Seeing a game you enjoy or anticipated being sunset is never pleasant. Especially in the world of mobile where it’s never as simple as downloading an old version and being able to endlessly reminisce. When the game is gone from storefronts that may be the last you see of it.
As you may have seen earlier today, Apex Legends and Battlefield Mobile are set to sunset. With the games pulled from storefronts and all in-app purchases ceased. EA CEO Andrew Wilson gave some key reasons on an earnings call discussing EA’s financials.
“There is a level of immersion and complexity to Apex gameplay in particular which is very much what Apex is about - verticality of gameplay and team-based play - that didn’t translate quite as well to mobile devices as we had hoped.”
“The game didn’t retain the more casual user at the rate that we needed it to, and in a game that relies a lot on team play and competitive play, liquidity of the overall player base is really, really important as you think about the future experience for players over time.”
“The biggest new launches that are seeing the most success are the ones that are deeply connected to the broader franchise where there’s not always cross-play but certainly cross-progression and the feeling that they’re part of a single unified community and a single unified game experience.”
All in all it seems another typical day for the rather cutthroat world of AAA games. However, we want to draw a comparison between this cancellation of a game, and that of another, Supercell’s Everdale.
Sunset vs Sunburn
While many will have been disappointed by Everdale’s sunsetting, and others may criticise the perceived ruthlessness of Supercell doing so, the reasoning in this case is much clearer. Supercell does indeed, from an outside perspective, only put continued development into games they perceive to be potential mega-hits. But at the same time they give these games room to breathe and grow for more than just a year.
In contrast, EA shuttered both Apex Legends Mobile and Battlefield Mobile within a year, and shut down the studio developing the latter, Industrial Toys, along with it. A timeframe that many find to be quite odd. To quote Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of it, “Sacked after 12 months, looks like you’ve f-cked up, sacked after a week looks like he’s f-cked up.”
As far as business tactics, it’s typical EA. Supercell also develops many of these games internally, reducing the harm to other studios when these games are shuttered. Whereas EA’s tactic of gutting successful studios is practically a running joke at this point.
Supercell also, whilst not refunding purchases, did allow their transfer to other Supercell games in the same ecosystem. Perhaps not the ideal solution, but better than radio silence from EA on the same issue.
The notion that Apex Legends Mobile may return in some form is also somewhat sour. After all, a player might think, “if they shut the last one down, what if they shut this one down too?”
More to think about
Andrew Wilson’s reasoning also smacks of issues that should’ve really been caught at a concept stage. It raises the question of why, with their massive resources, EA couldn’t implement cross-progression or cross-play, two things that have made games like Fortnite massive multi-platform hits. It’s not as if the blueprint isn’t there, but it speaks to either lack of planning, oversight or comprehension of the mobile ecosystem.
Ultimately, with the huge hit that Apex Legends proved to be, a jump to mobile should’ve been an instant slam-dunk. No doubt we’re going to see many analyses of why this was the case, as we’ve already seen dissections of slumping revenue. Some have also suggested that it may be an intent to break with Tencent-owned, PUBG developers Lightspeed and Quantum Studios who worked on Apex Legends Mobile.
Comparatively, Supercell, although a giant of the mobile world, is still minor-league compared to the worth and resources of EA. With many traditional console and PC giants seeking to break into the mobile world, and many other games from the FPS genre pushing into it too, it raises the question of whether there is an inherent stumbling block with the understanding that they have of mobile games, and the degree of planning that’s key to success.