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EA Executive Cites Need For More Innovation 84

Posted by Zonk
from the implied-its-funny-laugh-topic-here dept.
The Wall Street Journal has comments from John Riccitiello, EA's new CEO, who has an interesting observation: maybe we should make more original games. "In his first in-depth comments since taking the job in April, John Riccitiello says he worries that the Redwood City, Calif., company and others in the industry make too many games that lack innovation. He says EA and others need both to push more aggressively beyond traditional audiences to court 'casual' consumers and to experiment more with new sales approaches -- outside the norm of selling $50 to $60 discs with 40-hour games that he says few players ever finish. 'We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play,' Mr. Riccitiello said in an interview." Perhaps looking beyond yearly updates to established franchises might be a way to go too. We've seen EA form a casual studio, re-organize the flowchart, adopt the Wii wholeheartedly ... does anyone see EA actually reinventing itself, or is this too little too late?
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EA Executive Cites Need For More Innovation

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  • It's not April 1st last I checked. Pull the other one!
  • noshitsherlock tag? (Score:4, Informative)

    by splutty (43475) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:42AM (#19812387)
    Can we have that added somehow? It would definitely apply to this article...

    Here's a proposal: After releasing Generic Football Game 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, really do something inovative, surprise the public and release...... GFG2007.5!
    • by xtracto (837672)
      After releasing Generic Football Game 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, really do something inovative, surprise the public and release...... GFG2007.5!

      I propose to make a Generic Football game where the player controls the crowd! yeah, the crowd AND even the narrator! he can make the crowd be very pissed off and throw things to the field, even punch and kick other people in the crowd while narrating the game.

      • by AvitarX (172628)
        Actually with the Wii remote controller, and the correct dose of humor it could be a fun game.

        It would have to be cartoony, and be the shorter cheaper game the summary implies, but certainly as a download add-on for free, it could be entertaining.
        • by xtracto (837672)
          And what about this, a player controls the team in the standard way (as with fifa 1990 through 2050 games), but you can use an extra Wiimote to control the crowd and other factors which might give more or less handicap to the playing player. This way, while my I am playing football my girlfriend can help me by doing whatnot with the crowd (like cheerleading) and she doesn't have to just keep watching the ball come and go.
      • by KDR_11k (778916)
        There once was a game on the PC called Hooligans. It was an RTS and quite bloody IIRC (I seem to recall a screenshot showing bodyparts and blood everywhere).
    • Don't kid yourself. We've been on GFG4 for the past few years, they've just updated the version. So I'd say this year, we're going to see GFG4.4, as I figure every year since 2004 has been the same freaking game.
    • by mypalmike (454265) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @01:27PM (#19815443) Homepage
      EA would have to be complete idiots to not make Madden 2008, 2009, etc. It's a huge cash cow - they make several hundred million in revenue from that single title each year. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

      That said, EA is a big company with a corporate culture that doesn't exactly promote creativity. Riccitello is trying to do what he can to push in the right direction. The CEO can't just clap his hands and make creativity happen. He recognizes the issue and is calling for the company, and the industry as a whole, to take more risks and make more creative games.
    • I think this graphic says it best: http://www.overclock247.com/pyr0/EA.png [overclock247.com]
  • Very late at that. I've seen EA take many good game ideas and make complete garbage games (case in point, lord of the rings trilogy). They should've seen this coming years ago, gamers have been posting about the terrible quality of ea games for a long time
    • by MoonFog (586818)
      Arent also the games that makes EA the most amount of money the games that takes the least amount of time to develop? MaddenXX, NBA Live, NHLXX etc, basically roster upgrades with minor fixes every year that really should have been part of the previous years game.. Why spend resources on games that are hard to develop and requires a lot of work when you have cash cows like that..?
      • Why spend resources on games that are hard to develop and requires a lot of work when you have cash cows like that..?

        Because, after a time, people get bored with the same formula over and over again. When that happens a company loses market share, which can be hard to regain.

        Of course, if the cash cows are supplying decent amounts of milk, then you can argue that the formula is just giving the customers what they want.

        Although if that were the case, why the shake up at EA? Why this call for "innov

        • by ultranova (717540)

          Of course, if the cash cows are supplying decent amounts of milk, then you can argue that the formula is just giving the customers what they want.

          Although if that were the case, why the shake up at EA? Why this call for "innovation?"

          Because the shareholders want the share price to grow. For it to grow, the profits must grow, which in turn requires either cutting the spending (read: employees and wages) or increasing the income. Wages can't go under zero, neither can the amount of employees; consequently

          • In short, it's dilberisque bullshit.

