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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Electronic Arts - Resistance Is Futile? 38

Thanks to USNews.com for its feature discussing the increasing dominance of videogame publisher Electronic Arts, pointing out that, using figures from its recent financial results, that: "In 1999, EA had eight platinum, or million-plus-selling, titles. In the past year, it produced 27 of them. Back then, EA possessed 10 percent of the North American game market. Today, it has captured 22 percent of it." The article discusses EA's wish "to double the size of the company every four or five years", and also talks about revenues from online gaming, where it's hoped "some 15 to 20 percent of EA revenue should come from... during the next console cycle", despite the "costly failure" of The Sims Online - however, EA CEO Larry Probst "...guesses that future online gaming will follow the cable television model, where you will pay a subscription to access various 'channels' of gaming services"),
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Electronic Arts - Resistance Is Futile?

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  • I don't know (Score:5, Interesting)

    by man_ls ( 248470 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @07:40PM (#9036658)
    I don't know what it means, but EA is sponsoring a new degree program at UCF, it memory serves me correctly.

    Not just a new class or set of classes but a whole new specialized degree.
  • Bigger is easier (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tyggyr ( 133366 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @07:41PM (#9036659) Homepage
    Budgets are getting bigger. Development times are longer. Teams are (much) bigger. Licenses are more expensive. Game complexities are bigger.

    As long as those trends continue, and they likely will, EA is one of a vanishingly small number of publishers that can fund a significant number of high-end titles. Few publishers seem able to increase their hit rate, so they need to ship several titles annually in hopes of scoring big.

    It'll take an order of magnitude improvement in development tools before the smaller guys can compete at this level. And unfortunately the tools developers haven't stepped up to the plate yet.

    Look for more consolidation over the next 3-5 years. It's going to get much harder for the little guy before things start to shift again.

    EA's only real danger is its own weight.
    • by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @09:00PM (#9037036) Homepage Journal
      A significant amount of effort could be cut from the production of games if more artists were willing to copyleft [wikipedia.org] their works. I once saw 100 different 3-D models to represent buildings in a subdivision casually submitted for destruction after they were finished building it instead at the very least giving it to the citizens so they could have a cool 3-D flyover for their neighborhood.
    • Re:Bigger is easier (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nelsonal ( 549144 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @09:29PM (#9037201) Journal
      This is very similar to Hollywood's maturity from the 30s and 40s to modern day. In the early days of movies, there were lot's of studios and movies were cranked out because they were cheap to produce. Later as budgets became larger, the more successful studios began buying up the smaller studios until only a few big distribution comapnies exist today. As video game budgets increase similar things will happen. Of course, just as Blair Witch gets made for a few thousand there will be occasional game titles that catapult new developers to the big leagues, but they will more than likely do it with the assistance of one of the bigger names.
  • buy out/merge with westwood a while back and probly a host of other companys who's names escape me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2004 @08:13PM (#9036835)
    I think a Larry Probst icon with Borg-like appendages is appropriate for all future EA articles. They're about as aggressive as Microsoft.

    Please, I'm not some anti-capitalist rookie, I just think it would be super funny.

    How about just a picture of the Guardian from Ultimas 7-9?

    Many folks online have drawn parallels between the plight of an EA controlled Origin Systems and the plots of those Ultima games. Pirt Snikwah? The Cube, the Sphere, the Dodecahedronwhatsit?
  • EA's Law (Score:5, Funny)

    by schnits0r ( 633893 ) <.nathannd. .at. .sasktel.net.> on Sunday May 02, 2004 @08:36PM (#9036944) Homepage Journal
    "size of the company doubles every four or five years" (See. Moore's Law)
  • by MiceHead ( 723398 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @08:43PM (#9036978) Homepage
    I'm hoping that Electronic Arts's transition from boutique software house to publishing juggernaut leaves room for -- well -- other boutique software houses. Many here must recall the early days of EA [wikipedia.org]. They published titles that their small teams were passionate about; and while I've enjoyed many of EA's recent, grander offerings, they appeal to me in a much different way.

    For the time being, the advent of a middleware industry is making it easier -- not harder -- for smaller studios to produce good-looking titles with depth. Consider that there are many audio libraries [fmod.org], 3D engines [garagegames.com], and AI middleware [gameai.com] libraries which are quite reasonably priced. Smaller studios seem to go strange and wonderful directions with these; (if you haven't already, try some of the Indie Game Jam [indiegamejam.com] titles, which make use of a simple, standardized physics engine).

