Electronic Arts

BioWare’s ambitious Anthem is off to a rough start as players bring servers to their knees

Posted by | Anthem, BioWare, ea, Electronic Arts, Gadgets, Gaming, online games, online gaming | No Comments

The gaming world is excited to play Anthem, BioWare’s answer to Destiny and other big-budget online shooters — but an exclusive preview weekend for the mech-flying game has struggled to get off the ground. Of course, it wouldn’t be a game launch these days without a few hiccups to spice things up, but it is a little embarrassing.

The 40-gigabyte demo was made available today to those who had pre-ordered the game, as well as press and other “VIPs.” The game, announced last year at E3, is a loot-focused shooter where you pilot mechs through a huge open world, engage in cooperative combat and exploration and all that.

At least, so they say. Reports immediately came flooding in on forums and social media that not only was Origin, the service on which the demo is offered, failing to function properly, but that the game itself wasn’t connecting to servers, or if it did, wouldn’t load beyond the intro sequence.

I encountered this myself; after eventually getting loaded and logged in, I managed to get into the starting town area where you will, in the full game, upgrade your gear, accept quests and so on. But when I attempted to launch the first mission or otherwise enter the actual game world, the loading bar would stop about 95 percent of the way done and stay there forever (I waited about five minutes and reloaded a couple times to make sure it wasn’t just my aging rig). Those who made it all the way in complained of lag and glitches.

No one really ever expects a major title, especially one with a major online components, to launch even in a limited way without a few speed bumps, but something like this can really put the brakes on a hype train. Publisher EA admitted to the laundry list of issues from a support Twitter account:

Funnily enough EA Help’s own servers were having trouble as well, so not only could people not play Anthem, they couldn’t report that they couldn’t play Anthem.

Patience is a necessary virtue in today’s AAA game launches, but the people hoping to play this weekend aren’t randos but paying customers; this preview demo weekend was supposed to be a pre-order bonus, but the first day is a bust so far. Considering BioWare and EA knew exactly how many players could be trying to connect today — and those numbers are likely far less than those who will try the open beta or connect on launch day — it’s rather odd that they were seemingly caught so off-guard.

Anthem is certainly promising and the developers have gone out of their way to assure players that many of the hated practices of online games these days would not find a home on their platform. But launch problems always jar the confidence of undecided buyers, and there’s almost no question that the game will be better a month or two after its actual debut. Launch numbers could be affected by players not believing the game is ready to play, and therefore not being willing to pay.

I fully anticipate these issues getting resolved at some point soon, however, and will collect my impressions of the game in a separate post when that happens.

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Video game revenue tops $43 billion in 2018, an 18% jump from 2017

Posted by | america, computing, Earnings, Electronic Arts, Entertainment, entertainment software association, esa, fortnite battle royale, Gaming, HBO, Netflix, Reed Hastings, sensor tower, streaming services, TC, video game, YouTube | No Comments

Video game revenue in 2018 reached a new peak of $43.8 billion, up 18 percent from the previous years, surpassing the projected total global box office for the film industry, according to new data released by the Entertainment Software Association and The NPD Group.

Preliminary indicators for global box office revenues published at the end of last year indicated that revenue from ticket sales at box offices around the world would hit $41.7 billion, according to comScore data reported by Deadline Hollywood.

The $43.8 billion tally also surpasses numbers for streaming services, which are estimated to rake in somewhere around $28.8 billion for the year, according to a report in Multichannel News.

Video games and related content have become the new source of entertainment for a generation — and it’s something that has new media moguls like Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings concerned. In the company’s most recent shareholder letter, Netflix said that Fortnite was more of a threat to its business than TimeWarner’s HBO.

“We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” the company’s shareholder letter stated. “When YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time…There are thousands of competitors in this highly fragmented market vying to entertain consumers and low barriers to entry for those with great experiences.”

“The impressive economic growth of the industry announced today parallels the growth of the industry in mainstream American culture,” said acting ESA president and CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis, in a statement. “Across the nation, we count people of all backgrounds and stages of life among our most passionate video game players and fans. Interactive entertainment stands today as the most influential form of entertainment in America.”

