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EA Sports to launch NHL 17 public beta, but will it score with fickle fans?

EA Sports
EA Sports
Will he score 50 in ’17? St. Louis Blues phenom Vladimir Tarasenko is the cover boy for this year’s version of the NHL franchise from EA Sports.

There will be complaints. Of that I can assure you.

EA Sports NHL series, entering its 26th year (now 53 year-old Glenn Healy was the original cover boy), is the franchise Canadian gamers love to hate.

Every year, Electronic Arts trots out a new version of video game pro hockey they promise is the best ever and every year certain fans complain they are paying $69.99 for a mere roster and jersey update. Some grouse that the gameplay has become too “cartoonish”. Others say it is too realistic and needs to be more fun (remember when you could make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed, for instance?). They complain the poke check or the one-timer is too effective. Or grumble that the online play is laggy and disconnects too much. Then they shrug their shoulders and buy it. It’s a dance similar to that of a pre-arranged fight between two highly paid goons on a Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre. The setup is ritualistic. The result is predictable: everyone ends up with twelve dollar beers.

Since the demise of the NHL 2K series, Electronic Arts is the only game in town when it comes to the National Hockey League. Today, it sells about 600,000 copies a year, most of them in North America. That’s a big number, but it pales in comparison to EA’s FIFA franchise, which sells more than 8-million copies every year, mostly outside of North America, of course.

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In lobbys and forums, NHL 16 customers are a disagreeable lot. About the only thing they can come to a consensus on is that 2004, the version that featured Mr. “50 in ’07”, Dany Heatley, on the cover was a banner year for the franchise. Some, in fact, have of taken this opinion to the extreme.

Instead of buying the new version of the NHL series, they update a painstakingly patched, rebuilt version of it every year. Yeah, they actually do that.

The NHL franchise’s worst moment was its infamous NHL 15 debacle. Owing to time constraints imposed by developing the game for the next-generation PS4 and Xbox One consoles, EA simply left many of the legacy features out of the new iteration. This sent producer Sean Ramjagsingh to the Globe and Mail to apologize, but many weren’t having it, and the hashtag #NHL15problems briefly trended. NHL 16 was largely a return to form.

Will NHL 17 improve upon that shaky step back? It won’t be long until we find out.

For the second year in a row, EA is offering a sneak peek of its new hockey game in the form of a public beta. The good news is it will run from noon PST on July 28 until 11:59 p.m. PST on Aug. 4. on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The bad news? The sign-up is already closed.

So what will those lucky enough to be in on the sneak preview see? In videos released last week (see below), EA says it focusing on providing better battles in front of the net, offering more “authentic” goalie stances with the aim of allowing tenders to make more saves based on positioning rather than reactions, and improving the targeting of hits. The producers also say they have worked on making players more agile, so moves like spinning and pushing off defenders will be a new feature.

The YouTube video below, on gameplay, already has more than 200,000 views and it seems most people like it, with more than 2000 thumbs-up, compared to just 105 thumbs down. But you don’t have to dig far into the comments section to find the usual complaints. But YouTuber “Chief Xibalba” might have summed up the reaction best.

“I’m by no means a defender of EA, but lmao at the people constantly looking for something to bitch about,” he says. “These same people are the ones that are going to end up buying the game anyways as they always do.”

Below: NHL 17 | Gameplay Series: Control The Ice Trailer | Xbox One, PS4

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.

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One thought on “EA Sports to launch NHL 17 public beta, but will it score with fickle fans?

  1. As a long time EA-NHLer, I can tell you that over the last few years the game has been getting better however, not at a pace that keeps the long time customers happy. Graphics are great. Period. The AI and lots of other things, not so much. It looks to me that EA is concentrating on attracting more users to the game than to make us long time customers happy. This has been the pattern anyway. Like it says in the article, “…people end up buying the game anyway”, so they don’t have to concentrate too much on making us happy. The biggest issue I have with the game is not the game itself but with EA’s lack of communication with the user community. Every year they say they’ll improve but it hasn’t happened yet. They have no competition so I’m guessing that there is a lack of resources. They mean well but can’t deliver.
    Anyway, I look forward to the new version. I only ask for one specific improvement every year and that is more intelligent AI. As a veteran developer, I understand that AI is not as simple as the general user community believes it is. (If it was we’d have robots all over the place doing everything for us. Driverless cars aren’t there yet but they are coming) Hopefully, the EA marketing team isn’t forcing too many new/improved “attractive” features into the game and this is the year the AI intelligence takes a huge step forward and therefore, makes us long timers happy to play hockey again.

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