    I labor under the impression that the gaming public has a desire for boutique products; if I'm wrong, I don't mind taking my licks and moving to something more productive.
    • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Monday May 03, 2004 @04:16AM (#9038619)
      The problem isn't the code. Its the non-technical creative aspect. Artwork especially, but sound as well. These are hard to make, and there isn't a corresponding movement to open source in their community. The artists I talked to despised the idea- that they couldn't control exactly how anything they ever created was used down to the last detail. I don't quite understand their viewpoint, but it exists.

      Thats the roadblock. Open source and libraries will fix the technical side, the artistic is still up in the air.
      • by May Kasahara ( 606310 ) on Monday May 03, 2004 @08:47AM (#9039313) Journal
        The artists I talked to despised the idea- that they couldn't control exactly how anything they ever created was used down to the last detail.

        Part of the reason that may be is due to artists' egos ;) As an artist's or musician's work is considered a more "visible" aspect of a game, so naturally they'd want to take full credit. There's also the fact that, with some exceptions, artists aren't used to working on collaborative projects, be they open source or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2004 @08:55PM (#9037018)
    I worked for EA for about 3 years. I worked for Kesmai (Legends of Kesmai, Air Warrior, et. al.) for about 5 years before EA bought them.

    The "cable tv" model of online gaming pricing isn't any new idea. It's been discussed for at least as long as I've been in the industry. The latest incarnation of it is SOE's "basket" pricing. The biggest (and probably fatal) flaw with the idea is that people don't have the time or inclination to learn or play more than

    It's funny that the financials hint at EA wanting ~12% of their revenues to be from online gaming. It's alost pretty funny to see that they only mention The Sims Online as a failed online albatross around their necks. Here's a more complete list: * EA.com - the entire service failed * Majestic - Rumored $9M+ to make. Shut down less than 2 months after launch. * Motor City Online - showed such promise too * Earth & Beyond * TSO - I just don't see how it will ever turn a profit. * UO2 - stillborn The only success EA has had in the pay-to-play online space is Ultima Online. They had Air Warrior with 40K+ paying users dev costs on the running version paid for. They killed it (supposedly) because 40K wasn't good enough. EA.com games were all going to run 100K users. Except for UO they've *never* come close to hitting that goal with a game.

    EA can crank out the Madden year after year. They can crank out movie license games too. They know how to do that. They haven't shown that they have any institutional knowledge of the online space, though.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @03:34AM (#9038544)
      They also killed Privateer Online, Battletech 3025 [gamespy.com] (MMP Battletech anyone?), and a whole host of other titles. Many of these cancellations were accompanied by the associated teams being laid off. Being a part of EA rapidly came to mean dreading the first quarter of the fiscal year. March is almost always EA's layoff month. It appears that the foolishness of laying off an entire team at one whack hasn't dawned on them yet. Much of their competition in the MMP space (and other markets) has come from ex-EA employees. The Privateer Online team wound up becoming the Star Wars Galaxies team for SOE. The Ultima Online 2 team comprises a large chunk of the developers over at NCsoft Austin working on Richard Garriot's next game, Tabula Rasa. ION Storm Austin recruited much of it's talent from EA layoff's. As did Digital Anvil and Wolfpack studios.

      EA's bumbling in the MMP market is often amusing, however, as they can't seem to grasp that it takes longer than a year to produce a MMP product of any worth. On top of that, they seem eternally frustrated by the continued success of the now ancient Ultima Online. EA wants and expects to have 6 month to a year product cycles. To have a game live on for 7 years drives them a bit batty. Not only are they dumb as fence posts when it comes to the MMP market, but they don't listen to those of their employees that have been there before and repeat mistakes made with previous products.

      They also tend to be total jerks. When UO: Third Dawn was coming out, they had just laid off the UO2 team (I forget if Kesmai was shutdown that March or the next) and when speaking to the survivors they were asked if the Origin name and logo were going away (it had certainly felt like that for a while). The CEO asked what the employees thought and everyone vehemently expressed their desire to keep the OSI name and logo. At this, he stated that he had a strong belief in the employees of OSI and would make certain that the OSI name and logo continued to exist. Then the Ultima Online: Third Dawn retail boxes were handed out to everyone. No Origin logo...anywhere. No mention of OSI as an entity, studio, nothing. Except in the fine print of the license agreement. Plenty of EA logos everywhere, though (actually EA.com, the bizzare, doomed to failure enterprise that was to be structured around magically converting the 1.5 million unique visitors of Pogo.com, which they had just bought for around $150 million, into $10 a month EA.com subscribers). No subsequent product would ever carry the Origin name. Just this last March, EA shutdown the Origin studio in Austin.

