EA Owes Its Success To Its Failures

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

EA Owes Its Success To Its Failures

image

Long-standing EA developer, Rich Hilleman, explains that EA learned to succeed by failing.

It's hard to imagine that Electronic Arts was once a small company, as opposed to the absurd corporate behemoth it is now. According to creative director, Rich Hilleman, who's been with EA since the 80's and worked on the original Madden game, the company's growth from two man start-up to corporate juggernaut can be attributed to its tendency to screw up in surprisingly fortuitous ways.

"There are two real cases in EA where I think we made bad choices, and ended up being brilliant choices," he told Gamasutra.

The first case was the Amiga. EA's Amiga games were almost universally terrible. Only Deluxe Paint managed to make any money, and that's stretching the definition of "game" a little bit.

"And so the Amiga, for us, taught us a whole bunch of new things," said Hilleman. "We had to get good at music, we had to get much better at art, we had to get better animation that wasn't all sprite animation, we had to do 3D for the first time - a whole bunch of things that we had to do."

"But how it paid it off is almost all of that stuff went straight to the [Sega] Genesis. And so really what happened for us is the Amiga was sort of a pre-run of what the Genesis business was for us."

The Genesis (or Megadrive, for you civilized readers) became EA's earliest stomping ground. It saw the release of games like the Strike Series, Road Rash and the first game in the FIFA Soccer series, which is EA's second best-selling franchise and the best-selling sports sim series to date. Impressive, given that EA had to reverse-engineer its own genesis development kit - hence the distinctive yellow-tabbed carts.

The same thing happened again with the horrendous, 3DO system in the early 90's. EA's failures on that system were excellent practice for the PlayStation, which would arrive shortly after.

"We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how do you build products for disc-based media with this particular set of characteristics," he said. "And although 3DO didn't achieve the commercial results we were after, [PlayStation linchpin] Ken Kutaragi was definitely paying attention, and that product carried a lot of the same characteristics that [former EA exec] Trip [Hawkins] had wanted in the 3DO titles.

"As a result, everything we did on 3DO was a preface for what we could do on PlayStation 1."

Permalink

Just goes to show that all failures are experience to use to learn for the future. Though I'm sure there are a lot of people who wished that those failures had closed EA.

Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes, eh, EA?

Interesting, though to be honest I find it ironic to see the 3DO being mentioned as horrendous and touted as a failure, when arguably the whole "interactive movie" schtick from that period is becoming the standard today. Back with the 3DO it was felt people didn't want to play games so much as watch movies with some interaction, and so that era, along with early CDROM games was full of games with mostly unknown actors in cheap costumes being digitized for games which were limited in many cases to what the video allowed.

While things have moved more in the direction of Mocap technology rather than direct digitization I see increasing similarities to the failed games of that time, and a lot of what was on the 3DO platform and what's being produced now accross the board, especially when you look at things like "Heavy Rain" or the way games have increasingly been moving towards cinematics and away from game play.

Oddly, I see very few similarities between the PS1 and the 3DO overall in the terms of games and I'm not entirely sure how experience with the 3DO's type of development was a benefit to the PS-1.

Besides which, I kind of thought EA had some of the more successful games of that time period, I seem to remember Wing Commander 3 and maybe 4 being both 3DO and PC games. EA had Origin at that point if I remember, and was makign a big deal about what it was spending on it's games "almost like movies" and bragging about how it hired Mark Hamill to star in Wing Commander (which was kind of sad on a lot of levels, since I always liked to name my own pilot and engage in a bit of wish fulfillment fantasy.. lol).

Raiyan 1.0:
Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes.

That mistake being "don't get bought out by EA?"

I don't really see how anybody could classify EA's 3DO outings as failures. They did Shockwave: Invasion Earth, which was so good that I still find myself wishing for a remake.

P.S. Thanks

Therumancer:
Interesting, though to be honest I find it ironic to see the 3DO being mentioned as horrendous and touted as a failure, when arguably the whole "interactive movie" schtick from that period is becoming the standard today. Back with the 3DO it was felt people didn't want to play games so much as watch movies with some interaction, and so that era, along with early CDROM games was full of games with mostly unknown actors in cheap costumes being digitized for games which were limited in many cases to what the video allowed.
).

current games...as "cinematic" at they are still function better as games...

Grey Carter:

Raiyan 1.0:
Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes.

That mistake being "don't get bought out by EA?"

