Sections

Former BioWare San Francisco producer believes new IP “just isn’t a priority” for EA anymore

Thursday, 8th November 2012 21:57 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Ethan Levy, a former BioWare San Francisco producer of Dragon Age Legends, has said new IP isn’t “a priority” for EA anymore.

Speaking on his Quarter Spiral blog, Levy believes EA’s new mantra of fewer, bigger brands has partially stemmed from the company’s success with iOS titles. The format tends to provide a less risky investment with the potential for larger dividends.

“EA’s stated strategy is fewer, bigger brands. Of the many new IPs developed for this generation, only Army of Two, Dead Space and Dragon Age continue to see new versions. As far as I can tell from publicly facing information, creating innovative, new IPs just isn’t a priority for the organization,” Levy wrote.

“Big brands + big marketing budget + high production values = $$$. This is the EA formula. They may have been late to the mobile & tablet freemium party, but now that they are here they will out-compete the Dragon Vales and Tiny Monsters of the world.

“This formula may have finally run its course in the core space, where 80+ rated Lord of the Rings, James Bond and Godfather games have all fallen out of favor with gamers’ wallets.”

Levy said The Simpsons: Tapped Out proves to EA that players who “enjoy the games produced by this formula” just moved to another platform. This provides EA with a digital future having “less to do with big, risky new IPs like Mirror’s Edge or Brutal Legend,” and more on huge returns such as the $29.6 million in sales earned by Tapped Out – a figured estimated by Levy and not “official”.

Tapped Out’s budget was likely just a “mere sliver compared to the cost of the critical and probable commercial failure, Medal of Honor: Warfighter,” noted Levy.

Thanks, GI International.

Breaking news

16 Comments

Sign in to post a comment.

  1. OlderGamer

    Welcome to the future.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. KAP

    No, no, course not, money is.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. viralshag

    It’s hardly the ‘future’. People act like EA are the only company that focus on their “big brands”.

    Yes, what I really want is companies to produce lots of one off new IPs… Please don’t continue decent (and expensive) franchises like Dead Space and Mass Effect…

    #3 1 year ago
  4. OlderGamer

    Viral, this is by far the most sequel laden generations ever. The peak of hardware sales was 2008(4 years ago). Software has been declining by an average of 25-30% on year to year sales.

    I have made the arguement before that oversaturation hurts the industry. Most people here can’t relate to that. They are hardcore dedicated gamers that would buy Dead Space 7 and Mass Effect 12 or Halo 4 or CoD 6,7,8, or 9. You get my point. But the core market doesn’t drive the industry like it used to. It has become wider then that. As evidence by the article to begin with.

    There are a LOT of articles to read where you hear long time industry vets breaking away for new platforms. Articles where once strong studios have been shuttered. And articles wondering if next gen will even be worth making games for.

    What we have a situation where trip A console market is dominated by just a few power players. And those folks are indeed going to do fewer games. As we go forward, and even right now, we see less risk and more rehash(on new or old IPs). It can be broken down to a handful of set formulas to a marketable franchise. Look at the article right here. A number of EA ips have fallen to way side. So instead of putting out a wide variety of games, they will put out just a few. Sure you like Mass Effect, you want to play a new one every single year? Not worried that will get old after awhile?

    I say it already has. While core gamers keep plodding on, many of the none core guys have gone to other platforms. Be it XBL, PSN, Steam, or Mobile. The Trip A market has been shrinking. It can no longer support as many top budget games. So instead while say Acti does good, THQ fails. And not just THQ obviously.

    Read this:

    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-11-08-activision-big-fish-in-a-shrinking-pond

    I think the way you reach out the those gamers(and studios) that have left for other platforms is to create a more diverse portfolio, not narrow their choices.

    Look if your fav game of all time is cod, and all you like to play is cod, you might not see that there is even a problem in the industry. New IPs could stop coming, it wouldn’t bother you. Studios could close, it wouldn’t bother you. But at some point it would catch up to you. Because those new IPs draw in more gamers and that means more money and that means a healther industry. And that in turn means more CoD for you.

    When these anyalst say that the industry is canibilizing itself, this is an example of they are talking about. As a few select franchises grow and push other IPs(and the studios/pubs that make them) out of the industry, the gamers that would enjoy those games go somewhere else or they feel like they have less choices…and go somewhere else. What your left with is a few big brand franchises from a couple of megapublishers. And less over all gamers. Hence month to month year on year declines.

    How to fix it? I have no idea. I honestly don’t think you can. I think, like a stock market, the games bubble has burst and the market needs to right itself. There were too many games being made, games cost too much money to make, sell and buy. DLC adds to the problem. Second hand sales hurt. And the near global wide rescesion hurts too.

