EA CEO on Visceral closure: "It wasn't about single-player vs live service"
But publisher says live services continue to be "the bedrock of our business"
Electronic Arts is adamant that its decision to close Visceral Games was not borne out of the need for more service-based products.
The studio's shock closure prompted much of the industry to question the future of AAA single-player games - largely because comments from EA Worldwide Studios EVP Patrick Söderlund at the time suggested that such a model wasn't viable for the hotly anticipated Star Wars project Visceral had been working on.
"In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game," Söderlund said. "Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design."
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, former Visceral developer Zach Wilson later dismissed the rampant speculation about the 'death of single-player games' as "totally absurd."
During last night's earnings call, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha, EA CEO Andrew Wilson added his own thoughts when questioned about the studio's closure by shareholders.
"Anytime you close a studio, it's a very, very tough decision and something that we take very seriously and we spend a lot of time working through before we make such a decision," he said. "But it does happen from time to time as part of the creative process."
He echoed Söderlund's comments, explaining that player feedback and tracking "fundamental shifts in the marketplace" meant EA felt compelled to "pivot the design" - but he insists the decision was not based purely on monetisation considerations.
"You may have heard the conversation around single-player versus multiplayer, or single-player versus live service and this wasn't about that conversation," he said. "It wasn't about this was just a single-player game or it needed to be a live service, it was more about how do we get to a point where the overall gameplay experience was right for players.
"We still believe strongly in a Star Wars IP, Star Wars Battlefront II as you will have heard we're very excited about. We're also very happy with some of the assets and content that was created as part of that game development and we'll be looking at how we can better utilise that in line with fan and player expectations in the future."
His comments on Star Wars Battlefront II don't offer too much comfort, given that the publisher is building the shooter to be a live service and is more focused on the revenues it will generate that the units it will sell.
Earlier in the call, Wilson also stressed the importance of live services to the publisher's future plans.
"The impact of the digital transformation is accelerating across the interactive entertainment industry," he said. "Players today are looking for more choice, more content and more fun in experiences that continually evolve with the way they want to play.
"Capturing these opportunities is at the core of EA's strategy, creating extraordinary new games, content and experiences, wrapped in services, accessed through more platforms and more business models and powered by innovative technologies. These are the key growth drivers that uniquely position EA to lead this industry."
CFO Blake Jorgensen agreed: "Our event-driven live services continue to be the bedrock of our business. Live services, including mobile live services, were nearly half of our next bookings over the last 12 months."
Wilson told shareholders the publisher currently has a "global connected community of more than 350 million players", but hopes to eventually engage one billion.
"Our path to achieve this is clear, continue to deliver amazing games and content across more platforms, offer dynamic services that enhance the experience, engage a global audience through competition and more content and drive disruptive new opportunities to expand how the world plays and watches games," he said.