Pop quiz: name the video game company leader that said the following: "I have not green lit one game to be developed as a single-player experience. Today, all of our games include online applications and digital services that make them live 24/7/365."
That's EA Games President Frank Gibeau. His remarks—culled from promotional materials for an upcoming cloud gaming conference—caused a recent uproar. Many took it to mean that the company that publishes Mass Effect would be jamming multiplayer content into their titles, in an effort to try and stop folks from trading in a game when they've burned through the bulk of what it has to offer.
But, when I spoke to Gibeau today at the New York Games Conference, he said that wasn't what he meant.
"Let me clarify," Gibeau began. "What I said was [about not greenlighting] anything that [doesn't have] an online service. You can have a very deep single-player game but it has to have an ongoing content plan for keeping customers engaged beyond what's on the initial disc. I'm not saying deathmatch must come to Mirror's Edge."
Gibeau chuckled at his own example and continued to explain what the shape of EA's game-making approach will be moving forward. "What I'm saying is if you're going do it, do it with an open-world game that's a connected experience where you can actually see other players, you can co-operate, you can compete and it can be social. Everything that we do, we see the telemetry coming in telling us that's the best way to build our business and that's the best way to build these experiences and be differentiated from others. Yeah, I'm not suggesting deathmatch must be in Bejeweled. It's just… You need to have a connected social experience where you're part of a large community"
When I mentioned that a certain sort of player still wants an experience that can't be interrupted through social interaction, he stated that The Sims plays that way. "The new Sim City, you can play single-player," he continued. "Mass Effect 3, you can play single-player. FIFA, Madden…"
"I still passionately believe in single-player games and think we should build them. What I was trying to suggest with my comments was that as we move our company from being a packaged goods, fire-and-forget business to a digital business that has a service component to it. That's business-speak for ‘I want to have a business that's alive and evolves and changes over time'"
Gibeau's thoughts sync up with the vision that EA CEO Peter Moore imagines as the future of gaming. But he says that there's still room for single-player games in that vision, too.
"That was more where I was coming from," Gibeau explained. "That should not be misunderstood as the death of single-player games, or single-player experiences or telling stories. Narrative is what separates good games from bad games. Or great from good, even." So, don't worry about not getting a Campaign/Story Mode in the next Battlefield. It'll still be there, along with all the online elements that point at a more social, connected future.