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E3: 'We Launched Too Many New IPs At Once' - EA's Gibeau
E3: 'We Launched Too Many New IPs At Once' - EA's Gibeau
June 3, 2009 | By Kris Graft

June 3, 2009 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC, E3

Electronic Arts' credibility went up a few notches when the publisher last year switched on an aggressive plan to release an increased amount of new intellectual properties -- the publisher wanted to showcase its creative muscle instead of its factory-like tendency to churn out sequels.

But the plan wasn't a complete success. While the new horror game Dead Space won accolades and had strong sales, for example, there was Mirror's Edge from DICE, which fell short of commercial expectations.

"I'm not the kind of guy that ever looks back. I look back long enough to learn a few things, and then apply them going forward," EA Games label boss Frank Gibeau said as part of a larger interview at this week's E3 in Los Angeles.

"But I think that we launched too many new IPs all at once in [fiscal] Q3 [the holiday quarter]. I would have spread them out and found better windows for them. I would have had longer marketing for them. The marketing cycles were fairly short. We didn't have enough assets to build a fan base, build a community and get that long-demand build."

"So in hindsight, I probably would have picked a couple different windows for Dead Space and Mirror's Edge. It was kind of unnoble at the time because a lot of IP gets created in those times of big traffic and lots of volume. And we didn't anticipate a dramatic downturn in the economy."

EA's most recent holiday was particularly difficult, due to lagging sales of games. Cost reduction initiatives saw the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based publisher cut 1,100 jobs and close 12 facilities.

Gibeau added, "With new IPs, we learned a lot about how to launch them and how to create them." He said he expects EA to launch two to three new IPs per year going forward.

He also explained that EA has learned lessons in quality. In calendar 2008, for example, the company had 13 games rated 80 or above on average. A year prior, there were only seven games above that mark.

The increase in strong reviews is no coincidence. "We're trying to much more aggressively put in at least two to three months of polish time back into the schedule," Gibeau said. "So a game is actually functionally complete, content complete, then we go in and we put it through mass amounts of tests, massive amounts of replay-throughs, so that we can really get those five, 10, 15 points on Metacritic."

"Dead Space was one of those titles that had a lot of polish built into it, and a lot of the games that we're doing right now like Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age and Need for Speed Shift also have built-in polish."

It wasn't always that way, Gibeau said. "Three or four years ago, products were coming in hot, hitting the market hot. ... You know, last year's Need for Speed finished tests, and that was it. There was no time in the schedule [for polish] because of the way the studios had been set up. We had to break the cycle and give very careful consideration to polish times. We have to have that polish time at the end of the project, or none of it matters."

We'll have more from Gibeau in the near future.

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Joshua Sterns
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I'm glad to hear that EA is learning from past mistakes. Mirror's Edge and Dead Space may have had better sales if they weren't going up against the holiday blockbusters (Fallout3, Gears of War 2, Fable II, etc).

Also, the more polish the better. I know that's not always easy when money is invovled but it sure has hell makes a difference. Too many games today have numerous bugs that hinder the players expereince.

These bugs range from simple collision and audio issues to progression stoppers. It's almost like looking at a copy of the Mona Lisa where she has a lazy eye. The potrait is still a great piece of art, but it just doesn't have the same impact.

Richard Cody
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Fallout 3 was almost like launching a new IP. A whole new perspective and style of gameplay were added to a game that didn't have a big presence in gaming for a long while.

As for Mirror's Edge, I wish that game sold well, I loved it. I don't often go back over single player games to replay them but that game is really enjoyable.

You know though Madden games give big smooches to bugs because they're everywhere. The ball flipping around in a quarterback's hand, players running through the stadium walls, lifeless sidelines, awkward tackle animations (sometimes), the fact that the best way to play the game is to completely change everything around at the line.. That's what they do in tournaments I've seen.. I know they can't take a year where all they do is polish, but it needs it badly.

Maurício Gomes
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If Mirror's Edge had a proper COMPLETE story and size, making its price worth, it would sold better.

Seriously, 50 USD for a game that I could finish in 6 hours and that ends in a half-cliffhanger?

Joshua Sterns
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Don't forget about Time Trials. That is a whole other game mode, and adds more hours to the title.

Mike Lopez
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Nice one, Frank. I never thought I would see the day EA would change it's tune. A decade ago internal teams were getting hammered by execs for annualized sequels AND pressured into premature releases far short of ANY polish time (often with major bugs). A few years ago they finally realized annualized releases of non-sports franchises were not attainable or desirable (for quality and self sales-cannibalization reasons) and now they finally see the value of added polish time.

Daniel Kaplan
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So do you rate games for how long it take to finish them? Then WoW is probably the best game in the world.