EA is happy to shoulder huge development costs, providing the games it produces are worth the effort, and the enormous play-hour figure attached to The Old Republic suggests it is worth it.
EA Games head Frank Gibeau told GamesIndustry he doesn’t “pay much attention” to discussion of The Old Republic’s record-breaking development costs, instead focusing on what it delivers.
“What I try and concentrate on is, is it a good game and is it ready to go?” he said.
“You look at a game that has 200 hours of gameplay for each of the six classes, and that doesn’t include the crafting, the raids, the multiplayer. It’s vast. It’s a gigantic game. And that costs money.
“But when you get one of these launched they persist for a long period of time. Ultima is on its first decade and it still has tens of thousands of subscribers and is widely profitable for us. It’s just the nature of the beast that you have to build this amount of content.
“Do I wish it wasn’t this expensive? Absolutely, but I think everybody does. At the same time it doesn’t really do us much good to comment on how much it costs. Ultimately what matters is whether it’s a good service and do people really like the game?”
Still on the subject of development cost, Gibeau commented that EA is “comfortable” with weighty development costs for big-name titles.
“We’ve gone from a place, where I was running the Games label about three years ago, we had 20 titles released a year. Now we’re down to six,” he said.
“We’ve taken our development titles down accordingly, but at the same time it’s been really important for us to do a few games great as opposed to a bunch of games above average. It costs money but at the same time there’s new ways to monetise those online, through DLC, bringing assets over to other platforms.
” … But at the same time we’re aggressively investing in things that are very low cost like free-to-play. The free-to-play group inside of EA Games is growing extremely fast – we’ve got 17 million users, 4-5 services stood up right now. And if you get a couple of those to scale they’re as profitable as a console game.
“What we’re trying to do is really prosecute the high-end strategy of a few big theatrical style releases, top 20 games – which for us this year are Battlefield, Need for Speed, Mass Effect 3. Launch some new services like Star Wars that are unique, and in addition to that do a bunch of free-to-play businesses, that frankly when they get to scale, have huge audiences, are very profitable, they’re not cannibalising the main games and they actually reach markets that we’re not currently serving.”