Electronic Arts' EA Partners division, which distributes and markets games by third party companies and sometimes co-funds their development, continues to be one of the key elements of the firm's overall business.
While the allegedly disappointing sales of Mirror's Edge and Dead Space -- both internally-developed EA games -- got a lot of ink this past fall, the company's surprisingly big success story -- albeit at lower royalty rates -- was Valve's Left 4 Dead, an EA Partners-distributed product.
The firm has also signed a number of other high-profile publishing deals, for example with Epic and its People Can Fly studio (Painkiller), plus Grasshopper Manufacture (No More Heroes) for an 'action horror' game. Previously published EAP games include the Rock Band series, Valve's The Orange Box, and Crytek's Crysis.
Gamasutra recently had the chance to speak with David DeMartini, the group general manager for EA Partners, shortly after the company announced a sequel to Alice, the 2000 cult title from the now-independent American McGee.
Here, DeMartini outlines the path that EAP is walking in its company's overall profile, and discusses the vicissitudes of working with external studios in an economic -- and sometimes creative -- climate that's less than comfortable for anyone.
How much is EA Partners growing as a proportion of EA's overall portfolio? Even just a few years ago it wasn't nearly as visible as it now just in terms of volume of projects as well as the notoriety of the projects themselves.
David DeMartini: I think that there is very much a renaissance within the EAP based on the leadership of Electronic Arts. John Riccitiello and Frank Gibeau are very, very pro-independent development.
As we grew, our group has been fortunate enough to be given the green light to go to all corners of the world to try and find the most talented individuals and teams to be able to work with.
That's just incredibly enabling for the team. We are delighted as hell to be able to contribute in any way possible. That said, at the same time, the EA internal teams have continued to raise the bar with regard to the innovation and the quality level that they have delivered.
It very much isn't an issue of internal development versus external development. We are looking for great quality wherever it comes from. It matters less whether it's developed internally or externally, than that we achieve the quality goals that we set.
EA/Valve's Left 4 Dead
With the industry's current financial trends, which are partially the exterior recession but partially other issues more specific to individual publishers and developers, independent studios have been seeing a lot of trouble. Has that impacted EA Partners at all?
DD: Quite honestly, because EA is one of the strongest companies in the industry, we are still out there actively looking for partnerships. People know that when you are looking at options, in this kind of a climate, there is bound to be a consolidation.
There is consolidation at the publisher level. There's consolidation of viable independents that are no longer in business. There's definitely an environment where independents are striving to survive -- you definitely want to get through this period so that you can get to the other side.
And I think the way you get to the other side is by partnering with the strongest partners. I am very proud to represent -- maybe it's a biased opinion -- what I think is the strongest partner of independent development that exists.
I think that a lot of the independent game companies would love to be working with us, and that makes our job a little bit easier.