EA’s use of licensed music is incredibly underappreciated

Sound design by its nature is one of the most underappreciated parts of game design.

It’s not immediately front and centre like gameplay and graphics, but poor sound design can be immersion breaking.

Nothing can bring you out of a game faster than a supposedly deadly weapon that sounds like an air rifle.

But while in-game sound design continues to be an aspect all developers grapple with, there is only one true king of the licensed track – EA Games.

From the early days of the Need for Speed series (with notable mention to the Underground games) to its SSX series, EA has always tailored its licensed tracks to the game at hand, but more importantly to its audience.

Nowhere is this more apparent than its sports games, one of the more unusual genres in gaming.

Sports games exist in a space where typical “non-gamers” will continue to buy them year after year, but the amount of depth and complexity in their systems make them some of the most compelling games on the market (yes, even if they don’t change that much every year).

This means developers have to tailor a soundtrack that is not only commercially accessible but also can sustain repeat listenings as even traditional non-gamers will spend hours with the game.

And while you may find a song you can’t stand, EA continues to knock it out of the park with its licensed offerings.

South African gamers will be most familiar with the FIFA soundtracks and its ability to mix international pop tracks with traditional western indie offerings, but EA offers the same across its entire staple.

The NFL games typically manage to combine RnB and Country into a single soundtrack – something that’s offered virtually nowhere else but still speaks to that game’s core audience.

So while you may take issue with how little EA has actually introduced in this year’s R999 installment, chances are that anger won’t be directed towards the game’s stellar soundtrack.

What’s your favourite licensed song in a game? Let us know in the comments below and in our forums.

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EA’s use of licensed music is incredibly underappreciated

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