Should EA Sports Stop Annually Releasing Games Like ‘Madden,’ ‘FIFA?’

The days of picking up your shiny new copy of “Madden NFL” or “FIFA” soon could be over.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson suggested that EA could do away with the traditional annual release model. Instead, gamers could sign up for a subscription service and look forward to digital updates throughout the year.

“There’s a world where it gets easier and easier to move (gaming code) around — where we may not have to do an annual release,” Wilson told Bloomberg TV host Emily Chang. “We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service.”

So, a few things here.

Even casual gamers likely have noticed the industry’s recent shift away from physical releases and toward digital releases. Digital distribution presents many benefits for publishers, particularly lower production costs. It also allows gamers to ensure they get copies of games the days they’re released and avoid the headaches of empty shelves.

But regardless of the format of the game, digitally delivered updates to games are becoming more and more common. Roster updates to sports games are the most obvious examples, but other titles, such as the recently released “Destiny 2,” receive such massive content updates that they become entirely different games than they were on release day.

The latter example is a fascinating proposition for franchises like “Madden.” As fun as it is to get a copy of a new sports game, developers have struggled recently to make enough exciting features to prevent new games from feeling like anything other than glorified roster updates.

“NASCAR ’15,” for example,” is the most recent release in Eutechnyx’s “NASCAR The Game” series, yet it currently features rosters identical to what you’ll find in NASCAR today. Perhaps Eutechnyx hasn’t had enough money to make a new installment, but it’s also possible that it knows there aren’t good enough reasons to release a new title.

Still, why would EA Sports ditch annual releases and opt for a subscription service? Perhaps declining game sales make it difficult to reconcile huge production costs. Or maybe it’s a way for gaming companies to hop on society’s favoring of subscription-based, streaming content.

“The greatest disruptor to the consumption of entertainment media in the last five years has been the combination of streaming plus subscription,” Wilson told Chang. “It’s changed the way we watch television. It’s changed the way we listen to music. It’s changed the way I read books.”

All of that is true.

But as it pertains specifically to sports video games, Wilson’s idea might just be an indication that game designers simply are running out of ideas, and they know it.

Thumbnail photo via Electronic Arts

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