Gains came from across the spectrum of the gaming industry. Console and personal computing, mobile gaming, all saw significant growth, according to Mat Piscatella, a video games industry analyst for The NPD Group.

According to the report, hardware and peripherals and software revenue increased from physical and digital sales, in-game purchases and subscriptions.

U.S. Video Game Industry Revenue 2018 2017 Growth Percentage
Hardware, including peripherals $7.5 billion $6.5 billion 15%
Software, including in-game purchases and subscriptions  

$35.8 billion

 

$30.4 billion

18%
Total: $43.3 billion $36.9 billion 18%

Source: The NPD Group, Sensor Tower

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Consolidation is coming to gaming, and Jam City raises $145 million to capitalize on it

Posted by | App Annie, Bank of America, Chris DeWolfe, computing, Disney, Electronic Arts, Europe, Facebook, Gaming, helsinki, jam city, King, Los Angeles, mobile game, Pixar, Recent Funding, silicon valley bank, Software, Startups, TC, toronto, United States, Zynga | No Comments

A slew of banks are coming together to back a new roll-up strategy for the Los Angeles-based mobile gaming studio Jam City and giving the company $145 million in new funding to carry that out.

There’s no word on whether the new money is in equity or debt, but what is certain is that JPMorgan Chase Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and syndicate partners, including Silicon Valley Bank, SunTrust Bank and CIT Bank, are all involved in the deal.

“In a global mobile games market that is consolidating, Jam City could not be more proud to be working with JPMorgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Silicon Valley Bank, SunTrust Bank and CIT Group to strategically support the financing of our acquisition and growth plans,” said Chris DeWolfe, co-founder and CEO of Jam City. “This $145 million in new financing empowers Jam City to further our position as a global industry consolidator. As we grow our global business, we are honored to be working alongside such prestigious advisers who share Jam City’s mission of delivering joy to people everywhere through unique and deeply engaging mobile games.”

The new money comes after a few years of speculation on whether Jam City would be the next big Los Angeles-based startup company to file for an initial public offering. It also follows a new agreement with Disney to develop mobile games based on intellectual property coming from all corners of the mouse house — a sweet cache of intellectual property ranging from Pixar, to Marvel, to traditional Disney characters.

Jam City is coming off a strong year of company growth. The Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery game, which launched last year, became the company’s fastest title to hit $100 million in revenue.

Add that to the company’s expansion into new markets with strategic acquisitions to fuel development and growth in Toronto and Bogota and it’s clear that the company is looking to make more moves in 2019.

Jam City already holds intellectual property for a new game built on Disney’s “Frozen 2,” the company’s newly acquired Fox Studio assets like “Family Guy” and the Harry Potter property. Add that to its own Cookie Jam and Panda Pop properties and it seems like the company is ready to make moves.

Meanwhile, games are quickly becoming the go-to revenue driver for the entertainment industry. According to data collected by Newzoo, mobile games revenue reached a record $63.2 billion worldwide in 2018, representing roughly 47 percent of the total revenue for the gaming industry in the year. That number could reach $81.3 billion by 2020, the Newzoo data suggests.

Roughly half of the U.S. plays mobile games, and they’re spending significant dollars on those games in app stores. App Annie suggests that roughly 75 percent of the money spent in app stores over the past decade has been spent on mobile games. And consumers are expected to spend roughly $129 billion in app stores over the next year. The data and analytics firm suggests that mobile gaming will capture some 60 percent of the overall gaming market in 2019, as well.

All of that bodes well for the industry as a whole, and points to why Jam City is looking to consolidate. And the company isn’t the only mobile games studio making moves.

The publicly traded games studio Zynga, which rose to fame initially on the back of Facebook’s gaming platform, recently expanded its European footprint with the late-December acquisition of the Helsinki-based gaming studio Small Giant Games.

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Jam City is setting up a Toronto shop by buying Bingo Pop from Uken Games

Posted by | 20th Century Fox, bingo, buenos aires, Chris DeWolfe, computing, Disney, Electronic Arts, Entertainment, entertainment software association, Gaming, harry potter, jam city, Los Angeles, MySpace, san diego, San Francisco, toronto | No Comments
The Los Angeles game development studio Jam City is setting up a shop in Toronto with the acquisition of Bingo Pop from Uken Games.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

The deal is part of a broader effort to expand the Jam City portfolio of games and geographic footprint. In recent months the company has inked agreements with Disney — taking over development duties on some of the company’s games like Disney Emoji Blitz and signing on to develop new ones — and launching new games in conjunction with other famous franchises like Harry Potter.

