According to Venture Beat, EA has employed 1500 engineers over eighteen month to create a single ID system, Single Identity, which will unify all their games across every platform: PC, Xbox, PS3, even iOS and Facebook. Intrigued, I talked to an EA representative to learn more of this new system and what it will mean for EA…and for gamers. Okay, to be honest, my first thought was, “OMG, I can play my game on both the Xbox and the PS3.”
Not so fast.
EA told me, “That’s two different entitlement systems… It’s not about taking a game and being able to play it on a different platform. You still need to purchase the game for those different platforms.”
How about cross-platform multiplayer, then? Alas, I’ll mostly have to keep dreaming about fragging my Microsoft friends with my Sony system. According to EA, “It’s not about taking your game and putting it on other platforms. It’s about creating a layer on top of what you’re playing to share your achievements and your preferences.”
But just because this isn’t giving me the service of my dreams, it doesn’t mean that Single Identity isn’t notable: Gamers can enjoy the Single Identity system because lets them keep some of their hard-won achievements. For example, if you had played FIFA 12 and had purchased FIFA 13, EA said, your achievements will follow you into the new game. Recognizing my achievements may not be as exciting as importing my FemShep from Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 2, but it’s still nice to have.
However, it seems that EA’s Single Identity is more a way to track data about your games than a way to enrich the gaming experience. EA said their new system was a solution for “having your preferences, your achievements, your gameplay preferences, your payment preferences all recognized, regardless of what game you’re playing and what platform you choose to play on….
“There’s a cost savings benefit with building out the digital platform. Specifically, with a single ID, it makes it easier for us to identify player preferences, push them offers that are more catered to their experience, to understand their preferences and gameplay trends, and being able to track those over time.”
In other words, it’s about customer research. By tracking what we play, EA hopes to figure out what we like, and use that information for future product development. “This gives us a better view into who our consumers are, so that we can tailor products to what they are looking for.” For EA, this sounds like a smart move.
A thought occurs to me. This gives EA the ability to track their customers for the better…but what about for the worse? Last month, EA rewrote a controversial EULA that would have seen players banned for not reporting bugs. Would this tracking system make it easier to permaban players? And not just one platform, but all of them? Could a person who talks smack on an Xbox Live now find him/herself unable to play their favorite casual games on their iPhones?
When I asked, the representative did not know.
Without a direct yes or no, the answer is, “Could be,” so the paranoid among us might want to eschew Single Identity. There’s nothing wrong with a company gathering information about its users. But it’s important that when you sign in to EA’s Single Identity, you know what you’re signing up for.
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