Although all of Electronic Arts' Christmas line-up will roll out without online support on the Xbox this year, the publisher is still in talks with Microsoft about adopting the Xbox Live service and is hopeful of a resolution.
That's according to the new head of EA Sports Nation, Chip Lange, who was interviewed recently by US website IGN Sports, and told the site that his group is still "actively talking" with Microsoft in an attempt to hammer out their differences over support for the online service.
EA's lack of support for Live has been a major stumbling block for the service, with the pinch being felt especially in terms of the company's massive-selling sports titles. Many of those are online-enabled on the PS2 this Christmas - but on the Xbox, despite the more advanced online gaming setup, they remain resolutely offline, a state of affairs which has frustrated consumers.
"There are some business model things and some consumer relationship issues that we're working on with Microsoft," Lange told IGN, going on to state that "we talk to them on a very regular basis, and everybody's hoping. I think both Microsoft and EA, if you talked to them, would say that we're hoping that we can figure out a solution so we can get there. There's certainly no bad blood there, and the good thing is, we're talking."
It's not clear what the remaining differences between Microsoft and EA are, although it's thought that EA's initial reticence to support Live was founded on a number of issues ranging from revenue models and branding through to Microsoft's insistence that all titles on the Live service have a minimum term of availability.
In many of these areas, Microsoft would argue that it's protecting the customer's experience with the Live service - and while both companies have been careful to avoid being painted as the "bad guy" in this dispute, it's entirely possible that EA has been taken by surprise by the strong consumer reaction to their lack of Live support, with most of the anger being directed at EA themselves rather than at Microsoft. "They [EA] need to act like big people and make choices that are of value to consumers," commented popular gaming opinion and humour site Penny-Arcade recently, an attitude which seems to sum up a lot of opinions on the 'net at the moment.
"We're talking, and hopefully something can be worked out soon," concluded Lange. For the sake of both companies, it looks like working out this mess in the near future may be vital.