In 1992, the NHL introduced the “instigator” rule, handing an extra two-minute minor penalty to a player who starts a fight. Here in 2014, many video game fans think the book should be thrown at video game maker Electronic Arts for their efforts on the latest version of their wildly popular NHL franchise. But will EA’s reportedly awful effort on NHL 15 really cause its long-time fans to abandon ship?
Owing to time constraints imposed by developing the game for the next-generation PS4 and Xbox One consoles, EA simply left many of the now legacy features out of the new iteration of NHL 15. The company says that some of these will make their way back to the game in the form of updates, but that isn’t sitting well with hardcore sports gamers. Some of them say they may pass on the NHL series for the first time ever.
Popular features such as online team play, Season Mode, fantasy draft in GM mode, the ability to edit players or teams, plus a host of others, simply aren’t part of the new game and its fans have no assurances as to if and when they will be incorporated.
Been buying NHL every year since 96. This may be the first year I don’t pick it up. At least not until I hear something better about this game.
The decision has EA eating crow. In a blog post on August 19th, the company perhaps foresaw how the gaping hole in one of its best known games might sit with its longtime fans.
“Decisions like this are never easy, nor do we take them lightly,” said Producer Sean Ramjagsingh.”We know that there is a passionate group of fans that loves these modes and is no doubt disappointed with this news; but we also know that this same group of fans expects a high quality gameplay experience above anything else. We’re a franchise built on quality, so launching these modes without confidence in their quality wasn’t something that we were willing to do.”
But in an interview with The Globe and Mail Friday, Ramjagsingh deflected the criticism of the missing features, instead focusing on the gameplay, which he says feels “more organic and natural”.
Many fans, however, aren’t buying it. Type in “NHL” as a hashtag into Twitter and you might end up being prompted by #NHL15problems, a hashtag where many are filing their displeasure with the game.
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On Reddit, there are several popular threads dedicated to the game, the most popular of which is called “NHL 15 for Next-Gen is a Scam”. A comment by user “SaintBlitzkreig” was typical of the majority of responses.
“The amount of content not available is a joke. Now, I was going to come to the defense of EA on this one, because when Madden first launched with their connected career mode, some of features we enjoy, weren’t available either, but they came in time. But seeing that in the past this series has had those various things, this is just not acceptable, and they should pull the product back. You have to wonder what the development team is saying to themselves as they keep cutting away at this game.”
Many early reviews of the game aren’t positive. Canada.com’s Patrick O’Rourke praised the gameplay, but says it is “impossible to ignore the extensive list of features EA has dropped from the NHL franchise.”
“I genuinely feel sorry for NHL 15’s development team, particularly the game’s producer, Sean Ramjagsingh, who’s worked on the series since 2008,” continued O’Rourke. “After interviewing Ramjagsingh a number of times it’s easy to tell he’s genuinely passionate about the NHL franchise and wants his team’s games to be great.
This is just not acceptable, and they should pull the product back. You have to wonder what the development team is saying to themselves as they keep cutting away at this game.
But the reviewer says the elephant in the room is just too big to ignore.
“Still, this is no excuse for the amount of missing features in NHL 15, particularly since the series took last year off on the Xbox One and PS4 in preparation for the jump to next-gen systems,” concluded O’Rourke.
Electronic Arts NHL Series launched in 1991, and has since been featured on platforms ranging from Sega Genesis, Gameboy and Nintendo 64. The game has sold tens of millions of copies and has earned a minor place in pop-culture with reference in the movies “Swingers” and “Mall Rats”.
The previous version in the NHL franchise, NHL 14, was roundly applauded, earning a score of 80 on Metacritic, a site that aggregates reviews. The game was also awarded “Best Sports Game” in the Game Critics Awards “Best of E3 2013”.
NHL is an important franchise for EA. In its first week alone, NHL 13 sold 491,500 copies, comparing favourably to Madden NFL 13, which sold 1.65-million copies.
So will the donnybrook over NHL 15 translate into lower sales for EA? It seems likely, although permanent damage to the franchise seems unlikely, especially considering the game’s only serious competitor, NHL 2K, folded in 2011. A price cut, a focus on getting updates out quickly and a legitimate apology will have long-time fans of the NHL franchise forgetting EA’s current offenses by the time NHL 16 rolls around next fall. EA’s problems with NHL 15 will go down as a minor penalty, not a major infraction.