EA Goes Indie?

Mirror's Edge - not actually anything to do with Blueprint. But hell, it's exciting

Change is in the air. I can smell it, or at least nod sagely and gesture vaguely at it. Over the last few months, EA have quietly become perhaps the most exciting of the uber-publishers. They’ve recently admitted to stifling their developers and relying on annual updates (“one-size-fits-all management”), and of late they’ve started to prove they mean it.

Look at what they’ve got coming up: Spore, Mirror’s Edge, Battlefield Heroes, Dead Space (let’s not mention the more worrying Tiberium for now). Meanwhile, a recent restructure sees the likes of Maxis and DICE increasingly free to pursue their own agendas. What was once the industry’s Big Bad now looks like an inventive risk-taker compared to Activision and Ubisoft. Call ’em whatever names you can think of, but a company with that much money striving a little harder for greatness is enormously exciting.

And now, Blueprint – a rather promising new sub-division of the EA Games arm (the other arms being EA Sims, EA Sports and EA Casual).

It’s about making new IPs cheaply and with smaller teams, as opposed to the publisher’s tradition of ultra-dollar franchise games in gestation for years. “We focus on creating IP in new ways for our media and finding smart ways to spread it across the media landscape,” studio head Neil Young (not that one) told Variety.

Which is a pretty meaningless, corp-o-gibberish quote, so let’s go instead with the potential of this new endeavour. EA – as in FIFA, Madden, The Sims expansion packs – has grown an extra limb specifically to experiment with new ideas. “Blueprint is apparently an attempt for EA to get out of its internal creative rut by taking risks, somewhat along the lines of a studio speciality division like Fox Searchlight or Miramax” says Variety. There’s even talk of Blueprint supporting games from outside the EA hivemind.

Blimey. Clearly a response to EA losing the games crown to Activision, it’s sort of a reflection of the circle of life we see throughout the games and hardware industry. Nintendo reinvents itself with the Wii, Intel recovers from years of trailing AMD’s performance with Core 2 Duo, id make Rage instead of Doom 4… Snatch away some of a fat, lazy, rich man’s money and it turns out he’s quite energetic about getting it back. Presuming there’s the ring of truth to EA’s fancy talk, I look forward to seeing what games come out of Blueprint.

That said, EA-Land does give me the creeping fear all over again.

23 Comments

  1. Chris Evans says:

    Ignoring EA-Land (and Tiberium) I really think EA are changing their colours to try and get back to being the top-dog. As long as we get some good, top-quality games then I am all for it.

  2. Lightbulb says:

    Well firstly thats what the want you to think. However its a case of wait and see.

    I HOPE it results in some interesting and high quality new games.

  3. Kast says:

    May I just say this… any occurrence of the Mirror’s Edge screenshots makes my day.

  4. dartt says:

    I guess all the execs were on the beach after the goldrush and realised there comes a time when you have to ask yourself: “Are you passionate (about games)?”

  5. jamsarnie says:

    nice to see some healthy competition has woken the giant…

    some new quality output, with some remakes of the older classics would be nice (road rash on the cards i read somewhere)
    it would also be nice to see some old amiga classics redone; if only for nostalgia purposes)

  6. InsertNameHere says:

    EA Sims? They actually have a whole division just for churning out more Sims expansion packs?

    Still, it’s always good to see innovation in games encouraged.

  7. Optimaximal says:

    If they want any of the gaming community to believe them, they need to take a step back from both Take 2 and Ubisoft.

    There’s no better way to prove they are the Pac-Man of the games industry than gobbling up their competitors…

  8. Jives says:

    I found it quite odd that activision overtook ea last year, seeing as EA released some of very good games (skate, crysis, rockband) whereas activision gave us tony hawks, call of duty 4 and guitar hero

  9. Gilzor says:

    Saw Mirror’s Edge at DICE on monday and, having known so very little about it beforehand, think it looks pretty damn stunning. Not at all what I expected and all the more exciting for it.

  10. Knife Ant Bandit says:

    I guess you’re being sarcastic with the title “EA Goes Indie?” since it’s where the money comes from that decides if a game is indie or not (not that it is done by one person and has strange colors in it like some people seem to think, not saying that you do).

  11. Alec Meer says:

    I doubt anyone would be able to use ‘EA’ and ‘indie’ in the same sentence without a firm in-cheek tongue.

  12. Volrath says:

    Nothing EA does or will do will make up for the fact that they destroyed Origin, Westwood and Bullfrog.

  13. Jason O says:

    We’ll see.

    EA management is not very good at hands off and their standard internal software development model is outdated and ineffective. When a company routinely works their people 70 or 90 hour weeks in a job where thinking is key to the profession, it’s no great mystery why there is so little innovation or creativity at EA.

    However, will EA be able to endure letting one of their teams take a few extra months to finish a game? Will they be able to deal with a game that maybe can’t be cross-platform? Will they be able to keep their hands off of games that are not made with the standard EA formula? Mercenaries 2 being pushed back is actually a good sign, but it will take more than a six month delay and a bunch of promises to convince me. EA has about zero credibility these days.

  14. Optimaximal says:

    Indie means Independent, ergo If EA are financing/releasing the games, they are no longer Indie games…

    Someone at EA needs a smack…

  15. Mo says:

    Yeah, so this thread pretty much proves a point I was going to make: like Microsoft, it doesn’t matter what EA do at this point, people are still going to go, “EA are the devil!” etc, etc.

    Me? I’m really quite pleased. We’ve seen a different EA over the past couple of months. They’ve acknowledged their mistakes from the past, they’re committed to change, and they’re speaking with their actions. Their past few buy-outs have worked out well (DICE comes to mind) and they’re announcing new (or at least semi-new) franchises left, right and center.

    I’m a glass-half-full type of guy. I think we’re going to see good things from EA.

  16. FngKestrel says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Plus, what does this mean for everyone still in EA proper? Is it still the stifling sweatshop I remember it to be?

  17. josh g. says:

    They’ve recently admitted to stifling their developers and relying on annual updates

    Ah, yes, the annual updates … also known as “The Layoff Metric”.

    Not that I’m bitter.

  18. magnakai says:

    Hum

    Indie games getting corporatised faster than indie music.

    Or.

    Someone with the money and power to change things getting it.

  19. Mr.Moon says:

    Just wait and see. Honestly I don’t believe the words that come out big corporations.

    And like someone stated earlier, their actions and not really following their words, as they are trying to gobble up their competion (UB and Take 2)

  20. Andrew Farrell says:

    Discussion of Stock Aitken and Waterman records turning up on the Indie Chart on the Chart Show in five… four…

  21. Stromko says:

    Smaller teams to create new IPs faster? There’s a good chance it turns out to be a budget division churning out Peggle knockoffs.

    They couldn’t really make their reputation any worse if they went ahead and just stole ideas from indy games and churned out slightly-shinier clones to make money off them. Something between these two ‘extremes’ is a strong possibility. Anything good, is unlikely.

    I’ll believe it when I see it. A couple months of announcements doesn’t change the inertia from a decade of being assholes.

  22. Windlab says:

    Much as I hate EA, I have to admit to being interested in Mirror’s Edge.

    It’s a reform of sorts – only time will tell which sort.

  23. FngKestrel says:

    EA Sims? They actually have a whole division just for churning out more Sims expansion packs?

    Oh yes. It’s like printing money for them.

    That’s one goose they’ve managed to not kill.