my TV and PS3 auto-shutdown. Not to mention that it is the go-to game for when the lads come over.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Moonwalker1982

    Whew….when i read that headline ‘game changing FY2012′ i was afraid to read that ME3 was delayed to 2012. That would really suck, even though we still have Skyrim around that time though, i want ME3 sooooo bad. But it’s still possible that they move it to 2012. I thought ME3 was confirmed for november this year but now i read it’s unknown when it comes out this year?

    @ Hunam

    Around the time ME3 comes out it will be almost two years since ME2, except for two months, that’s plenty.:)

    #10 3 years ago
  11. AHA-Lambda

    I can see ME3 being delayed given no estimated date from this FY report, ME2 releasing in january, BF3 being EA’s go to fall game, lack of info so far AND a PACKED fall season =/

    BTW has that Nov 2 date for BF3 been confirmed yet?
    I’d rather BF3 didn’t release the same week as UC3, i wont be able to pick between them =(

    #11 3 years ago
  12. UuBuU

    @11 – You’re right about a packed fall season. I can’t fucking wait. Must be a bit frustrating for people who typically only buy a couple of games per month though, with so much to choose from.

    Mass Effect is a big enough franchise for ME3 to sell well regardless, but any developers thinking of releasing lesser known / new titles in Fall 2011 would be wise to try and hit summer or look to 2012. Such games will be completely lost in the frenzy of big releases and overlooked otherwise.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. AHA-Lambda

    @12 – as big as ME is this novmeber is STILL an exception to the usual busy norm

    BF3 AND UC3 on the same week?
    The week after that has skyrim and the next call of duty aswell (WTF is bethesda thinking!!?) O_o

    and yet somehow the next assassin’s creed and ME3 has to fit in aswell? Of course that’s ignoring smaller hyped titles like saints row 3, darkness 2, dota 2 etc.

    there actually is too many games coming out, i can see some very disappointed publishers for the results of some of their games.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. UuBuU

    @13 – I wouldn’t be surprised if Activison pick the very same release date for MW3 as Skyrim. 11-11-11 is the kind of snappy thing Activision would go for.

    Slightly earlier you also have GoW3, Arkam City, Fifa 12 (i assume) and the new Deus Ex among others, along with some pretty big releases in December. All in all the end of 2011 is going to be complete chaos.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the sales pan out with so much being thrown onto the market in such a short space of time.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. AHA-Lambda

    ^^yep, something has got to give here. Half of these fall games quite frankly need to be delayed >_<

    #15 3 years ago
  16. DSB

    I think it’s a little awkward to assume that EA are somehow anti-annualization and then go on to mention the annualized sportsgames that has built the company up from the ground.

    The FIFA crowd are cheering because apparently that’s where the attention is following the latest world cup, the NFL crowd is slowly shrinking, while EA pumps it full of token ingame advertising, and lousy gimmicks that should be fairly offensive to football fans (The media-driven concussion hysteria).

    Having played NHL 9, 10 and 11 is a slightly bitter experience. I make the change from 10 to 11, and all I get is a slight change in the face-off system, slightly lower difficulty, and slightly less godlike goalies. This is content that should be patched in, not repackaged and resold. It’s the same game.

    Ultimately I have to buy two games to get the game I actually wanted – An allround good, polished hockey game. There’s no excuse for it, EA have shown that they’re perfectly capable of updating the game live with rosters and other various changes – It’s purely a money milking operation.

    EA is a multinational games publisher like any other. That’s the way of the world, and it won’t stop me buying their games as long as they kick the GFWL habit, but it’s slightly hard to stomache their holier-than-thou approach when they themselves invented the game they now claim to hate.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. Dralen

    @13 That is gonna be a mad few weeks! I sure as hell can’t afford to buy that many games in that short space of time. If they don’t delay some of those games, they are just shooting themselves in the foot.In the end they are just forcing me (their customer) to pick the games that are a must-have for me which causes me to ignore the other games on release.

    #17 3 years ago

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