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Experiments and Innovations: The EA Approach
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Experiments and Innovations: The EA Approach

March 4, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

Now, there's always been a sort-of a push and a pull between relying on internal development studios, and then going with external. EA has the largest development organization in the world, so how do you make those decisions?

PS: I think for me, the biggest driver is talent. And these guys display talent that we didn't have internally, in this particular sub-genre. They also had tech available that we liked, and they themselves were available as a team. So I think from that perspective it was a pretty good match.

Do I think that we could have built this internally? Yes. Do we have tech that could do this? Yes. Do we have tech that could do it as well? Probably not. So, it's always a juggling act of trade-offs.

There are certain aspects that an internal team at EA would do better than what the guys at Slightly Mad could do, but our job is to help them in those areas where they are probably less experienced than we are, and then they will bring their expertise, and hopefully the mix can become a good result.

But, to me, the biggest driver for external versus internal is going to be talent. And also game idea, right? We had the idea, but it was not much more than an idea, and they took an idea and made a game out of it.

Right. Obviously there's a big difference.

PS: Right. To their credit.

And when it comes to technology, is it their tech, or is it your tech?

PS: It's their tech.

So, you didn't acquire the tech, or the engine, or anything.

PS: No.

How do you feel about that, organizationally?

PS: We can't give out details on dev deals, but: we're well protected on the tech side.

"It's valuable to call in the right people for the right job when the right job presents itself," is sort of the guiding philosophy?

PS: Yes. I've found that to be successful in the past. When you force people to do stuff that they're not comfortable with, usually you end up with a bad result. What I like about the Slightly Mad Studios guys is that they have an extreme passion for what they do, and they have a hunger to succeed.

I'm not saying that our internal teams do not have that, but once you're a small external developer, sometimes struggling to survive -- not that they do, but some of them are...

Most studios are the fabled "one deal from closing".

PS: Right. That's true. And that's not necessarily true of an internal team. So, once you give them the chance -- that's what I felt with these guys. We gave them the opportunity to work on Need for Speed, which, ultimately, is the biggest car franchise in the world, and they've taken that to heart, and they're so aggressive, and so passionate, and hard-working, and I think that's paying off.

To me, that's the passion that I wanted when I signed them up, and that drive for quality and to make something that people will enjoy playing, and will have a fun time playing. That's what is important to me.

I know that EA planned to do some reduction in force, which has been coming into effect across studios globally -- but is there a connection between spinning down some of the development teams at Black Box and developing Need for Speed externally?

PS: Not necessarily. As I said, I think that why we chose the Slightly Mad Studio guys was actually not because of overcapacity at Black Box. We picked them because of what they could do for us.

I think a lot of EA as a company is overlooking our whole development organization and saying, "Okay, in what areas can we shave some money off? And in what areas can we be more effective? And in what areas, frankly, are we not succeeding properly?" And based on those criteria, that's how you look at things. That's why we're making the changes that we're making.

It's not a secret that EA, as a company, hasn't performed well lately. And I'm a firm believer in the fact that we're changing that, but sometimes it's hard, and you have to do it right.

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