The Bingo Pop acquisition will bring a gambling game into the casual game developer’s stable of titles that pulled in roughly $700,000 in revenue through October, according to data from SensorTower.

“We are so proud to be continuing Jam City’s rapid global expansion with the acquisition of one of the most popular bingo titles, and its highly talented team,” said Chris DeWolfe, co-founder and CEO of Jam City, in a statement. “This acquisition provides Jam City with access to leading creative talent in one of the fastest growing and most exciting tech markets in the world. We look forward to working with the talented Jam City team in Toronto as we supercharge the live operations of Bingo Pop and develop innovative new titles and mobile entertainment experiences.”

Founded in Los Angeles in 2009 by DeWolfe, who previously helped create and launch Myspace, and 20th Century Fox exec Josh Yguado, Jam City rose to prominence on the back of its Cookie Jam and Panda Pop games. Now, the company has expanded through licensing deals with Harry Potter, Family Guy, Marvel and now Disney. Jam City has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Bogota and Buenos Aires.

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GameFly to shutter streaming service this month

Posted by | closing, ea, Electronic Arts, Entertainment, gamefly, Gaming, streaming | No Comments

GameFly, the video game rental company, will be shutting down its streaming service at the end of the month, Variety reported earlier this week. This closure comes just over three years after the streaming service launched in 2015.

GameFly, the no-console streaming service for gamers, offered packages for $7 and $10 per month that gave users unlimited access to titles — as long as they had a smart TV like an Amazon Fire or Samsung Smart TV, in addition to a controller and access to the internet. Just as GameFly’s original snail-mail rental service for games mimicked Netflix’s from days of yore, many touted the streaming service as the Netflix of gaming.

Support for the service will be maintained through the end of August and accounts will not be charged for the service after that date, according to Variety. But people can still rent physical games (and movies) from the company for $9.50 per month (one rental at a time) or $13.50 per month (two rentals at a time.)

This news comes about three months after EA acquired the technology and team members from GameFly’s cloud gaming division — a division that helped make it possible to save your progress to the cloud while gaming on the streaming service. But the acquisition did not include GameFly’s streaming service.

“We acquired the team in Israel and the technology they’ve developed, we did not acquire the Gamefly streaming service,” an EA spokesperson told Variety. “We have not been involved in any decisions around the service.”

TechCrunch reached out to GameFly for comment but the company did not respond by the time of publication regarding the reasons behind this closure.

Meanwhile, the world of streaming games appears to be continuing on just fine. Sony’s PlayStation Now continues to add titles to its service, French startup Blade’s streaming service is expanding availability this week in the U.S. and EA itself announced at E3 this summer plans to start work on its own streaming service.

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EA launches premium subscription with latest Battlefield and Fifa

Posted by | ea, Electronic Arts, Gaming | No Comments

Video game company EA is slowly switching its business model to recurring subscriptions. The company just launched Origin Access Premier for $15 per month or $100 per year. This subscription is only available on PC.

This isn’t EA’s first subscription. The company first launched EA Access on the Xbox One. For $5 per month or $30 per year, you can download and play old EA games as part of your subscription.

EA Access doesn’t include the most recent games. But you can play the latest Fifa, Madden and Battlefield games a few months after their initial releases. Usually, EA Access games don’t include any DLC or extra content.

In addition to full games, EA Access lets you try new EA games for 10 hours. You also get 10 percent off on EA digital purchases.

In 2016, EA launched a similar service on PC for the same price. In addition to a collection of EA games, the company partnered with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and other game companies. You can find indie hits, such as The Witness, Oxenfree and Trine 2.

And now, EA is launching a more expensive subscription tier. With Origin Access Premier, you get new EA titles a few days before launch day. For instance, you’ll be able to download and play Madden NFL 19, Fifa 19, Battlefield V and Anthem when they launch in the coming months.

