Electronic Arts has consistently proven to be a surprising innovator on Wii. "Madden NFL 08" stumbled a bit, but the developers' Family Play initiative, designed to revamp "Madden" for a more casual crowd, was a step in a promising new direction.
A few weeks ago, EA announced an all-new sub-brand for EA Sports, entitled Freestyle, alongside an evolution of their Family Play interface philosophies designed for Wii: All-Play.
"The Freestyle brand is aimed at those gamers who are looking to enjoy the 'lighter side of sports,' regardless of what platform they play on," said EA Sports senior director of brand marketing Reg Hamlett in an e-mail interview with MTV Multiplayer. "The brand houses games hinged on the suspension of the traditional rules of sports."
Arcade-styled boxing game "Facebreaker" arrives under the Freestyle moniker this fall. And while Freestlye isn't just for Wii, it certainly seems most apt for Wii, especially since both initiatives were announced the same day.
But what makes All-Play so different?
"[Family Play] was designed to leverage the strength of our existing sim franchises as we deepened our sports experiences on the Wii," said Hamlett. "Family Play has evolved into the more all encompassing All-Play descriptor – which includes unique controls, unique presentation, unique game modes and even unique packaging for the Wii."
The response from the hardcore has been critical. Some members of EA's dedicated sports base have worried it's a sign that EA is slowly ditching the hardcore for the casual. Hamlett contests this notion, however, and said EA is simply building another sports pillar for itself.
"Hardcore fans are our base and our biggest fans," he said. "Their opinions and seal of approval are of extreme importance to us. That said, the All-Play brand is aimed at those consumers who seek to leverage the unique attributes of the Wii and play a sports game that utilizes these unique features. I think our hardcore fans will recognize that we didn’t take anything away from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of our games."
"Madden NFL 08" with Wii's Family Play controls made tossing the ball around (i.e. flicking it with the Wiimote) easier and more accessible, but the game itself was still typical, hardcore Madden. With All-Play and Freestyle, however, EA seems ready to make more drastic design changes. How that will translate to "Madden NFL 09," however, is still an unknown.
"Hardcore fans are our base and our biggest fans"
The introduction of "Facebreaker" suggests EA might consider making a completely new football IP with these ideals in mind. "NFL Tour" touches upon this concept, but remains traditionally hardcore.
Hamlett wasn't willing to divulge any company secrets just yet, but said the new Freestyle brand lends itself to such opportunities. "There certainly could be other new games in this [new] style and tone," he said. "But given that Freestyle is a brand based on 'no rules', the opportunities for titles under this sub-brand will be varied and driven by a unique game focus that delivers on the promise of the brand and continues to expand opportunities for consumers to enjoy sports games in a fun, engaging manner."
Gamers, what do you make of EA's plan? Would you rather EA produces separate products under a different brand, or offer more options in their current franchises?
Have a hot tip? Is there a topic that Multiplayer should be covering and isn't? Maybe you can explain the difference between Family Play and All Play. Drop me an e-mail.