Thu, May 10, 2012 | 14:00 BST
Warfighter: EA’s schedule shows solidity in coming year
The Q2 lull is over, financials season is in full swing and E3 2012 is alarmingly close. It’s time to take a look over the major players and see what the year ahead holds, starting with the effervescent EA.
EA is very much one of gaming’s top flight publishers. After hauling itself out of a digital revolution wallow in 2010, it’s back in the business, fronting one of the most diverse and busy triple-A line-ups of the next few years.
Kicking off with a Q1 success story, Mass Effect 3 is likely to cast a long shadow for EA this year as BioWare pushes out new content, beginning with a free update to the game’s ending cinematics but likely to proceed straight into premium add-ons for both the single-player campaign and tenaciously popular multiplayer.
Elsewhere, the BioWare label really has its hands full. Analysts believe staff have been diverted from the Dragon Age series onto Star Wars: The Old Republic, and given the franchise’s total silence and the cancellation of its DLC, this is probably true. Don’t expect it to surface again this year.
But there’s still plenty of work to be done – BioWare Victory is toiling away on Command & Conquer: Generals 2, although this hasn’t been confirmed for the current fiscal year, meaning it won’t release before March 2013. BioWare Mythic is pushing the recently released Warhammer MOBA, Wrath of Heroes, as well as propping up the still-vital MMORPG, Age of Reckoning. Rumours of firm Ultima projects are staying just that for the moment. Everybody else under the BioWare banner is likely to be sucked into one of the two major hitters, producing content for Mass Effect and The Old Republic.
Although we’re not expecting it until calendar 2013, it seems increasingly obvious that Visceral is indeed working away at Dead Space 3, a project so leaky the Jumblies tried to buy it and rename it HMAS Colander. Maxis has its hands full with SimCity, a simulation and social endeavour so ambitious we’re only beginning to understand the breadth of its scope, likely to drop in the first quarter of 2013.
Strong stuff for the coming fiscal year. EA Partners’ output for the next 12 months may be a little more mysterious; as we saw with Syndicate’s announcement last year, the publisher isn’t above staying mum on a project until very nearly the last minute. Will we see the announcement of something from Bullfrog’s back catalogue? It seems likely. Just don’t cross your fingers for Road Rash. In terms of announced EAP products, MMORPG The Secret World is looking particularly tasty ahead of its June launch, and Insomniac’s Overstrike is likely to show off the commitment to quality the formerly Sony-exclusive developer is known for when it releases during northern summer.
Speaking of racers, both Criterion and EA Black Box are beavering away behind the scenes. The latter’s project is likely to remain under wraps for months to come, but we’ll hear what Criterion has going on pretty soon. It’s been confirmed that we’re going to get a new Need for Speed in calendar Q4, and the obvious assumption is that it’s Hot Pursuit 2.
Running through the genres, EA’s shooter plans are well known. Medal of Honor: Warfighter is taking the battle to Call of Duty this October, while DICE continues support for Battlefield 3, likely through until the end of the year at least.
When the Christmas madness dies down in the first quarter of 2013, Crytek will bring its formidable powers to bear with Crysis 3, looking to address many of the criticisms the slightly disappointing sequel attracted, although ageing hardware means it’s unlikely to be the revolution many are hoping for.
Meanwhile, EA Tiburon is doing its usual thing with Madden NFL 13 and the college football license, while EA Canada will again push out the yearly NHL and FIFA, all of which will appear towards the end of northern summer. We’re also likely to see the publisher’s triumphant return to the NBA license, although there’s no date as yet, and possibly an expansion or iteration on FIFA Street, which sold like hotcakes. SSX? Not so much. Don’t hold your breath.
It’s an exciting year for EA in terms of platforms, too; the publisher is likely to expand Origin‘s distribution service to further third parties, and iron out many of its little foibles on the way. You can expect almost any title more than six months away to turn up on Wii U, so keep your eyes peeled for Nintendo’s third-party press release at E3 next month.
Vita hasn’t seen a lot of EA love so far, with the company seeming a little shy of the new handheld, but that could well change as PopCap and EA’s notable collection of casual and social developers hit their stride with the hardware.
It looks like a busy few years ahead, and this is only the stuff we know about. Expect big guns to fire at E3 and gamescom: the silly season is about to start.