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Army of Alain - Inside EA Montreal
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Army of Alain - Inside EA Montreal

December 29, 2006 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

Alain Tascan is almost certainly not the image of an EA employee that most people would have in mind; he's emphatically French, and resolutely not afraid to speak his mind. It was speaking his mind at the recent Montreal International Game Summit that led to headlines across the specialist press for the charismatic General Manager of EA Montreal. Speaking during the roundtable discussion that ended the summit, Tascan said he felt the recent Xbox 360 title Gears of War brought “nothing in terms of innovation to the shooter... Like, zero,” adding, “myself, I prefer something more creative."

It didn’t take long before people brought up the irony of an executive at EA, most famous for their annual sports franchise titles, making a comment about innovation. The day after his infamous comments, Gamasutra had a chance to talk with Tascan and tour the EA Montreal Studios.

New IP

“We are around 300 people now including EA mobile upstairs, and there is space to grow,” Tascan said, adding in good humor, “We are working right now on three things: Army of Two, the new IP which better be good, otherwise people are going to kill me after my comments about Gears of War; SSX on the Wii, which is due in March; and another new IP which I’m not able to talk about.”

The emphasis on new IP from EA might seem unusual, but Tascan emphasised, “EA has realized that what we need now to stay number one and keep that edge is really to focus on creating new IP. I mean, we just did Superman Returns and all the sports, but we feel that we are now ready to take big bets on new IP, and not bet the farm on the established titles. And we think this is something that people are going to react well to, because EA is not known for this. I mean, if you look at the comments of people on some of the things I’ve said and they say ‘how can you dare talk about innovation?’ And that’s what we want to prove that as a company we can do it.”

Montreal’s Influence

“Montreal is the number two city after Boston in terms of student per head of population,” Tascan described. Discussing the downtown location of EA Montreal’s understated office block, he explained, “We are a few blocks away from McGill University, and we are a few blocks away from Concordia, two Anglophone universities. A few blocks away is the University of Quebec in Montreal and just over the hill is the University of Montreal. If you do a circle and try to find the centre, we’re right there. And why? Because 75% of our people are people who’ve come straight out of college. And we feel like the energy and the freshness that they have is what we want.”

EA Montreal's Reception Area

The vitality of Montreal was a topic that Tascan found himself returning to repeatedly. “To work on new IP, that’s something that in the past five years EA hasn’t been very active. At the highest level they said ‘okay, we need to do something to freshen up, to add to new innovation.’ And we spearheaded that. Not in a rebellious way; but in a fresh way for EA. We were learning as they were learning, as they were willing to learn. It was really a mandate we’d been given and now other studios in the UK, in San Francisco, are also doing the same thing.”

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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