First introduced in 1999 through a collaboration between Electronic Arts and film director Steven Spielberg, the Medal of Honor franchise stood out among the corridor shooters of the time because of its sharp presentation and focus on the story of the soldier.
But somewhere along the way, the once-acclaimed series lost its luster, and while the Medal of Honor name was still recognizable, competition from top-tier first-person shooter developers and shortfalls in the franchise's innovation and quality caused the series to lose relevance.
With this year's modern day series reboot -- simply called Medal of Honor, and set in modern-day Afghanistan -- EA hopes to once again put the franchise at or near the top of the genre.
Here we speak to EA Los Angeles' Greg Goodrich and Rich Farrelly, Medal of Honor's executive producer and senior creative director, respectively, and EA Games label president Frank Gibeau, who admits the franchise "did fall on hard times," but is confident of a turnaround.
Frank Gibeau, President, EA Games Label
What are your expectations for Medal of Honor, business-wise, compared to Medal of Honor: Airborne?
Frank Gibeau: With Medal of Honor, we're rebooting the series to get into the top 10. I was not satisfied with the sales of Airborne, and it was a project that I inherited when I came into this label, and at the very last minute. We basically had a month on it. So I looked at the future of what I wanted to build inside of the Games label, and we want to be the worldwide leaders in the shooter category, full stop.
We looked at the assets, the intellectual property, and the team talent that we had, it made sense to me to bring Medal of Honor back, but it had to be brought back in a new way with a new approach, and that's what we spent the last 18 months or so working on. We're really excited so far to the response to the reboot, and we haven't even really shown that much at all.
We're going to be in the Medal of Honor business for a long time. It helped build the genre in terms of the shooter category. When we talk to consumers on the research level, there's still a very strong, positive feeling about the brand. It did fall on hard times there, but the goal is to bring it back in a bigger, better, badder way.
What did you see going on with the Medal of Honor franchise when you first came onto the EA Games label that you didn't like? Was the company taking the franchise for granted?
FG: Yeah. I think any franchise that's been around for a long time, they get in a rut, they become over-annualized. They run out of innovation. The team pounds on a game every year, and they get tired, they run out of time and effort to be innovative and try and take some new risks. That was my view on how the franchise has fallen.
I also felt like the online component wasn't getting enough attention. Any shooter worth its salt is going to be really breakthrough in its online play, and I think Battlefield: Bad Company is a good example of that, I think Modern Warfare 2 is a good example of that, I think Halo clearly is a good example of that. The power of a franchise in the shooter category is in the online component and modes.
With Medal of Honor, we felt like we needed to take creative risks with the IP, we need to put together a world-class development team to bring that product to life, and as part of the feature set, online needed to be a significant part of the offer and the design. The DICE guys, the Battlefield 1943 team were able to partner with our LA squad and they're doing some pretty remarkable stuff online for MOH that you guys will find out more about this summer.