            I'm not saying you're wrong in the general case, but I did a little bit of searching in the case of EA. Have a look at this [reuters.com]:

            I don't know if I'm reading that right, but those figures seem to show negative sales growth (compared to a positive from the rest of the industry). There are some other interesting figures in there too, such as the return on assets.

            It seems there may well have been problems at EA over the last 12 months, and the last quarter in particu

      • Because getting a bad reputation can kill all your chances with other franchises, and when their current cash cows inevitably dry up, they'll dry up with it. There's no reason they couldn't put 1/2 their development into familiar games, 1/3 into likely successes that haven't been tested, and the remaining 1/6 into the "WTF is Will Wright thinking?" types of games (not just will wright, just those types of ideas).
    • BF 2142?
    • by lazyl (619939)
      The Return of the King is one of the best games I've ever played. I pull it out every couple of months and play through it from scratch. I've beaten it four or five times since I bought it and I'm sure I'll play it a lot more. There are *very* few games in my library that keep me that interested. It's basically perfect IMO.
  • by hal2814 (725639) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:43AM (#19812407)
    "many games that lack innovation. He says EA and others need both to push more aggressively beyond traditional audiences to court 'casual' consumers and to experiment more with new sales approaches -- outside the norm of selling $50 to $60 discs with 40-hour games that he says few players ever finish. 'We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play,'" (emphasis mine)

    So EA's idea of being innovative is copying Nintendo's recent targeting of casual gamers?
    • All i know is that i buy games based on what entertains me. Yes, EA is notorious for making generic sports games, and updating them every year, but they do that for a reason. People buy them. With the move towards "innovative" games and the "casual gamer" it means there will be more hit or miss titles from EA that will appeal to some people but not others. Step back and look at "The Sims", which has released expansion packs every few months. It's different. It's unique. And people bought it. Not only
      • by hal2814 (725639)
        "All i know is that i buy games based on what entertains me."

        I think you have me confused with someone else. I never took a stance one way or another on the merits of EA being innovative. I also buy what entertains me. And if you look at my previous postings regarding EA, I often defend the Madden series in particular for being updated enough that year X of Madden is almost always better than a mere roster update of year X-1. Being more innovative may or may not be a good idea for EA but judging from th
    • Exactly (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bflynn (992777)
      Here, here. The last real innovation in gaming happened about ten years ago. JR is just stating what everyone in the industry should already know - gaming is dieing. Coming on the heels of recent stories that this may be the last E3, I think it ought to be sending up alarm bells.

      Those who study business have discovered that there is a cycle to industry. Tech is born, flourishes, matures and begins to wane. Innovation is necessary to renew that cycle, to refresh the fading technology. Innovation is
    • "many games that lack innovation. He says EA and others need both to push more aggressively beyond traditional audiences to court 'casual' consumers and to experiment more with new sales approaches -- outside the norm of selling $50 to $60 discs with 40-hour games that he says few players ever finish. 'We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play,'" (emphasis mine)

      So EA's idea of being innovative is copying Nintendo's recent targeting of casual gamers?

      Or maybe they're planning on making $40 short boring games that you can finish even if you are bored to death. If people only play 50% of the games they make, why bother spending the money to make the other 50%? Maybe customers won't get bored if there is just less game in there, and they'll make more money to boot. Why shake up the formula, just cut costs and see what happens.

      They may intend on copying Nintendo but not in a good way. I think EA looked at the situation and thought that Wario Ware, Wii Spor

      • by bflynn (992777)
        Why not just cut costs? Ummmm, because it doesn't work. If EA is like other companies, they don't know which 50% of the games will be liked. If you just cut half, you'll wind up cutting successful games too. Probably, about half of the games cut would have been successful. This is the very dilemma of innovation and product development...where, BTW, a 50% success rate is phenomenal.

        Brian
        • by Danse (1026)

          Why not just cut costs? Ummmm, because it doesn't work. If EA is like other companies, they don't know which 50% of the games will be liked. If you just cut half, you'll wind up cutting successful games too.
          I think he meant that people only play 50% of each game before getting bored with it. So they could just make shorter games and sell them for less, and possibly sell more games overall with roughly the same profit margin on them. That was my take anyway.
  • I always look to Oblivion. Even though its main story is only about 20 hours of gameplay, there's so much side content and explorative content that 40+ hours is practically guaranteed. It may not be a perfect game, but for dollar/hour spent it'll get you more than C&C 3, Need for Speed, and other such EA cantrips.

    if they were more concerned with making decent games rather than putting out sequel after boring sequel, maybe they'd be on to something
    • if they were more concerned with making decent games rather than putting out sequel after boring sequel, maybe they'd be on to something
      isn't that the definition of innovative? doing something new?
    • Oblivion is an amazing example of a good game.