Subscribers won’t have to pay for DLCs, or at least not as many. Games included in the subscription are deluxe editions (Fifa Ultimate Edition, Battlefield V Deluxe, etc.).

In order to convince people to subscribe right away, EA is adding deluxe editions of Battlefront II, Fifa 18, Unravel Two, Fe or The Sims 4 right away.

Other companies have launched subscription services, such as Microsoft with the Xbox Game Pass and Sony’s PlayStation Now. This is an interesting shift as game companies are getting ready for cloud computing.

While many people still buy games on DVDs and play on gaming consoles, the industry is slowly going to switch to cloud gaming. You will launch a game on a server in a data center near you and stream the video feed to the device in front of you.

It doesn’t make as much sense to own a game if you don’t even run it on your console in your living room. By creating recurring subscriptions and putting together gaming libraries, companies can increase recurring revenue.tt

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Here’s what EA announced at E3 2018

Posted by | e3, e3 2018, ea, Electronic Arts, Gaming | No Comments

Good afternoon, downtown L.A.! The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the giant banners with gun toting cyborgs have been unveiled.

That can only mean one thing: it’s time for E3! Electronic Arts kicked the show off this morning with the first official press conference, and the big news was, as anticipated, Battlefield V.

Battlefield V

The World War II title will likely get a little more love at the Xbox press conference tomorrow morning, but we did get a look at some compelling gameplay. Notably, the title is getting a Fortnite-style multiplayer, battle royale mode.

Anthem

Bioware’s next title isn’t due out until next February, but Anthem still managed to get a lot of love today at E3. The multiplayer shooter finds players assuming the role of mech suit wearing “Freelancers.”

FIFA 19

Due out September 28, EA’s big soccer (or football or whatever) title is adding UEFA Champions League gameplay, after picking up the license from Konami. That’s big news for European soccer fans, bringing the annual tournament to the title. The company also announced a free trial for Xbox, Playstation and PC players.

Madden NFL 19

The popular football title (the other football) is destined for the PC for the first time in more than 10 years. It will bring with it new, more lifelike player animation when it debuts August 10.

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

It wouldn’t be an EA E3 event without some Star Wars love. Due out during the 2019 holiday season, the title will offer a dark take on the familiar universe, allowing users to play as a Jedi. That’s all we know so far, and sadly, there’s no trailer yet to speak of.

Unravel 2

No waiting on this one, however. The yarn of a puzzle platformer sequel just dropped today for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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Madden NFL 18 esports are coming to Disney XD and ESPN

Posted by | Disney, disney xd, Electronic Arts, espn, esports, Football, Gaming, madden nfl, madden nfl 18, Media, TC | No Comments

 With the Super Bowl just a few weeks away, the world of football has some relatively unexpected news. Madden NFL, one of the most popular gaming titles in the world, is going even more mainstream. ESPN2 and Disney XD will broadcast Madden e-sports tournaments thanks to a new deal inked by EA, Disney, and the NFL. Madden NFL 18 is one of the top ten best-selling games in the last 12 months, and… Read More

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Ex-Zynga execs raise $15 million for their new gaming studio, Manticore Games

Posted by | Benchmark, defense of the ancients, Electronic Arts, Entertainment, entertainment software association, Frederic Descamps, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, Jordan Maynard, league of legends, Manticore Games, playerunkown battlegrounds, TC | No Comments

 In the eight years since Frederic Descamps and Jordan Maynard launched their last gaming startup, the industry they helped shape now brings in more than $100 billion in revenues globally. There’s been a resurgence in gaming on PCs. User-generated content has produced a string of wildly popular hits. Those trends are exactly what the two are hoping to harness with Manticore Games. Read More

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EA response to ‘Battlefront II’ complaint is the most downvoted comment in Reddit history

Posted by | Electronic Arts, Gaming, Reddit, TC | No Comments

 Just as many people enjoy a nice cold Goose Island pale ale but hate the beer megacorp AB InBev which owns it, so too is the rage palpable against Electronic Arts, which owns many a beloved franchise but is far less than the sum of its parts. Today, that dislike is slightly more quantifiable thanks to a comment on Reddit.  Read More

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