      Of the great PC gaming companies of the 90's, EA has taken over and slowly strangled to death Bullfrog, Westwood, Origin, Kesmai, and Maxis among a number of other smaller companies.
  • In my opinion... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GaimeGuy ( 679917 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @09:41PM (#9037278) Journal
    EA is way too big. They eat up small, well-respected studios like a bad habit (Maxis and Westwood are the two prime examples of this). And we all know where the Command & Conquer series went after EA got it. Frankly, I hate EA. Their games all use the same basic engines, yet they can continue to reuse it year after year after year and sell several million copies of games. I mean, I, personally, get sick of hearing people at school talk about nothing but MADDEN, MADDEN, NBA LIVE, MADDEN, TIGER WOODS PRO GOLF, MADDEN, MADDEN, MADDEN. For every Madden EA makes, they make 50 horrible games. I just get sick of seeing them grow and grow. EA is poisoning the industry, and I don't know if it'll ever stop.
    • by Babbster ( 107076 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `bbabnoraa'> on Monday May 03, 2004 @12:05AM (#9037902) Homepage
      EA doesn't "eat up" small companies. It pays the proprietors good money for them. If the owners don't like what happens after they become part of EA, that's just their tough luck - they've probably got the scratch to try again with a new company if they really care that much. If consumers don't like it, they can stop buying EA games. As large as EA is, they're still not the only game in town.
      • So some guy runs through the living room with a case of chronic, uncontrollable spontaneous diarrhea, pumps wet shit all over everything and all we're allowed to say is "wow, that guy sure makes a mess, don't he?"

        Sounds great.
    • However, as horrible as their "studio-eating" habits are, you must concede that they have found a successful business model/development model for sport titles.

      Their yearly sport titles are a success for various reasons: actualized stats, progressive development, reduced costs, etc.

      The fact that they try to apply this model to other kinds of games, doesn't invalidate the fact that they sport titles are doing well. Just makes obvious that their management are clueless about games, and try to apply the succe
    • In my opinion, C&C: Generals is the best C&C game since the original Command & Conquer.
  • by -kertrats- ( 718219 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @10:37PM (#9037528) Journal
    2004: 22% 2008: 44% 2013: 88% 2017: 176% 2022: 352% 2026: ??? 2031: PROFIT!
  • they are a virus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @12:09AM (#9037929)
    EA buys out companies, assimilates them into their huge pile of crap, then has those companies produce cheap crappy sequals to the companies previously awsome franchise, thus producing a "platinum" game, but in the process running that brand name into the ground. Then EA moves on and does it to another company and another franchise

    (yes I'm bitter about how westwood studios went down the pipe after EA bought them)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2004 @10:00AM (#9039867)
    Let me ask Probst this:
    Would Arcades have been as successful in the 80's if they charged a membership fee instead of a quarter per play??

  • The User Interface on their games are usually garbage.

    I also have one beef about a current release. 2004 Fight Night. While at first it seems amazing later you realize that there really are no custom characters because they all max out at 100 stats accross the board after a few days of play.
  • There is an article over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer [nwsource.com] called The video game faithful have reason to rejoice over sequels that talks about videogame sequels. At the bottom of the article is a list of upcoming games, with the disclaimer "not all are sequels". Actually, in one way or another, they ALL are. Let's go through it game by game:

    Shrek 2 - not sure if it's a direct sequel, but there are about a dozen games based on the first film, including Shrek: Super party and Shrek Extra Large.

    Syphon Filt

    • It's sad but true. The worst part about sequels is that they DON'T necessarily get better. Remember back in the NES days, mario 2 was better than 1. Link was better than Zelda.

      Nowadays, sequels are actually debatable with their predecessors. Not to mention online games (especially EA online games) are useless without 10 patches out of the box.
  • the Old EA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrLint ( 519792 ) on Monday May 03, 2004 @04:17PM (#9044237) Journal
    I sorry i miss the old EA. one of my first game purchases was starflight, and i waited eagerly for starflight 2. Racing destruction set on the c64, Theme Hospital by bullfrog published by EA (that i just played again last week)

    and no post is complete without the 7 cities of gold and marble madness:)

    • I partially blame EA for the current boring state of today's video game market.

      When EA first blazed onto the scene, they were creative and innovative. They took chances by releasing boutique titles (like the aforementioned Seven Cities and Theme Hospital, Archon) without regard for whether there would be mass appeal to them or not.

      Now, all EA does is take an existing concept (FPS, any sport) and rework the graphics and stats engine every year. Certainly, the *quality* of the products that they release

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!