EA spending flat through next-gen transition, has “never happened before”

By Brenna Hillier, Wednesday, 24 July 2013 00:58 GMT

Thanks to the Frostbite engine, EA expects to weather the console transition without blowing up its research and development budget.

EA Labels boss Frank Gibeau told VentureBeat that having Frostbite up and running ahead of the transition has allowed EA to keep its spending flat.

“When you have a proven technology base with tools that work and you’re able to move teams around, because they’re all trained on the same engine, it makes for efficient and low-risk development,” he said.

“That was a critical decision, to invest in that early on and put the resources in. It causes stress in other parts of the business because a lot of our top guys were working on next-generation behind the scenes. But that was a big breakthrough for us, for sure.

“We are reiterating that we intend to exit this year with spending flat, year-over-year. During a console transition year, that has never happened. I think in the last transition, our R&D went up 30 percent. The fact that we’re cranking these kinds of games on flat spending is astonishing.”

It’s also a marked contrast to the last console transition, which saw EA struggle financially thanks to huge R&D expenditure on Criterion’s RenderWare, which was once expected to power all the company’s games.

“The problem was that it wasn’t ready for prime time. It hadn’t shipped any games,” Gibeau said.

“The tools, the pipelines, the tech just weren’t mature or complete. Then I took that learning because in my role as the head of the studios, I had to make sure we understood how we were going to manage the technology.”

This time, EA has Frostbite and Ignite (for EA Sports games) – engines tailored to the new hardware, and already in use in current-gen games.

“We blew the last transition because we relied on RenderWare. It didn’t work. It set us back for multiple years. I was not going to repeat that mistake,” Gibeau said.

Frostbite was developed by DICE, while Ignite was developed by several EA studios specifically for sports titles. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are expected in or around November.

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