    So yeah Vial, I think fewer IPs, more “brand” names, more OMP focus, monitization(thru DLC and “freemium” content), are in store. Eventualy I think the market crashes a bit(maybe that is what it is doing now). And then I think we see a movement towards more services. Like cable TV style. Subscribe to Acti, and you get “free” or discounted content for Skylanders, CoD, and other Acti franchises(think of a newly stylized season/online pass or elite, call it what ya like). I think that is where all of the mega pubs are heading to.

    I could go on and on, but good lord I have read thewulf a few times and am as mindful as I can not to ramble just for the sake of it. There are a lot of interesting articles out there to read. I am not as crazy as I might sometimes sound. Feel free to disagree tho ;)

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Digital Bamboo

    @4 I won’t try to comment on everything you said, but I would like to argue one point: there’s nothing wrong with producing 3-4+ games based on a winning formula.

    If it’s every year, yeah, it may be spread too thin, but series like Mass Effect & Dead Space don’t come out every year. They’re great games, that also happen to make a lot of money. I don’t think there’s any danger of oversaturation of games such as those. Plus, IMO, there are (at least currently) more than enough great IPs to keep gamers busy. Maybe that’s just me, I’m behind. But when I look at all the great games that are coming out in the next 6 months I’m not thinking, “Same shit.” I’m thinking, “How the hell am I going to play all those?”

    #5 1 year ago
  6. Ireland Michael

    The past always seems brighter than the future.

    If you think the PS1 and PS2 eras weren’t just as sequel laden, you’re kidding yourself. They also had a tonne more licensed crap, and enough shovelware to make even the Wii jealous.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. DrDamn

    @4
    “Viral, this is by far the most sequel laden generations ever. The peak of hardware sales was 2008(4 years ago). Software has been declining by an average of 25-30% on year to year sales.”

    Do you have any links to back these statements up? For the Wii and DS yes 2008 was a bit of a turning point, but for PS3 and 360 the dip in hardware sales if a lot more recent.

    Software declining 25-30% year on year for how long?

    This is a reworking of the games model. It needed to happen and once out the other end it will be seen as a very good thing.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. Dave Cook

    @7 not sure I’d call it the most sequel laden generation dude. 16-bit era surely, considering how much quicker studios could peddle games out.

    Capcom were one of the worst perpetrators at the time. about six versions of Street Fighter 2, three Mortal Kombat, four core Sonic games and countless spin-offs, tons of Zelda games on NES, Snes and Game Boy, same for Mario and Metroid.

    Definitely 16-bit was worse man.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. DrDamn

    @8
    Ahem @4 please, don’t blame me for the “sequel laden generation” stuff. We’ve never had it so good in my opinion. :)

    #9 1 year ago
  10. Dave Cook

    @9 Yeah I agree :)

    #10 1 year ago
  11. deathm00n

    I must say, I also don’t think this is the sequel generation, but I agree that it’s bad to have yearly releases like CoD and NFS does. One great example of pace is GTA or Final Fantasy, it’s all of the same things you already had, but released after 3 or so years, so you don’t mind paying for it again. But CoD for instance I can’t see me getting all of them. Me and my friends are still having fun with MW1, only now we want to get a new one.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. OlderGamer

    Ok guys don’t get your panties in a bunch.

    Doc:

    As a recent example – http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-11-08-us-game-sales-drop-25-percent-in-october

    Another – http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-11-08-ea-no-longer-sees-new-ip-as-priority-says-former-bioware-producer

    “Steve Peterson

    All you need to know about the current console generation is contained in one number: 30 percent. That’s the approximate drop in retail sales for consoles and console software this year over last year, the fourth straight year of declines. Publishers are releasing fewer titles, and average sales and prices are dropping. It’s past time for new consoles to revive sales, if indeed sales can be brought back to the glory days of 2008. The console makers hate having to lose money for years selling new consoles at a loss, so they’ve held off. This has allowed mobile, social, and downloadable games, particularly free-to-play ones, to build an impressive audience”

    And:

    “David Radd

    This generation has gone on too long. I distinctly remember having a phone conversation right after Microsoft’s 2012 E3 press conference saying “This generation of consoles is done.” We’re seeing series now get into their fourth major incarnation this year and next, like God of War, Halo and Gears of War. Sequels abounded at the show, reflecting the stagnation pervading the AAA industry right now.”

    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-07-19-roundtable-is-the-console-cycle-really-too-long

    I spent way too much time digging for that stuff, and I know I have read better stuff. I just can’t remember where to find it. Besides not my job to educate you guys. And this “get me a link or it didn’t happen” stuff is pretty weak and a tad lazy. The info is out there. Or just pay attention to it when it comes out in their first place. easier then trying to track it down weeks and months or years later.

    Ok as far as the sequels being more abundant in the 16bit days? Um, no. The key word here is franchise. Today everything is a franchise. We get games that have planed sequels before they even launch the first game. We have a ton of “trilogies”, hell Halo just started their sequel trilogy of their first trilogy. Wanna talk about CoD? I pick on Acti a lot, lets do BF instead. Battlefield: Modern Combat, Battlefield: Bad Company, Battlefield: Bad Company two, Battlefield 1942, and Battlefield 3. Now the burning question for me is if Battlefield 4 is going to make it out for this gen as well?

