EA Admits That Gobbling Up Talented Studios Then Ruining Them Isn't Working Out So Well

from the now-witness-the-firepower-of-this-fully-armed-and-operational-battle-station dept

EA, a company right up there with Comcast in terms of consumer disdain, has a long and proud history of gobbling up talented developers, then either obliterating them outright, or homogenizing them until the products are the very pinnacle of bland. Studios like Bullfrog, Westwood Studios, and Origin were all near legendary game developers when acquired, but are now little more than fond memories after ham-fisted attempts to cash in on the catalogs (Ultima IX, anyone?). Other studios like Maxis were similarly legendary, but now struggle to put out rushed, highly-flawed simulacrum under the EA banner.

After twenty years of such stumbling, scorched-earth acquisitions, EA's bloated belly appears to be full, and the company has finally decided that perhaps it should focus on developing content with the acquired talent army it already has. Company CFO Blake Jorgensen would even go so far as to admit EA's history with such acquisitions is "marginal" at best:
"I think our history with acquisitions is somewhat marginal in performance," Jorgensen said when asked if EA has identified any acquisition targets in the industry. "We have some that are spectacular, and some that didn't do so well. It's a headcount business, right? You're buying headcount, and that's always difficult to manage in acquisitions. It doesn't mean we won't do them, but I think where we've been most successful is in smaller acquisitions that we've integrated very quickly."
In other words, EA finally has all the talent it needs to keep rolling out barely-interesting Madden after Madden updates (shielded from competition via their exclusive NFL arrangement) and a decade of new, semi-interesting Star Wars games courtesy of its deal with Disney. If EA's stock is any indication, investors think EA has learned a thing or two about making friends with consumers, and the company claims it's working hard to change its customer reputation in the market (EA gave away several free games as a promotional effort over the weekend). Though dysfunction may just be grafted to EA's genetic code, 2015 might be the year that Ubisoft steals EA's consumer annoyance crown.

Filed Under: acquisitions, studios, video games
Companies: ea

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  1. identicon
    DCL, 11 Dec 2014 @ 11:00am

    Negative bias article ignores "CwF+ RtB" actions

    I agree that EA has had dark times in the past but this write up is obviously biased in that all the wording is purposefully negative in an aggressive way.

    Isn't acknowledging that something isn't ideal the first step in fixing the problem? That quote is from the CFO and it is his job to think how actions affect the numbers.

    The article also has this quote:
    "I'm also a huge believer--I think the team is a huge believer--that we've got great opportunities inside our organization," Jorgensen said. "We've built a really strong bench of talent at all levels, and our view is just [to] find great ideas, either through our own development or through licensed IP, and leverage your talent base to try to build that. "

    I am disappointed that this site has shifted to mostly focus on the bad and hasn't acknowledged others including EA (and Origin specifically) have been working hard to change with the times. EA has done some industry leading things that are inline with "RtB + CwF" which is one of the fundamental concepts that brought me to TechDirt.

    Some examples:
    + Focus on quality even if it means delaying games.
    + Great Games Guarantee - return digital games an industry first
    + Huge investments in Customer Service - now is an industry leader in satisfaction
    + Community involvement - (not just advertising). Look for "Origin Insider" on Facebook, reddit, twitter, etc.
    + EA Access- on XBox One with a high value proposition - industry first on console
    + On The House - PC free game give away program
    + Game Time - timed trial program for major games
    + Anti piracy technology put emphasis on not punishing valid users
    + Huge sales that include leading titles.
    + Regional pricing to keep games affordable in various markets (yes I know not perfect yet but it is complicated)

    Sure there are some things EA isn't doing perfectly and there are misses but every large business has them. Games take years to develop so business models and design trends that were popular when the game was designed may not be when the game releases.

    The internal philosophy from top to bottom in EA has shifted in the last few years with our new leadership and is dedicated to investing in our talent and putting players first.

    Disclosure: I work for EA and I am writing this because I, like my peers, am passionate about delivering exceptional games to the gaming community. Before anybody accuses me otherwise: I am not being paid for this comment and this is my personal opinion.

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