EA, who are these games for?

EA scored a couple of big hits for the Wii this summer in EA Sports Active and Tiger Woods 10. Both were quality games and had clearly targeted consumers: EA Active at those who had WiiFit but were looking for a more advanced workout, and Tiger Woods 10 at golf enthusiasts and early adopters of Wii Motion Plus. At this point I had thought that EA had finally figured out how to make a quality, successful Wii game. But a battery of information about a recent release and a couple of upcoming releases on the Wii has me questioning what EA is trying to accomplish with these games, and more specifically, who exactly they are trying to sell them to.

First is the recent release, the Wii version of Madden 10. The Wii version is distinguished by its unique cartoony art style, but that was not the only issue with it. Many of the modes that most people would expect out of Madden, like franchise mode, were not included as standard modes and had to be unlocked. In their place were mini-games and various forms of casual play like 5v5. Sales data for Madden 10 Wii has been released and it has shown to be dramatic decline from last year’s Wii iteration. It would seem that yesteryear’s audience did not approve of the changes made, and the new audience EA was going for, whoever they were, didn’t show up either.

I’d like to say that this is an isolated incident, but two other EA games on the horizon also share this sort of identity crisis. The first is MySims Agents. The MySims are an offshoot of the Sims line and are a sort of mash-up of Sims and Miis, exhibiting both the gibberish language of Simlish as well as super-deformed big-head character models. The MySims line on the Wii has had success with the simulation style of games the Sims is known for, but MySims Agents is an entirely different animal, being an adventure/platformer. I find this choice vexing because it’s not entirely certain that fans of MySims would go for that style of game. In addition, the game features a cameo of Faith from Mirror’s Edge and has Isaac Clarke’s engineering suit from Dead Space as an unlockable costume. Both of those games would likely not be appealing to the same gamers that MySims would logically appeal to, not to mention that neither game has even appeared on the Wii.

Well, a Dead Space game will soon appear on the Wii, albeit in a different form than the original, but even that game’s target audience is perplexing. While mentioning multi-console ownership Visceral Games insinuated that Dead Space Extraction, a light gun-style spinoff, was made for fans of the original Dead Space that also own a Wii in addition to an HD console or gaming PC and want more, but a different Dead Space. This is all fine and well, but the original Dead Space didn’t exactly light up the charts, quality as it may be And now EA is banking on the Dead Space faithful, who are nowhere near as numerous as, say, Resident Evil fans, not only owning a Wii but wanting a substantially different style of Dead Space game for the Wii? I’m not certain that the preceding group of gamers exists in as high a quantity as EA is assuming they do.

Now, this is not an indictment of EA. I wish them well, as they have redoubled their dedication to quality and creativity as shown by the new IPs of Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge, and the revamped Need for Speed Shift, and are one of the few, if not the only, western developers who are making quality efforts on the Wii. By the same token, I’d hate for these efforts to go to waste due to mismanagement of target demographics. It would be a shame if Dead Space Extraction and MySims Agents turned out to be great games only to be met with disappointing sales like Madden 10, but EA would have nobody to blame but themselves.