Q&A: Pandemic Studios on The EA Acquisition
To discuss the future of Pandemic Studios under EA management following this afternoon's announcement of its acquisition, Gamasutra spoke to the developer's management team, including co-founder and president Josh Resnick, co-founder and CEO Andrew Goldman, and chief production officer Greg Borrud.
This conversation touches on the future of Pandemic's development style, its integration with EA and its expectations for the future of the development studio and its IP:
How were you consulted on this acquisition before it went through?
Josh Resnick: Consulted...? We were actually driving it through, with our partners at BioWare and at VGH and at Elevation. When we sat down and had our first conversation with John about his vision for how it would come together and what it would mean for both companies, it was a very much a collaborative discussion at that point between all the stakeholders in the company.
Do you feel that your way of running the studio might change? Are you worried about changes under EA management? Or are you expecting things to continue as they were?
Greg Borrud: No, absolutely. We kind of pride ourselves on our independence for the last couple years, and we definitely want that to continue. And by all signs, that will continue as we move forward.
Nothing is changing internally in terms of management, nothing is changing in terms of the way we develop games, the kind of games we want to develop, our core pillars of building big brands and having event launches, and attracting the best talent in the industry. Those have been kind of core to who we are at Pandemic for years, and we think that actually EA allows us to take that to the next level.
JR: That's why they're partnering with us. That's how they ascribe value to us. They want us to continue to do what we're doing but grow and get even more support from their organization to continue on that path.
GB: We really do see our [company] as hopefully a really strong label within the larger EA organization. We're being brought in to really fill out their action-adventure category. And we think that compliments their strengths in all the other genres. And we think we can really help push their business forward by giving them all the great products in development right now.
When it came to Mercenaries 2: World in Flames and Saboteur, you spent a lot of time working on those products before they were pitched to publishers, and there was a lot of talk about how that strategy allowed you to really craft them and be innovative. How do you think that will be affected by this acquisition?
JR: Again, one of the big reasons we believe why EA is making this purchase and wanting to partner with us is because of our ability to be creative like that and to really stretch our limits and innovative, and to really focus on creating blockbuster original IPs.
This is something that EA is spending a lot of time and a lot of investment in over the years, and it's something that we certainly pride ourselves on our ability to create those kind of enduring, lasting original IPs and they want us to continue to do that. We actually don't see that changing at all. And if anything, we think we're going to be given more room and flexibility and support to continue on that path.
GB: One thing that we've been wanting to do for years is bring the marketing organization into game development from the very beginning, and make sure that we're building something that really is a true brand that can stand beyond one game, but spin out to many, many games. EA has such a powerful marketing organization, by tapping into that, I think, at the very, very early stages of our product development, we can make even better franchises going forward.
Are you talking about things like focus grouping and demographic information?
GB: What it is, is we want to internally, here at Pandemic, be building that capability to really be in touch with what the consumer wants. That can be focus testing, that can be tons of research that's happening, that could be just someone who looks at the game differently than we do when we're very, very close to the product.
That doesn't mean that we're going to be designing the games by focus group. By no means is that the way we're going to go. We still trust our instincts. We still want to build a game that we believe in. But we do believe that having a broader world view on our products when we're in those early stages allows us to really refine the vision of the product and make sure we create something really, truly great.
Are you going to be adopting any of EA's tools, tech or infrastructure, that kind of stuff?
Andrew Goldman: One of the key building blocks of Pandemic is that we organize all of our development teams into little mini developers inside of the developer here. We do that to really supply them with the tools and the support, but let them make their own decisions and really take ownership and accountability for building a great game.
We absolutely do not see any of that changing as a mandate coming from anyone. So the teams here are totally encouraged to look at everything that exists among other teams at EA and BioWare, draw in what works best for them. Now they'll also be able to look at the broader organization of EA and pick up what works for them, and really use it. But in the end, it's their decision and they make it to support the game that they're building.
GB: And certainly we're not going to mandate technology changes or anything like that, we've been building our own technology for nine years; we've got a lot of great open world engines internally -- so we do have great core tech. Just like when we looked at BioWare when we first partnered with them -- we looked at this amazing face tech that they've got in Mass Effect. It's like, "Well, we want to tap into that!"
So we hook up our engineers and our animators and our designers to work with them and I think in some of our games, like Saboteur, we're trying to tap into that big strength that we have and bring that to our games. Now we look at all of the amazing games that EA has in development and we want to start doing the same thing. But to Andrew's point, absolutely, that's driven by the teams and not mandated from us, in upper management.
Can you talk about what's going to happen to outstanding properties you've been working on, like Full Spectrum Warrior or Star Wars: Battlefront?
JR: Well, right now we have two products that are announced. And we have a bunch of titles that are unannounced. So, unfortunately, we really can't talk about those unannounced titles...
In the sense that -- is the Full Spectrum Warrior IP owned by THQ?
JR: Actually, no. Full Spectrum Warrior is an IP that is owned by Pandemic. Destroy All Humans is another original IP that we worked on with THQ at the time [and is owned by THQ].