EA's Gamescom press conference: The highlights
Plenty of announcements, but no release date for MMO SWTOR
Today, as Storm Troopers guarded the doors, EA held its official Gamescom press conference.
Hosted by European vice president Jens Uwe Intat, it was the largest EA has held at Gamescom so far, with 1000 media types in attendance and the event streaming to over ten different countries. The front row was taken up with EA's big hitters, Peter Moore, John Riccitiello, Nancy Smith and Frank Gibeau, suggesting the publisher was keen to be seen taking its commitment to the European market seriously.
As always the biggest news were the new titles that were announced. FIFA Street, currently in development at EA Canada, will be built by the EA Sports football group for the first time. The game will launch early next year, and gamers can expect more social features to be announced soon.
With the pre-Christmas window packed and Mass Effect set for March, it's hard to see where Star Wars: The Old Republic could fit in.
Free to play has been a recurring theme among the majority of developers at GDCE, and Bioware was no exception, announcing a new free to play PVP MMO, Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes.
"The BioWare Mythic team is exploring new gaming platforms with our longtime partners at Games Workshop," said Dr Ray Muzyka.
"Warhammer Online is an accessible, fast-paced, highly competitive, and I can tell you from personal experience, a hell of a lot of fun."
Bioware's Mass Effect 3 was also on show, along with Star Wars: The Old Republic. The most notable absence was one tiny detail, a release date for SWTOR. Supposedly due for release at the end of the financial year (March) the lack of confirmation suggests all is not well. With the pre-Christmas window already packed and Mass Effect also set for release in March, it's hard to see where the massive MMO could fit in. Despite that, Dr Ray was keen to boast about the pre-order numbers.
"Last month we opened pre-orders, and the fan response has been incredible. In fact fact thanks to their passion we're setting a new EA record for pre-orders."
When those dedicated fans will actually get to play the game they've just bought remains to be seen.
The event did confirm a number of other release dates though. Racer NFS: The Run will be out on November 18, while Mass Effect 3 is due in Europe March 9 and America March 6. April 2012 will see the release of modern day MMO The Secret World, with beta sign up August 26, and sport success FIFA 12 will launch in the US on September 27 and then in Europe September 29.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, was presented by an energetic Ken Rolston from 38 Studios who promised "an enemy pounding funfest" and also confirmed a release date for the RPG of February 7 in America and February 10 in Europe.
By far the biggest applause and shouts were saved for Battlefield 3, and Karl Magnus Troedsson and Patrick Soderland of DICE showed off both a brand new co-op mode in a rescue campaign that was heavy on snipers, shotguns and swears.
"It's the best authentic warfare experience this year," said Magnus Troedsson, seemingly careful not to directly mention Modern Warfare 3.
Interestingly, Soderland was keen to point out that the co-op demo was taking place on PlayStation 3. The game is due out on October 27.
There was definitely a sense that EA were looking to unify their wide-ranging catalogue as much as possible, with a similar focus on social networking and extra connectivity for all games. For instance, Need For Speed: The Run's Autolog, compared with Battlefield 3's Battlelog, similar systems that allow gamers to connect with titles even when they're not online, and even snowboarding revival SSX had a ghost system to allow for asynchronous multiplayer.
While the line up featured a number of sequels and not much innovation, it's a strong stable of AAA titles that will appeal to a mix of demographics. Add to that EA's recent acquisition of casual games company Popcap, and they seem in a very strong position in 2011.