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Insomniac Games Going Multiplatform With Electronic Arts

Insomniac Games Going Multiplatform With Electronic Arts Exclusive

May 25, 2010 | By Chris Remo

May 25, 2010 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Despite its independent status, Insomniac Games has spent the first 16 years of its life releasing games only for Sony platforms, and the company has seen great success with its Sony-owned Ratchet & Clank and Resistance franchises.

Now, the California-based studio is finally ready to widen its development reach, and it's doing it with Electronic Arts.

Insomniac's next game is coming to Xbox 360 as well as PlayStation 3, although the company isn't ready to discuss any details about the game itself, such as its setting, gameplay, or planned release date.

Why switch publishers now, after a Sony relationship that dates back to 1998's Spyro the Dragon?

"It was the desire to reach more players," Insomniac founder and CEO Ted Price told Gamasutra in advance of today's announcement. "We're extremely happy with the loyal PlayStation 3 fan base, and our goal now is to take our games to a broader player base -- to go to Xbox 360 as well."

Plus, unlike its existing well-known franchises, Insomniac's new game will remain Insomniac-owned. That's thanks to the company's deal with Electronic Arts' EA Partners division, which has published numerous creator-owned titles like Double Fine's Brutal Legend, Crytek's Crysis, and several Valve games.

"We retain creative control of the franchise and are developing the game. EA is marketing it, distributing it, and taking on the traditional publisher-developer relationship," Price said of the arrangement.

EA Partners marketing VP Craig Rechenmacher told Gamasutra that some studios come to the bargaining table with leverage to demand terms like intellectual property ownership, based on their past successes.

"It's really dependent on developer pedigree," he said. "These guys have 16 years creating triple-A games with worldwide appeal, so they have much more control when it comes to IP ownership."

Unlike many other Sony-affiliated studios, including Naughty Dog, Zipper Interactive, Guerrilla Games, and most recently Media Molecule, Insomniac Games never sold to Sony, a fact Price frequently pointed out in interviews ("We're independent, so we have the opportunity to choose a different direction if we decide to do that," he told Gamasutra in 2008).

Insomniac now employs more than 200 staffers, across its Burbank headquarters where the EA project is in development and its Durham, North Carolina location where an unannounced project is in the works.

Despite the growth and the EA deal, Price says his company doesn't plan to abandon its longstanding Sony relationship, nor the games that go with it. "It's been a goal of mine and for others at the company to control the IP we create, but we've been very fortunate for 14 years to have a partner like Sony who supported us as an independent," he said. "That has been a very symbiotic relationship, which will continue."

"We have just as strong a commitment of working with Sony as we ever have, and to our existing franchises Resistance and Ratchet & Clank," he noted.

"We've been building to this point for a while," Price said of his company's current plans. "We have multiple teams working at Insomniac. We have a team dedicated to this project. We are dedicating new technology for the Xbox 360. As a company, we are taking more time for all our projects to make sure we can really polish them up and make sure fans have the best experience possible."

On the EA side, since the publisher has no direct ownership of the new franchise itself, there is no guarantee Insomniac will continue to work with EAP. "Our job is simply to help them blow this launch out," Rechenmacher said. "This is a one-product deal, but we want to earn the right to work with Insomniac for a long time to come."

On Insomniac's side, the studio's choice of publishing partner was partially informed by the years the company had spent simply keeping open its lines of communication with as many other developers and publishers as possible.

"We talked to everybody -- literally," explained Price. "I think every developer who's been around for more than a few years does that.

"It's important to maintain relationships with every company," he added, "whether they're a platform holder or not, just to make sure you have options down the road. It's a small industry, and we all learn from each other."

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