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Gibeau: "You get the best games from small teams with strong cultures"

EA Labels boss Frank Gibeau doesn't believe in throwing bodies at successful development teams, instead hoping to preserve each studio's culture by fotering its existing talent.

"My philosophy has been to get into a position where you have the right team size and the right amount of time to deliver on quality," Gibeau told VentureBeat in an extensive interview.

"Doubling the team doesn’t get you - you can’t deliver a baby twice as fast. There’s a point in time where too many people get on a project and the law of diminishing returns sets in. Quality declines if it becomes too hard to manage. You’d rather have a smaller team with a longer period of time to work on a game."

On top of that, it's easier to maintain a unique culture when teams are kept small.

"My belief is that you get the best games from small teams with strong cultures. The developer culture is critical in getting quality and to intellectual properties that sustain," Gibeau said.

"In the case of each of those studios, they were given the opportunity to continue to invest in their culture, to expand and bring new talent in. The trick is not to let them overexpand and get too big. They should only take on projects that they have the right amount of talent and technology and leadership to be able to execute at high quality. The worst thing to do is to grow them too fast."

Gibeau said that EA is constantly re-evaluating its approach and strategy, and by keeping teams relatively small (there are no Call of Duty or Ubisoft Montreal size studios, for example) it can try new things quickly and at low cost.

"You can start new projects with a small team to figure out if there’s a hot prototype here. Then you can pile on folks there to take it to scale," he said.

"If the prototype doesn’t work, you move on to something else. It’s kind of kill early, kill often, and then only the strongest ideas survive. That’s when you can start to scale up your production. We have a fairly rigorous greenlight process. We have a methodology that’s served us well."

The executive acknowledged EA's historical record of closing down acquired developers and even some internally-created teams, and said some teams just weren't positioned to weather the changes the industry is going through. He pointed out that EA does its best to move cut staff to other teams.

"We always look at the individuals inside those studios, and we’re able to move them around and get them into position. If you look at DICE or EA Sports, there are folks from other studios. That’s one of the key things for EA: to keep our talent base diverse but always constantly growing," he said.

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