      For those of you who are unexperienced, I advise you to take a look at Oblivion if you have free time and gaming interests you. Like the parent stated, 40+ hours is guaranteed. There is no way around this. I barely even touched the storyline and did a ton of sidequests most of the time. I managed to clock in 74 hours before leaving it where it sits. I've been planning on picking it up again, but life has been throwing me curveballs and I don't have the time.
  • by xtracto (837672) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:49AM (#19812459) Journal
    Perhaps looking beyond yearly updates to established franchises might be a way to go too.

    Franchises can be good. The fact that you have got a character, universe or general idea does not mean you can not innovate over it. Just look at the Mario franchise and all the games that have exploited it, from standard side scrolling games to puzzles and strategy (mario is missing, mario picross, mario & yoshi) to football (super mario strikers) etc. The devil is in the details, which are the ones that define the gameplay. Or what about exploiting the Final Fantasy VIII universe with another type of gameplay ?

    After SimCity 2000 came out, I saw a lot of side games available which "interacted" with your worlds. The one I bought was one where you could drive /inside/ your city (or a representation of your city). I found it quite cool, as I could play one game (SimCity) and after I got bored of building my dream city I could just fire the other and destroy my city driving and launching missiles. That is the same franchise (SimCity) but exploiting different kinds of gameplay!
    • Simcopter streets of sim city.
      • by KDR_11k (778916)
        Wasn't SimCity interaction cut from SimCopter before release? I seem to recall hearing that.
        • Interaction maybe? I loaded up one of my massive metropolises into it though and fought a ton of fires.
    • by EggyToast (858951)
      Yeah, it's funny how many people forget that in most "Top 10" or "Best Games" lists, the best games are often sequels. Either it's #2, because it fixes all the problems of #1 and expands on the game, or some later version that comes out from obscurity and small releases to make a big splash.

      The problem isn't sequels; it's cookie cutter updates that just milk a franchise. I'm sure fans of The Ocarina of Time don't bemoan the fact that it's a sequel, or that SMB3 is the 4th game in the Mario Bros franchi
  • It's never too late for EA to reinvent themselves, question is: will they, or is this an empty gesture? As almost 50% of all the weekly top 10 PC titles come from EA, they have the money to make this work, so I really hope they mean it.

    Problem with originality and innovation is that it brings inherent risk with it and all I've seen EA doing so far, is playing it safe with their zillions of franchises. They could try to bring innovation to those, but I would really rather see them making some new orginal c

    • by Lockejaw (955650)

      Problem with originality and innovation is that it brings inherent risk with it and all I've seen EA doing so far, is playing it safe with their zillions of franchises.
      Of course. The people who call for taking risks and trying new things always seem to be those who are themselves the most risk-averse.
  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7@kc.rrTIGER.com minus cat> on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @10:03AM (#19812625) Homepage
    While its nice for him to admit that EA is contributing to the glut of shovelware, his "solution" concerns me. I for one would rather have a game that is so long I give up and never finish than pay that same $50-$60 for a game that is too easy and lasts an hour and a half. Yes there is a huge market for casual gaming but thats a very fickle audience one that will just as easily abandon it as soon as the next thing hits. The actual gamer is a smaller niche but was able to carry consoles and PC's before the current casual gaming bubble and will be the market that carries them after the bubble bursts, so its best not to abandon them completely.
  • EA... Innovation... Congratulations, Mr. Riccitiello. You've earned yourself the ironic tag.
  • Wait a minute when have EA made a game that last 40 hours
    • by andrewd18 (989408)
      Those 40 hours are game-world time, not real-world time.
    • by trdrstv (986999)

      Wait a minute when have EA made a game that last 40 hours.

      Ok, I know that wasn't the intent of the question, and admittedly there is no "Zelda, FF, or Elder Scrolls" equivalent, but I've sunk at least 40 hours each into Madden, Tiger Woods and Godfather for the Wii. It doesn't require 40+ hours to "Beat the game" but the playability does last for a long time and there is value to that.

  • Oh man... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AbsoluteXyro (1048620) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @10:20AM (#19812821)
    Talk like this really gives me the "mini-game fest" jive.
  • President Bush says there's too much war in the world today.

    Paris Hilton criticizes the cult of celebrity in American culture.

