Two of EA's biggest games had rough launches last year, and although SimCity seems to be in a stable place right now, the Battlefield 4 issues (and patches) continue — to the point where EA won't work on downloadable content for their shooter until everything is fixed.
The question is how are they going to handle these sort of launches in the future? In a brusque interview on Rock Paper Shotgun today, writer Nathan Grayson presses EA's chief creative officer Rich Hilleman — a well-respected game designer and one of the creators of Madden — about the continuing issues facing the publisher's multiplayer games.
Here's an excerpt:
RPS: SimCity and BF4 both had terrible launches. SimCity didn't work for more than a month, and BF4 still has issues. Surely you're overhauling how you approach launches internally from now on?
Hilleman: I'm not sure I accept your premise. Battlefield 4 has been an exceedingly successful product on both consoles and PC. From a sales perspective, from a gameplay perspective.
RPS: Sure, BF4 is fundamentally a good game, but you can't just write off months of glitches and server issues. Some people straight up could not play for the first couple weeks.
Hilleman: I think there was a lot of noise about the game, but some of that is a function of your surface area. The more customers you have, the more noise becomes available. We did things wrong. We know that. We're gonna fix those things. We're gonna try to be smart about what customers want in the future. But I'm not willing to accept — and I don't think most of my customers are willing to say — "it's a bad product, I wish I didn't buy it." That's not the conversation we're having now. I think what we're hearing is, "You made a game we really liked. We would've liked it a little better if it didn't have these problems." Many of those problems we can fix, and we have and will.
That's a little disarming — and while Hilleman goes on to promise that they "know how to not have the problem next time" — it's hard to imagine that anyone who couldn't play Battlefield 4 stably for two months after launch is pleased by EA's assertions that this was "an exceedingly successful product". If you spent money on SimCity, and then again on Battlefield 4, how can you trust that this won't happen again when you buy, say, Titanfall, or the next big multiplayer game by EA?