Bing Gordon is at the helm of the most powerful third party game developer and publisher in the world, with hands firmly at 10 and 2. As the chief creative officer and an executive VP at Electronic Arts, the man has a lot on his plate, but his vision for the company and its direction is amazingly straightforward.
In this expansive interview, Gordon spoke about the huge investment that is Spore, which will take years to recoup (but will be worth it, he promises!), the increasing financial and creative expense of licenses, why EA didn’t support the Dreamcast, the result of the Renderware middleware purchase, and his three level 60+ priests in World of Warcraft.
EA is really trying to bring its original IP to bear, with Army of Two, the new Spielberg project, Boom Boom Rocket, and others. This is a pivotal time for the game industry, and so too for gaming’s 500 pound gorilla.
What is coming of EA's push for original IP?
William "Bing" Gordon: There's a lot going on. When you walk around the company now, there's at least one new thing going on at every location. In some cases, there are multiple things. It's kind of exciting. It feels like a pretty rich vein of stuff. It's invigorating, and we like it.
Is it returning the kind of results that you were hoping for?
WG: It's too early to tell. It's always more predictable to make money off of milking a franchise than making a new one. We need to make new ones a little faster than we lose old ones, so the big push for us is to make new franchises that we wholly own more possible. You get something like The Sims once a decade.
I hope Spore is as big as The Sims, and hope Army of Two is as big as Medal of Honor. I'm also excited about getting Command & Conquer back. Even the new Medal of Honor is pretty exciting. I'm excited about The Simpsons, Boom Boom Rocket, and some of the new stuff we're doing on Pogo.
The highly anticipated dual role action game Army of Two
How important do you see Spore being to EA's future?
WG: If it's as big as The Sims, [it will be very important]. The Sims gave us a three-year financial lift and created a new division for us. The Sims is as important for us as Madden or FIFA, so one of those is always good.
It's the hardest thing that anyone at EA has ever tried, by a lot. Even for somebody like Will Wright, there's so many moving parts that it's hard for him to fully imagine the end result. For two decades, we've made games where we could mostly imagine the end result before we started, but in Spore, we ended up imagining the possibility space and then designing within it for a long time.
With Spore, we're trying to learn how to take socialization and customization in games to the next level, where customization starts having animation, not just meshes and textures. We're trying to cover new content in various kinds of evolution. We're trying to figure out new ways to make mini-products in the game. When we did The Sims for the first time, we strictly tried to make it a massive single-player [experience]. Customizing everything was new. There's the photo album feature that turned out to be wildly important. That got invented at beta.
Spore has more innovations than The Sims did. So, Spore is important because it might create a new division for EA, but for sure what it's doing is getting our feet wet in trying to do a Web 2.0 game.