Electronic Arts has a reputation among gamers for swallowing
talented game developers only to later turn them into excrement. EA CEO John
Riccitiello knows it, and told Game|Life
at DICE, "We at EA blew it, and to a degree I was involved in these
things, so I blew it."
Developers fallen victim to EA’s previous mismanagement
include the once great Origin Systems, Westwood and Bullfrog. "When I
talked to the creators that populated these companies at the time, they felt
like they were buried and stifled," Riccitiello said.
EA Sports is notorious for making small changes, sometimes
the most significant of which is a roster update, every year to its sports
games and selling them for full price. While that model may work for a select
genre, it’s largely inapplicable everywhere else. EA may have figured that
purchasing a developer for solely the IP would be a winning idea, but one that
is now proven to fail without the adequate inspiration behind it.
"The command and conquer model," said the EA CEO,
"doesn't work. If you think you're going to buy a developer and put your
name on the label... you're making a profound mistake."
Such was the topic of Riccitiello’s talk at the DICE
conference, informing listeners that he would put forth a "new model"
of "how publishers and developers can work together in the future,"
hoping to avoid the mistakes of EA past.
With EA’s most recent acquisition
of BioWare and Pandemic, for which the publisher paid $860 million, the
company now has to makes sure it doesn’t mess with a good thing.
"Creative teams can be thought of as flowers in a
hothouse -- you move the temperature up or down a few degrees and the flowers
will die," Riccitiello said.