EA DICE general manager Patrick Bach has a lot on his plate. His studio, one of the most influential in the big budget, triple-A games space, has footholds in top of the line game tech (Frostbite engine), a massively successful first-person shooter franchise (Battlefield), and most recently took the opportunity to work with one of the most revered universes in fantasy sci-fi (Star Wars: Battlefront).
If the big budget game space is about mitigating as much risk as possible, and putting bets on "surefire" hits to the best of one's ability, then DICE has a pretty good system going.
But amid the Battlefields lies an anomaly from DICE: Mirror's Edge. A cult hit from way back in 2008, the first-person adventure game rests conspicuously within DICE's portfolio, flanked by sequels and spinoffs of Battlefield. Mirror's Edge is just now getting its first proper sequel, with Mirror's Edge Catalyst slated for 2016.
"The first game was quite good and very interesting. It had some flaws," Bach tells me in a recent interview. "From a business perspective, that might not be the first game you place your bets on--you'd put your bets on the things that you know already work. Why bet on an IP like Mirror's Edge?"
Rumored for years, a Mirror's Edge follow-up was confirmed at E3 2013, with EA drip-feeding information about the game over the last couple of years. Bach says there was a lot of internal discussion of whether or not the franchise was worth coming back to--if it was worth betting on.
"As a commercial success, you can have the discussion of 'is it worth doing another one or not?' The first one sold quite a bit," says Bach, although he points out that a lot of those unit sales happened long after (and at a much lower price than) the original $60 price point.
But he says, even within the corporate monolith of EA, the decision to place a commercial bet on a game's creation wasn't purely commercially-driven. There was also a desire from the talent within DICE to move outside of Battlefield once again and make another Mirror's Edge.
"As a commercial success, you can have the discussion of 'is it worth doing another one or not?'"
Nothing is certain when it comes to the business of video games. But certainly there wasn't the kind of hand-wringing over whether or not DICE would do another Battlefield game in the same way it considered a sequel to a last-gen game from 2008.
So if there were questions at DICE such as "Why bet on an IP like Mirror's Edge?" (a statement which itself conjurs up images of horse races and roulette tables) does it not seem like quite an unusual risk for Bach and DICE, especially in the hit-driven environment that's only escalated as such over the past few years?
"Looking at what we have today, I don't see Mirror's Edge Catalyst as risky at all," Bach insists. "It was a risk when we conceived it. But that's based on maybe preconceptions of what it will be versus what you want it to be. That's always the hardest thing.
"You could argue the same thing with a Battlefield game - it's just a shooter. Isn't it risky to make a shooter? There are millions of shooters out there, so why make another? But we often talk about risk as an opportunity."
So while the shooter market might be very crowded, there will always, of course, be room for a good shooter, he says. And with Mirror's Edge Catalyst, he feels like the thematic concept, team, and tech are in the right place in order to make the game a success in an underserved video game genre.
Says Bach, "There aren't that many games in that [first-person adventure] genre. Getting that [core] right, on top of the emotion and world of Mirror's Edge, I see that as an opportunity, not a risk."