The Titanfall series has been a welcome addition to the gaming sphere over the past two years. Combining two of my favorite things, fast-paced FPS action and giant mech suits, Titanfall 1 & 2 have brought contributed to the flavoring-up of the modern shooter scene along with games like Overwatch and Doom (2016) among others. The moving away from the brown and grey Call of Duty knockoff game has been something I have been looking for ever since the beginning of this decade when the trend began to take off, and Respawn helped bring that era of shooter to a close with the release of the first Titanfall.
There was always one point of concern — the games’ publisher Electronic Arts.
Founded, ironically, by former Infinity Ward devs Vince Zampella and Jason West, Respawn had been a semi-independent game studio who worked with EA to get the first Titanfall published and into the hands of gamers world wide. It was recently announced, however, that EA had indeed purchased Respawn for over $100 million plus stocks and incentive bonuses.
While seemingly benign at first, let us remember that this is the same EA that recently closed down beloved studio Visceral Games, developers of the Dead Space franchise. EA has had a history of this, closing down other studios including Pandemic, Maxis, and Origin among several others.
While one could argue that those are isolated cases or completely irrelevant to Respawn, it is worrisome that a major corporation with a sketchy history has now purchased a company responsible for a major gaming franchise. EA shut down Visceral after their last two titles, Dead Space 3 and Battlefield: Hardline, didn’t live up to critical or financial expectations. It’s already been annonced Respawn is working on a VR shooter for Oculus Rift, a Jedi-based Star Wars game, AND Titanfall 3, it would be reasonable to assume resources at Respawn could be stretched thin, leading to poorer game quality and/or sales. A dip, no matter how minor, would be all the incentive needed to kill off Respawn in an instant with no remorse or hesitation.
If that doesn’t convince you, consider this. EA, when they still have a company actively working on titles, has been known for a few things, notably, trend following. Battlefield became a modern warfare shooter after Call of Duty 4 blew up the market in 2009. Dead Space 3 was riddled with microtransactions and poor game balancing after that became the hot trend in 2013. Madden and FIFA have had lootbox systems in place for years after EA saw how successful they could be in mobile titles. Who’s to say Titanfall 3 won’t have similar lootbox systems or other potential pay-to-win features? EA already tried it with Star Wars Battlefront II before gamer backlash hit like a ton of bricks. EA could potentially put their foot down for Titanfall, leading to more possible gamer backlash.
This is all, of course, hypothetical. There is no magic crystal ball that will tell us the fate or Respawn. However, a zebra never changes its stripes, and EA is the biggest zebra in the games industry.