2008 came, along with lots of new IPs. Do you think that it was the right strategy to
launch that many new IPs so quickly, or, as you look back on it, would you have
spread them out?
FG: I'm not the kind of guy who ever looks
back. I look back long enough to learn a few things and then apply them going
forward. I think in the spirit of your question, I think we launched too many
new IPs all at once in Q3.
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 really build the fanbase, build
the community, and get that long lead demand built.
So I probably in hindsight would have
picked a couple different windows for Dead
Space and Mirror's Edge. It was
kind of unknowable at the time, because a lot of IP gets created in those
times. Big traffic, lots of volume.
We didn't anticipate a dramatic downturn in
the economy at the same time. So, new IPs, we learned a lot about how to launch
them and how to create them.
But to be honest with you, we didn't have a
lot of sequel product laying around. So, it was a strategy that we had to
embark on, which was to, you know, reload with intellectual properties.
If you look at Need for Speed as an example, a lot of the products that we hit
last year were products that I inherited from prior teams because I'd been in
the job nine months. Games typically take 24 months to build.
If you look at
what we're doing now with Need for Speed, we're re-inventing it with Shift, Nitro, the multi-studio
alternating year strategy that we embarked upon so that we could raise the
quality of Need for Speed, get it
back into the charts, get people fired up about the game.
It's a huge franchise, but it was sliding
out on quality. We needed to shake it up and change it. I think the feedback
we're getting back from E3 is positive on both of those games, so it's kind of
doubling our efforts to do that.
EA/Slightly Mad Studios' Need for Speed: Shift
read the E3 Show Daily; you were talking about the renewed focus on quality.
How has the greenlighting process changed? Obviously, you make the standards
higher. How do you weigh that with scheduling of the releases?
FG: Well, you know, the market conditions
don't exist where you could profitably make 75-rated games anymore. You really
need to be in the 80s and the 90s, at least in the category that we're in,
which is the blockbuster category.
So, in terms of greenlighting, what we've
done is we've put a lot more focus on team composition and the quality of
talent inside of the team, really understanding -- who are the 45 to 50 people
that occupy the core creative team, how good are they, how can we add to them,
who are the stars, and how do we make them better?
That has always been the
best indicator of how a game's going to finish, the quality of that creative
core. How long have they been together? Have they been through a couple of
In the greenlighting process, it used to be
a much more financial exercise. Now, I spend as much time on team dynamics and
composition and also the IP as I do on looking at net operating income based on
And we're also trying to, much more
aggressively, put in at least two to three months of polish time back into the
schedule. So, the game is actually functionally complete, content complete,
then we go in and put it through massive amounts of tests, massive amounts of
re-playthroughs, so that we can really get those five, 10, 15 points of
Metacritic that you get at the end of the project.
wasn't doing that how long ago? That's a new thing?
FG: You know, three or four years, products
were coming in hot and hitting the market hot. Dead Space is one of those titles that has a lot of polish built
into it, and a lot of the games we're doing right now like, you know, Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age, and Need for
Speed Shift, is two months polish time.
Last year's Need for Speed finished and went into test, and that was it. There
was no time in the schedule because of the way that the studios have been set
up. So we had to break the cycle and start to give some very careful
We have to have that polish time at the end of the project... We
have to make sure that on the front-end, we have the right IP and the right
team to build it, and give them that frame. That's basically the formula that