    And so on...

    Yeah, redundant, but it can't be helped on a story like this.

  • by HerculesMO (693085) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @10:57AM (#19813339)
    EA isn't willing to pay for it.

    Their franchise games like Madden, NBA, NHL, etc.. they are the cash cows. They change slightly and the amount of development that goes into the games is slight compared to games like Spore -- games that rethink the way players should be playing.

    I have had friends leave EA (one a DBA, another a C# engine developer) because of their work environment. It might be cool to work for a video game company, but if they insist on slavish hours in order to meet product timelines, release dates, etc... they take that out on the employees and value little after the title has shipped.

    The point initially made is correct -- we need new types of games, new IP that is innovative and fun. But we won't get it from EA. We need to watch the independent studios get investment dollars from the likes of Microsoft, EA, etc... in order to create and produce those titles. It's why I've always been a fan of id Software, Valve Software, and Bungie Studios. And of course, Blizzard. They invented the motto of the game being "done when it's done". EA should take a line from them and stop promising deadlines and overworking their employees in order to meet a hypothetical goal that some idiot cooked up based on some strange logic. When the game is ready, then it's ready. Not before, not after.

    It's why all the new IP that comes out of EA is inherently buggy and requires patch after patch to play. Blizzard games work 100%, right out of the box. Some EA games can't even be finished until they are patched.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      The problem with that is that the employees working at id, Valve, Bungie and Blizzard titles probably enjoy working on those games.

      You can't tell your employees to take all the time they need when they're working on a boring update of a generic sports title.

      "Done when it's done" only works if "it" is worth "doing".
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by HerculesMO (693085)
        Taking that out of the equation, there ARE games that EA has that are great titles, new IP...

        But they continue the same work environment and make it horrendous to work on a game that you may take great pride in. And after all is said and done, unlike id Software who rewards their programmers and staffers after a launch, EA just expects the team to get back to work on "part 2" of the game.

        It's a shame EA is one of the biggest publishing houses.
      • by nuzak (959558)
        > "Done when it's done" only works if "it" is worth "doing".

        And only if it actually does get done at some point. 3DRealms, ya listening?

    • EA isn't willing to pay for [new IP].

      Not true. Even EA recognizes the value of new IP. They just don't want to pay any more than they have to for it.

      EA generally relies on small developers who want publishing deals to create new IP. Almost every publishing agreement includes a clause allowing EA to acquire the developer for a bargain price at a later date. This is what happens with most of the developers EA acquired: they had a hit now EA got the IP at a bargain rate to exploit in the way they see fit.

      T
  • by morari (1080535)
    Most games are already too short and too easy. While I'm not as "hardcore" as I once was, I still like to be able to play a game for at least forty hours before it ends. Sometimes first persons shooters (and such) can't make it the distance without becoming boring. So in such instances I would rather have it tightly packaged and wrapped up as opposed to crammed with filler. However, I also don't pay $60 for those games. So there you go. Start releasing short (but quality!) games at $20 a pop and I'm sure yo
    • by nuzak (959558)
      All you have to do is live 2 years behind the upgrade curve and you can pick up your games on Steam for ten bucks a pop. It's not like games actually wear down when they're old.
      • by morari (1080535)
        I often do wait, actually. My hardware can play the stuff at super high setting by then as well. Though Steam sucks when you don't have broadband.
  • by WidescreenFreak (830043) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @11:31AM (#19813811) Homepage Journal
    This comes from EA?! This from the company that bought and subsequently destroyed Origin Systems, the company responsible for the awesome Ultima and Wing Commander series, two of the best game series ever created? This from the company that bought Bullfrog only to dissolve them into oblivion? (Bullfrog created the brilliant Magic Carpet, which contained true destructible terrain, Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper, among others.)

    EA is the epitome of a company that abhors creativity by buying out companies that are known for creativity and then destroying them all so that they can put more funds to Yet The Same Sports Game Series 2008.

    Maybe if EA delivers a mea culpa about how they've helped to destroy creativity in gaming will I give them any credibility with respect to this statement. A long-overdue apology for the total disaster known as Ultima: Ascension wouldn't hurt either.
    • Nice. Only on Slashdot could fact be modded as "troll".

      Origin and Bullfrog were virtual pioneers in gaming. Anyone who's anyone knows about the Ultima series and how that series practically created the fantasy RPG genre. Bullfrog released some absolutely phenomenal games. Syndicate and Magic Carpet have yet to see their equals, and these games came out when the original Pentium line was relatively new. The Ultima series while it can be argued was nothing but sequels continued to build and build upon
  • The last game I was interested in buying was Falcon 4.0: Allied force or whatever it was called. But I was on Mac and it's a PC game. I remember how cool Falcon 4.0 was with the bugs and how a version with a working campaign engine would be. I think that came out in 2005...

