On June 18, 2020, Electronic Arts hosted EA Play, a 50-minute video conference that debuted the games it will release over the course of the next year.
The showcase opened with Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson explaining how video games bring people together during a “challenging year” in a speech that sounded obligatory rather than heartfelt. His words were followed by news about their battle royale game Apex Legends, starting with the Lost Treasures event beginning Tuesday, June 23, which sounded exciting for existing fans but not particularly interesting for the rest of the viewers.
During EA Play, the publisher also revealed the game is coming to both Steam and the Nintendo Switch and will enable crossplay. It’s hard to picture Apex Legends running smoothly on Nintendo’s console, but the news is a big deal. It shows EA’s commitment to bringing more of its library to the most popular distributor on PC and that they’re finally embracing Nintendo as a home for their games after largely ignoring them during the Wii U era. The promise of crossplay, described by EA as the “healing divide” between platforms, is also significant. Crossplay allows gamers to play with friends across different platforms, which is long overdue.
Next was a video where fans of all backgrounds shared the importance of inclusivity… to promote the life simulation game The Sims. The individuals called The Sims their safe place, somewhere to create a life, to live without judgment or hate. The message came off as sincere, but also uncomfortable because at the end of the day the reason for the EA Play segment is to encourage more people to play the game. As with Apex Legends, The Sims is coming soon to Steam.
During EA Play, the publisher promised 7 new games will arrive on Switch in the coming months, and said that its subscription service EA Access will be available on Steam this fall, further establishing their interest in making their titles available anywhere fans want to buy them.
The next segment focused on EA Originals, a program that truly helps developers fulfill their visions. EA also takes very little of the revenue, leaving most of it for the creators. The initiative is probably the kindest thing the publisher does, so EA was smart to highlight it.
The video presentation highlighted two EA Originals in particular. Lost in Random is a fantasy title with beautiful visuals that takes place in a world that “bends with the roll of one dice.” The trailer didn’t give much of a sense of the gameplay, but the game scheduled for 2021 looks like something special.
The other EA Original wasn’t quite as unique. Rocket Arena is a shooter where you only use rockets. EA seems to be trying to repeat their success with Apex Legends for a younger audience. Still, I’m not sure the gaming community was in dire need of yet another hero shooter games-as-a-service.
After announcing the two new games, EA Play shared a deeper look at Star Wars: Squadrons, revealed earlier this week. Video game personality Greg Miller interviewed Ian Frazier, Creative Director at Motive Studios, about his work on the title. Frazier described how the team’s work on the campaign for Star Wars Battlefront II got them excited to create a game for the franchise focused entirely on aerial combat. He explained that the single-player story takes place soon after Return of the Jedi and puts players in the shoes of pilots for both the Rebels and the Empire. The online multiplayer is where fans can really hone their skills, master the strategy, and learn how to expertly maneuver the vehicles. The gameplay looked impressive. They shared a lot more details during the showcase, and you can watch the 6-minute gameplay trailer above.
Next, EA shared a cinematic trailer for FIFA 21 and Madden 21, which featured a lot of hype but not much substance. That was followed by peaks at titles EA is working on for the next generation of consoles. Developers praised the level of immersion enabled by the new technology and showed very quick glimpses at the next Battlefield and Bioware’s next project.
EA wrapped up the conference with a very surprising announcement: the return of SKATE. There was no gameplay or even a trailer, just the brief appearance of its lead developers, who shared how excited they were to return to the franchise. The series was never a huge seller but is beloved by a niche and vocal audience. The announcement was definitely a highlight for those fans, but a bit of an odd note to end on for everyone else. Still, it was fun to end EA Play with a game that was a total surprise.
The showcase as a whole was a mixed bag and the company’s embrace of diversity for the sake of promotion was at the very least uncomfortable. But the event certainly showed a lot of promising games to look forward to.