    There have always been sequels. Ms. Pacman from Pacman. But, I believe that this gen is a glowing example of how to over saturate the market and kill games. We can’t just have a new and unique game any more. We can’t have a studio/pub put out one game and then move on to another, different ip. We have the if they bought this one, then naturaly they will buy three more just like it.

    It is a bad biz practice. Darksiders was great Darksiders 2 helped kill THQ. Hint: we didn’t need a second Darksiders. Samething for Mass Effect and Dead Space, sticking with our examples. Sure they are neat now, will they still be neat when they are on their 6th release? Surly one of the draws of the games was that they were new and different when they came out? And yearly releases are the worse. There should be significant time in between releases. IMO, anyways.

    Say what you want, think what you want, call me a fool if it makes you smile. But look around. Read a bit. The industry is in the most trouble is has been in scince the video game crash in the 80s. And that isn’t because sequels are a good thing or we never had it so good.

    There is alot more to it then a train of franchising sequels, ofc. The economy is bad, the gen cycle is too long, games cost too much to dev, the yen is too strong, second hand games sales, dlc, and so on and so on.

    But to sit around and not see a problem? Or to not see that the whole industry is at a turning point? Seems silly to me.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. DrDamn

    @OG
    Haven’t got much time as I have to dash. Couple of points though …

    “The peak of hardware sales was 2008(4 years ago). Software has been declining by an average of 25-30% on year to year sales.”

    Is still not held up by your links. Your statement implies 4 years of 25-30% drop in games sales, all hardware peaked in 2008. Not true.

    “Steve Peterson …
    That’s the approximate drop in retail sales for consoles and console software this year over last year, the fourth straight year of declines.”

    *Retail* – ignoring the rise of digital. Consoles – lumping all together and ignoring Tablets, Phones etc. As mentioned above the Wii accounts for most of this decline in hardware terms.

    Finally you talk about the decline of this sort of sales as a bad thing, it’s not! Why does everything need to keep going up? It’s needed. You agree that they were doing it wrong but don’t see a decline of that bad thing as a good thing?

    Edit: The point about gaming as good as it’s ever been? That’s a personal experience thing obviously, but I’m looking as Consoles, digital and retail, full priced, XBLA/PSN and bargain. Phone and tablet. The variety, choice, quality and innovation is huge.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. viralshag

    @12, But then what makes you think people actually want a ton of new IPs? It’s funny because people always say that franchises and sequels are killing the industry and that no new IPs are a problem.

    Then a new IP comes along and sells a fraction of any franchise release. And there could be many reasons for this. But blaming it on games/franchises that actually sell well seems a bit misguided and an easy finger pointing exercise.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. OlderGamer

    Because Viral most new IPs come from pubs that can’t market the stuffing out of it like Acti does for a CoD. And if you look at marketing Acti put muscle behind new ip of Skylanders and it sold extremly well, as an example.

    Here is the part that puzzles me, as for your thinking:

    “It’s funny because people always say that franchises and sequels are killing the industry and that no new IPs are a problem”

    If you constantly read the same stuff from different sources, at what point do you not get a clue? It isn’t as if sales are steller right now. Maybe there is something to it?

    As for Doc, I was speaking directly about Trip A console games. The fact that other platforms have emerged(or re emerged like PC) imo is crediance to what I am saying.

    My statement doesn’t imply 4 solid years of 25-30% decline. But if you research console hardware sales, they peaked in 2008/9(holiday of). Software sales have had 20 straight months of decline. That is almost 2 years. The only thing about sales numbers for software is we don’t know where digital sales are at. But again, I was talking directly about traditional trip retail markets. Buy full console games, day and date on didgital is something pretty new and even avalible for all titles.

    I love XBLA, PSN, Steam, etc. One of the reasons is price. Inovation is another. Two things often neglected in tradational boxed titles. Again, in my mind, backing up my statements. If everything was hunky dorie why would people be flocking to alternative platforms?

    #15 1 year ago
  16. Gadzooks!

    O.G

    You have spotted the trends, but are somehow not connecting the dots.

    Yes, AAA is becoming harder to penetrate, but for every game that fails at retail a handful of new, innovative indie/XBLA/PSN titles get released and shock the industry with their success.

    When I started gaming the industry was pretty much all 1-5 man teams. What we now call AAA didn’t exist. Such extravagance was unheard of.

    A partial return to that model, with the odd blockbuster here and there, seems ideal to me.

    But the point is that it’s a transition. Not a crisis, not a shrinkage, not a dilution, it’s a young industry still and one that has no choice but to change with whatever pace hardware technology moves at.

    Right now digital distribution is hot, so naturally games follow and retail takes a hit.

    As others have said, there is more variety and quality in gaming than ever before. How you are missing it I cannot understand.

    #16 1 year ago