Squadrons’, And I Hope It Works

Star Wars Squadrons is a game. Developed by Motive and published by EA, it released on October 2 to solid reviews and plenty of praise from long time fans of Star Wars starfighter games, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a good long time. It costs $40, and it’s available on PS4, PC, and Xbox One. And, as far the story of where this game is going, that’s sort of it. Here in 2020, that’s a remarkable thing.

Bug fixes and the like aside, EA and Motive have no plans to introduce new content for Star Wars Squadrons, a strategy that’s nearly unheard of in the modern industry for anything but smaller, bite-sized indie games. Creative director Ian Frazier outlined the approach in an interview with Upload VR, where he doesn’t completely close the door to more stuff—the video game industry is rarely definitive—but sounds pretty resolute in the studio’s strategy.

“We don’t want to say ‘it’s almost done!’ and then dribble out more of it over time, which to be honest is how most games work these days,” he told UploadVR. “So we’ve tried to treat it in kind of an old-school approach saying, ‘you’ve paid the $40, this is the game and it’s entirely self-contained. We’re not planning to add more content, this is the game, and we hope you understand the value proposition.'”

It’s funny to think that selling a game for a price and having that just be the end of it seems like such a radical idea, because that’s how game’s were sold for the majority of the industry’s lifetime and it makes a sort of basic sense in a way that “releasing a ton of new maps and such for free” doesn’t. But it’s incredibly uncommon, especially coming from EA, which made a huge push towards games-as-service a few years ago. Most major games come with content roadmaps these days, and even narrative, single-player exclusives from platform holders like God of War, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or The Last of Us Part 2 have released new content post-launch. Post-launch content has become the rule, not the exception, which makes seeing this strategy attached to a large-scale, fancy game like Star Wars: Squadrons all the more interesting.

I hope it works, frankly. It not only creates a different expectation of what to expect at launch—a complete game that works—it also frees up the developer to, you know, make another game, rather than yoking people to a never-ending project that will be construed as a failure if the pipeline ever lags. It’s the sort of thing I could also imagine working better with subscription services like Game Pass or EA Access, though we’re still in the early days of figuring out the economics there.

I like it, and I’m surprised to see it. We’ll see what happens when EA talks about this in financials eventually, but there’s merit in just selling a thing and having it be the thing.

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