E3 Thoughts: EA Games Press Conference

EA Games had the second of today’s pre-E3 press conferences and somehow had time to promote three first-person shooters and a couple sports games called Madden NFL and FIFA. Readers of this blog may have heard of them.

The publishers also previewed the new SimCity, which filled this former city beat reporter with dreams of finally being able to run a major metroplitan my way. (At least for the first time since I played SimCity 4.)


EA Games, in their own way, also continued the social-media-and-connectivity-are-good-themes Microsoft established in their show. The publisher advertised social media tie-ins for at least three titles (there’s a lot of new info swimming in my head today) and we’ll see how that goes. From my perspective, the audience that is willing to pay $60 for a premium game is not necessarily the same audience that wants a quick bit of fun on a mobile device, but I’m happy to reserve judgement until the social media stuff actually comes out.

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A choice for the ages: Would you pick Barry Sanders or Herschel Walker?

EA Sports’ fan vote to decide which Heisman winner will appear alongside former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III on the cover of “NCAA Football 13″ is down to two candidates.

Herschel Walker and Barry Sanders. Two of the greatest college running backs of all time.

Walker won the 1982 Heisman for the Georgia Bulldogs at the end of a brilliant college career. Walker went pro for the New Jersey Generals of the short-lived USFL before playing for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. Walkers also represented the United States in the 1992 Winter Olympics as a bobsledder, which this writer thought was awesome.

Barry Sanders won his Heisman for his accomplishments in the 1988 season, during which he rushed for an average of more than 237 yards per game. Sanders went on to spend his entire professional career with the Detroit Lions and earned distinction as the best real-life running back of his era. (Bo Jackson, of course, is the best Tecmo Super Bowl running back of his era.)

 

You can vote here. There are more important elections this year, but this one is pretty cool.

NFL Blitz available for download today

NFL Blitz, the game in which NFL football players can catch fire and compete against robots while playing a 7-on-7 game, is available for download today.

The intentionally ridiculous game started as an arcade title and evolved into a console game. Stores sold console versions from 1998 to 2003, and NFL Blitz now returns as a downloadable game for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.

The game costs $14.99 on PlayStation Network or 1200 Microsoft Points on XBox Live.

EA Sports…it might not be in the game.

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Starting in June with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, EA Sports titles for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 will come with an Online Pass that is required for online multiplayer, dynasties, and free goodies such as “a new driver in Tiger”. The punchline is that if you buy a used copy and find that the code has already been used, it’ll cost you $10 USD to get your own pass. You can find the juicy details here if you’re curious.

It’s not too dissimilar from what was rolled out with Bioware’s Cerberus Network pass that came with new copies of Mass Effect 2 earlier this year (also published by EA). With quite a bit of free content offered on the Network, the odds of finding a used copy of the game with an unused pass were about as good as finding a Golden Ticket.

The difference between the Cerberus Network and the Online Pass, however, seems to be in what they offer. With the Cerberus Network, it rained free DLC for those that bought into a new copy and the game could be completed with or without it. With the Online Pass, it seems that you will need one regardless to simply play online, a feature that had been a free staple of several titles in EA Sports until now.

Given that, at least in the US according to one study, 46% of game sales made are part of the used game market, it’s easy to see why a company like EA wants a bigger piece of its property in the aftermarket. Gamers that buy new won’t have anything to worry about, but budget gamers looking for a deal on a used title now have to consider whether or not an Online Pass is worth it.

One would think that Gamestop would be upset at this news, but looking at the Q&A linked above, players can buy an Online Pass for a used game via “Sony cash cards and Microsoft points cards at their stores and through their website.” So it’s still something of a win-win for both sides if not, necessarily, for competitive gamers looking for a decent deal.

It also remains to be seen just how Gamestop will price used sports games based on the impression that they may no longer have a working Online Pass code. Hopefully, it will be better than what they’re doing for used copies of God of War III. Or leave room for a lawsuit over a used game with missing DLC.

EA hails the Redskins (and Madden ’11) with McNabb pics

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EA Sports doesn’t waste any time. Not long after the news broke of quarterback Donovan McNabb being traded from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Washington Redskins (and joining forces with Mike Shanahan, apparently the Mr. Miyagi for aging QBs) the makers of the upcoming Madden NFL ’11 sent out some photos featuring Mac 5 in Redskins colors. It’s also a timely way to keep Madden 11′s sense of improved detail in the consciousness to those members of the football-starved public who can’t find solace in either baseball season or the coming NBA postseason.

Because I don’t want to leave him out in this talk of trades and transactions, here’s a photo of former Arizona Cardinals pass-catcher Anquan Boldin, who was acquired by the Baltimore Ravens during the offseason.

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Both of these photos not only show hints of pretty exquisite player detail in the game to come, but also two teams that have had better offseasons than my squad, the Pittsburgh Steelers. McNabb will be playing for vengeance. Boldin, the man who came back to play weeks after breaking his whole face, now joins the Ray Lewis crew. Our QB? Battling rape accusations and is in the position of soiling the reputation one of the league’s proudest franchises. I hope Dennis Dixon’s ratings are solid.

Madden ’10 screenshot: Stare!!

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This is a shot from Madden ’10, courtesy of Peter Moore’s blog. Moore, as you may know, is the president of EA Sports, so naturally, he’s going to be effusive in his praise for the game. In fact, he feels so good about it that he’s challenging readers to gaze upon the above screenshot and see if they can detect the improvements.

I’m tempted, of course, but I’ll pass. One thing I’ve learned about screenshots: A picture may be worth a thousand words, but if the game moves like crap, those words aren’t going to be worth much.

Moore also expounds a little bit on the “fight for every yard” theme of this edition of the game, which leads me to think EA might go with another tailback (Peterson?) or a really physical receiver (Ward? Anquan Boldin, he of the reconstructed face?) on the cover.

Anyway, have fun staring at the shot.