Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No head-tracking in Boom Blox, EA hates money

If you haven't figured out by now, I'm a pretty strong follower of my Wii. I enjoy the games I've played, the games I will play, and all its cool features. But when Johnny Lee (pictured above) revealed a hack that unlocks even more interactive goodness from this system, I was speechless. When he revealed that part of his innovation would be used in a future puzzle game from EA, I was floored! Then, when EA decided to pull the plug on the added feature, I was devastated.

So here's the story: Johnny Lee hacks the Wii and makes an interactive white board with just a $40 Wii-mote. He goes on to produce LED goggles and a 3D application that simulates 3D immersion via head-tracking, and says it will be a featured easter egg in EA's upcoming Boom Blox.

This was all in February when he presented this to a very-impressed audience, and to an even-more-impressed fanbase online going nuts for the culmination of commercial products and indie-innovative fame.

This was all exciting until just recently at the Nintendo Summit in San Francisco when EA decides to drop the easter egg, omitting it from the final release.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Okay...let's pick this apart for a moment, shall we?

EA announced in February (about 2 months ago) that they will incorporate it as an easter egg. Cost to EA? Practically nothing, since Lee, the one-man innovator, developed the software for all this tracking. And the $10 additional hardware? It's an easter egg - it's completely optional for the user whether they want to shell out the money for extras.

Two months pass, and they still can't get the thing to work. Or so I would like to believe. Maybe it got shoveled aside and left for dead, rotting behind the innovative ideas into making Rock Band Wii even more awesome and the concept of making MySims online. But then again, it's EA - maybe it does take them twice as long to do things than other competent companies.

Then comes the Nintendo Summit, where they officially announce that the feature will be dropped, much to the dismay of fans looking forward to trying out head-tracking in a major, albeit puzzle, game. As of this posting, there's no comment yet from Lee's blog, but I'm sure he might have a few choice words.

Why was this feature dropped? While the majority of people out there want to think that EA just doesn't like money, or that they continuously brainstorm multiple ways to screw people from quality games and features, I think there might be more to it than that. Maybe they're playing it safe; maybe implementing it will break something else in the game, and, in all fairness, the game was in development before Lee's innovation came. Another reason could be that the company doesn't want to handle the extra maintenance that may come from problems incorporating it into the game. I mean, could you imagine the extra work that would've resulted if they HAD made Rock Band Wii with downloadable content, or if MySims WAS online. Yeah, too many resources would've been wasted in making a game even more awesome.

Great job, EA...great job.
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