Branding and games: EA – How the change of leadership affected the brand

Both in 2012 and 2013 EA was voted as the worst company in America mainly due to practices like day-one DLC’s, purchases followed by the closure of smaller studios, mandatory use of online passes, microtransactions in their games and the troubled launch of SimCity’s reboot, that required an online connection and didn’t feature any offline modes.

But in September 2013, Andrew Wilson, former head of EA Sports was named the company’s new CEO, what triggered a change of strategy looking to modify the market and consumer’s POV regarding the company, with a focus on the four vectors of brand tangibility: product, environment, communication and behaviour.

When it comes to product, their approach to the way they released games, content suffered adjustments, for example the end of online passes that affected customers that really bought their games, not those who pirated it, the revival of highly praised franchises like Mirror’s Edge, please bring back Skate, inclusion of an offline mode to The Sims 4, an attention to indie games with Unravel’s release, announcement of Fe and EA Originals, a program that looks to invest on indie studios, with the sales going directly to them.

On environment, since we are talking about a company with digital products the manner it is handled is a little bit different, and EA Access is an example of that, instead of trying a game inside a physical space, you can obtain extended demos of the full product, with a nice, modern app which presents games that are about to be added to the vault, demos, when they’ll be available, another case was when during Playstation Experience games were offered free charge, and a modification of their PC platform Origin, offering classic games as gateways to experience their catalogue.

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Their style of communication was transformed, with a far more jovial, contemporary attitude and closer to consumers, with a small change to the logo, possessing a more streamlined visual, a unification of the company with the use of only one engine, being the best example EA Play, that represented a departure from E3’s show floor, to a separate event that allowed gamers that otherwise wouldn’t have access to their titles to demo them, bringing them closer diminishing their dependence on media’s opinion, as well as insider programs to games yet to be released, with news from betas and features.

Last but not least, EA’s communication went through an overhaul, going from a stronger bravado to a friendlier company, that cares about eSports, releases surveys about their products and services, targeting on listening to players opinions and a better use of charismatic executives,  bringing them upfront, like former Xbox head, Peter Moore, Andrew Wilson and EA studios head Patrick Söderlund, becoming the faces of the company, creating a bigger connection to gamers, like Playstation did successfully.

All these decisions led to a change of vision towards the company, that still makes mistakes like Star Wars Battlefront season pass, but they appear to be on the right track on to becoming a respected and who knows a beloved company to gamers, the catalogue they have, with EA’s sports titles, the Star Wars license and relevant franchises, along with a management that has made the right decisions with satisfying results.

 

 

 

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Branding and games: EA – What Battlefield 4 meant for EA

On this second text focusing on EA, I’ll talk about how the troubled release of Battlefield 4, the company’s biggest franchise, represented the beginning of a turning point for the company, that was going through a transitional moment, amidst a change of leadership, the arrival of a new generation of consoles  and a recently announced partnership with Disney regarding the Star Wars Franchise.

Released on October of 2013, Battlefield 4 was the first entry of the renowned franchise on the PS4/Xone generation, and it was received by positive reviews being recognized by the great multiplayer, but feeling as a small step forward after the incredible success of Battlefield 3, being of one of the most played titles til this day.

But despite the good reception, the title presented an incredible amount of problems during its release, with a myriad of issues such as bugs, glitches and crashes across all platforms, taking more than one year to be completely functional, causing a stop to the development of DICE’s projects, like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Star Wars Battlefront, in order to fix the game.

From that moment on EA decided to have a different approach towards its titles, concentrating their attention on quality over quantity, especially due to the damage the Battlefield franchise image suffered, and we clearly saw some signs of the way they treated their latest releases.

Like for example, an increase on the number of delays, like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst that went through several delays to improve various aspects of the title, the spin-off Battlefield Hardline, that surprisingly was postponed from the Fall of 2014 to March of 2015, representing a change of pace to the franchise, that was on its way to becoming annual, being that a move that surprised the industry.

Another modification was the way betas happened, with an increase in the number of tests to measure the stress on servers, the state of titles, with some having multiple betas, like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, BF: Hardline, and titles you wouldn’t expect like Need for Speed, with a very successful Star Wars: Battlefront beta, and it has presented good results with EA’s titles having smooth releases, with minor problems but nothing close to BF 4 fiasco.

Despite being one of the most successful title of the company, BF 4 started a transformation in the company, that helped developing the corporate brand improving the market’s point of view, by managing their assets well, with quality coming first, a mindset that has fortunately spread through the industry when it comes to big companies.

Branding and games: EA – The EA Access role on their strategy

One of my favorite subjects is branding, yes it’s strange, and I’ll talk a little bit about how it affects the game industry, and how companies work with it, going from Sony to Ubisoft, writing focusing on a company or subject, and the focus of this first week is EA, that has been going through a deep rebranding process in the last few years, after being considered the worst company of the country twice, and this time I’ll talk about the role of EA Access on their strategy of regaining gamers admiration.

A subscription service that started in 2014 that is the closest we have to Netflix, EA Access gives players discounts for purchases, extended demos of releases and full games in a lineup that has increased steadily for a reasonable price, but what’s behind the idea of that service?

At first it may feel like a way of getting a reliable flow of money coming from gamers, after all, it manages to have a great cost-benefit, but it goes beyond that, by giving them a chance to play games ahead of everybody, one week prior to the release, you create an opportunity to present it and hook the player without feeling aggressive, even though you’ll only have access to the demo if you have the subscription, allied with a discount that makes the purchase seem more advantageous, despite the fact this game will go to the vault in probably less than 1 year.

It also appeals to very basic desires of the human being, like feeling exclusive, enjoying and broadcasting hyped titles ahead of everybody else, the feeling of profit , giving us games that otherwise we would never touch, but since they are “free” we don’t really think about it, and might actually give it a try, and most of them in reality are quality entries, like the EA sports franchises, or Battlefield, Dragon Age, as well as backwards compatibles games, creating this sentiment of really getting more bang for your buck, instead of paying 60 bucks for one title, you can pay 30 yearly for a growing library.

Creating an atmosphere of goodwill towards the company, that has been trying to connect with customers, and this has been one of the cornerstones of the plan, giving players what they most want, games, in a situation in which they keep playing their library, getting acclimated with EA’s franchises, and having a better image with the market, as a way to show that they want as many people to put their hands on their titles, even if they don’t pay full price, fortifying their brand in the process and transforming this idea of being a company that only cares about profit into a consumer focused one.