[Updated with video of the Old Republic game]
Game maker Electronic Arts is showing off 12 games at the E3 conference today, and they range all the way from cute and cuddly Littlest Pet Shop Online titles to the dark and hellish Dante’s Inferno. The company is focused on making more games for the Wii, producing high quality games, and reaching a global audience, said John Riccitiello, chief executive of the Redwood City, Calif.-based company. He said EA had 14 games last year that were ranked at 80 or more in terms of average review score on Metacritic. This year, EA is shooting for the same goal or better, continuing the strategy that we wrote about last week.
The new games include several titles in the Hasbro division of EA that are targeted at young girls, including Charm Girls, a franchise focused on the Nintendo DS and Wii where girls can play games such as who can style their hair the fastest.
Another game the company showed off was Need for Speed Shift. This racing game franchise sells millions each year, but EA has to pour more investment into it to improve the quality. Need for Speed’s quality ratings dropped as EA pumped out sequel after sequel. The added investment makes the games more expensive, hurting EA’s bottom line, but the company thinks that a revival of the quality scores, such as Metacritic ratings, will restore profits.
Among the brand-new games shown was BioWare’s Dragon Age Origins, a fantasy role-playing game with dark themes that put the player on the spot to decide between right and wrong. It’s also got a lot of bone-cracking violence. It ships Oct. 20 on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Another new game coming in early 2010 is Mass Effect 2, a sci-fi role-playing game where you have to save the galaxy by launching a suicide mission into enemy territory. Both of those titles represent major bets.
Among the sports titles, EA showed a bunch of titles it has already shown in some form before, such as Fight Night 4, where it’s getting harder and harder to tell if the boxers in the game are real or animated. Peter Moore, head of EA Sports, announced that the EA Sports Active exercise game has sold more than 600,000 in its first two weeks on the market. That shows EA’s investment in the Wii title is paying off.
Moore closed out with a preview of Grand Slam Tennis, a tennis game for the Wii that works with the new Wii MotionPlus controller accessory. Pete Sampras, a 14-time Grand Slam champion, came out on stage to demo the game. You can play 23 different tennis stars.
EA also showed a new hardcore gamer title, The Saboteur, a mature-rated title where you fight in the French Resistance against the Germans in World War II. It has a stylized black-and-white look with spots of color, such as yellow lights on the streets of Paris. You sneak up behind enemies and snap their necks and, after you blow up a German installation, you can hide in a sex shop in the red light district.
The company continues to partner with outside developers such as Double Fine Productions, which is making the Brutal Legend game, a rock and roll fantasy game by well-known game developer Tim Schafer. It has characters from the legends of rock such as Lita Ford (pictured) and Ozzy Osbourne. It’s a hilarious adventure that satirizes the rock legends.
Other partners include Crytek, which will make Crysis 2 for EA on the PS 3, Xbox 360 and the PC. EA is also going to publish All Points Bulletin, a massively multiplayer online game for the PC. Made by Real-Time Worlds, the creator of Crackdown, the online game lets you fight it out in a crime-ridden city where your opponents are other human players.
EA also announced it is working on Star Wars The Old Republic, a massively multiplayer online game set thousands of years before the rise of Darth Vader. The game is being developed by EA’s BioWare division under license from George Lucas’ LucasArts. It will have full voice communication. EA showed a stunning trailer of cinematic footage for the game that drew the loudest applause of the day.
The Old Republic video at E3 2009 from Dean Takahashi on Vimeo.