    Ubi killed the Clancey games turing them into arcadish shooters instead of tactical games. Same with Ghost Recon.

  • So, yeah, I agree that the market could really use some good, innovative games, and I don't think it would be too hard to get these out of developers. I am sure that there are a BUNCH of developers who would like to work on an innovative game, the only problem being: PUBLISHERS DON'T FUCKING BUY INNOVATIVE GAMES!!! Publishers hate a fucking innovative game because there is no guarantee they will make back their investment. This is why we see "Lord of the Rings 5: Frodo Rides Again" consuming stores inste
    • And the reason why publishers don't publish innovative games is that there aren't enough people willing to buy these games. EA would publish "Lord of the Rings 5: Frodo Rides Again" because they know that they're are enough consumers willing to buy that game.

      Contrast that with Developer X and their "super cool game with super fun awesome gameplay but requires you to learn a new way of playing games" - the interest and patience of the gamers just isn't there to get them to buy the game.

      The fault lies with t
  • by Angelwrath (125723)
    What EA needs to do is focus on quality, at least with one game - BF2142. I play the game daily and the client is so buggy and unstable that it is not commercial-grade software right now. It used to be stable; several updates ago it was great, but now it is so buggy that it's just ridiculous.

    And yes, EA does make scads of boring games. The best thing for EA to do is split itself up into several companies, one the game development section, and another to be effectively an investment bank to fund games from c
  • by Avatar8 (748465) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @03:40PM (#19817099)
    Kudos to Riccitello for saying something like this. His peer CEO's at other companies are probably choking and gasping that he'd publicly admit such a thing whether it's true or not. Question is did he come up with this himself or did he simply listen to the hundreds of analysts and tens of thousands of consumers that have been saying this for the past 5-10 years?


    I'm with others here that EA owes numerous development studios and their loyal customers a huge apology for stifling creativity in lieu of mass production according to a project manager's schedule. What's next? Will EA take the next obvious step and publicly acclaim that they will not ship a product until it is complete and as bug-free as possible? Yeah, I doubt that, too.

    There are two ways to make money: quality or quantity. I think Wal-mart and McDonald's have the market cornered on quantity. EA is proving that a similar model does not continue to be profitable in the games industry. Eventually your audience grows up and expects more than the next version of the same game. It's time to look towards quality, EA. You have the talent; we've watched you consume them. Let them do their job.

    Thanks for speaking up, Mr. Riccitello. Now can you walk the walk?

  • Perhaps they could come up with a game where a well-armed combatant attempts to penetrate a heavily guarded enemy installation in search of a poorly defined objective. After surmounting incredible odds, there would be a final encounter with a superior enemy. Winning this fight would conclude the game.

    Thank you, I will await my royalty check.
  • I'm sorry, but I'm having trouble thinking of any 40 hour games that EA's published recently. Are they talking about the C&C games, which are primarily played as multiplayer games? Are they talking about the BF series, which are ALSO primarily multiplayer games? The NFS series, maybe, whose protracted length is the result of being able to generate "missions" by drawing lines on a map and recording some voiceovers? The Sims, which was once the poster child for "non-gamer" games?

    Maybe there have been s
  • In the recording studio we have a saying that's apropos to any creative endeavor:

    "Don't tell me you're gonna rock me. Just rock me."

    Hey EA, quick lesson in Coolness 101: do the things you're dreaming of doing first. Secondly, let everyone else talk about how cool/important/innovative it is. Then get back to work. Any deviation from this generally makes you look like a tool.

    It's so f-ing simple, you'd think they'd have it figured out by now.

  • Since The Sims hasn't really been revolutionary lately, nor has Sim City, when can we expect to see Spore?
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      when can we expect to see Spore?

      You sir are the REASON that computer games suck.

      Go on, keep buying that EA CRAP. Oh and be sure to buy Spore II and Spore III.
  • Ever since wing commander III, the game industry has been turning games into drama. I really enjoyed wing commander but the cut scenes (with no way to skip them) really pissed me off. Same thing with Yuris revenge all the way to Ghost Recon III. If I wanted drama, I'd be watching TV. I just want to go in, blow up some shit, and have some mindless fun (like Kitten Cannon[*]). The other thing is the game companies put way too much emphasis on the graphics. Most people have to turn it all off to make it

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