A very costly mistake indeed...

yeah, but to think...

maybe the failed companies are just "test runs" to them?

sometimes it's like they don't even feel responsible for anything

who am i kidding, it's all the time

Grey Carter:

Raiyan 1.0:
Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes.

That mistake being "don't get bought out by EA?"

I like to think thats one mistake no one will ever make again.

Though if it wasnt by EA, chances are they would have ended up enslaved to another publisher anyway.

Neither the article nor the linked one about EA's first dev-kit explain why their Genesis cartridges actually had the yellow tab. In a Game Informer interview with one of the founders (I'd have to dig through my pile of issues to find exactly which one), he admitted that there was no practical purpose for the tabs and they just wanted their carts to have a distinctive look (while not exactly deterring folks from dreaming up fancy theories).

and now bioware sold their soles to €A. gave us a bad ending in ME3. im sure it was €As idea to cut corners and make money with future DLCs so as the MP in a ME game.

damn €A, got my self BF3 last week and i have only problems with it. servers are lagging like hell. what was the 4GB patch for?? im staying far away now from any games with a €A logo on it. otherwise i make a mistake by giving them money.

EA owes its success to the nature of the industry. NOTHING more. They didn't happen under a lucky star. They exploit the fact that the industry is constantly introducing new kids into gaming. Hense the constant record breaking for every game that comes out. It has absolutely nothing to do with anyone at EA having the slightest clue of what they are doing. Outside of blatent exploitation.

What about running Origin, Westwood, Bullfrog, Mythic and Pandemic into the ground?

I don't think they learned a lot from that, looking at how BioWare is heading the same way.

I guess this means that EA is about to make absolutely massive strides in how they wrap up a series?

Metalrocks:
and now bioware sold their soles to €A.

I was unaware that Bioware's shoe soles were such a lucrative offer for EA.

Drenaje1:

Metalrocks:
and now bioware sold their soles to €A.

I was unaware that Bioware's shoe soles were such a lucrative offer for EA.

well, bioware belongs to €A for quite some time now but you get my point. €A doesnt make games, they just profit from other companies, because €A is too stupid to make games them selfs. all they know is how to make the same game over and over again.

It's funny, I think I've read an article where EA says they're proud of their mistakes 5 times over the last 2 years, only it's different EA people saying it every time. It seems like everyone at EA knows they make a lot of mistakes, yet they continue to make them. That doesn't seem like a success to me...

Well, that's good because there's an awful lot of fail for them to learn from. Of course, this hardly matters since they rarely ever put that knowledge to use.

Metalrocks:

Drenaje1:

Metalrocks:
and now bioware sold their soles to €A.

I was unaware that Bioware's shoe soles were such a lucrative offer for EA.

well, bioware belongs to €A for quite some time now but you get my point. €A doesnt make games, they just profit from other companies, because €A is too stupid to make games them selfs. all they know is how to make the same game over and over again.

He was taking the piss because you said 'soles' when you meant 'souls'.

A 'sole' is what you have inside your shoes.

gigastar:

Grey Carter:

Raiyan 1.0:
Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes.

That mistake being "don't get bought out by EA?"

I like to think thats one mistake no one will ever make again.

Though if it wasnt by EA, chances are they would have ended up enslaved to another publisher anyway.

Better to die free than die as a slave.

EA owes its success to its failure, blimey, that's going to be taken out of context a lot in the future.

one of the saddest things ive seen recently was a photo of one of EA's old print adverts "we are a group of electronic artists" you could see they founded EA as a place to foster creativity and originality.. and now look at what they release and whats important to them

Sylveria:

gigastar:

Grey Carter:

That mistake being "don't get bought out by EA?"

I like to think thats one mistake no one will ever make again.

Though if it wasnt by EA, chances are they would have ended up enslaved to another publisher anyway.

Better to die free than die as a slave.

That said i cant imagine Activision, THQ or Ubisoft putting up with a RTS series for 13 years. Since EA has at least noted that Generals 2 isnt going to be a repeat of Tiberian Twilight, i retain a seed of hope, in chronic stasis, in the deepest and coldest reaches of my inner cynic.

Though they wont admit it yet, Tiberian Twilight was another turning point for them. Because it taught them that yearly releases will just not work for some genres of game.

nikki191:
one of the saddest things ive seen recently was a photo of one of EA's old print adverts "we are a group of electronic artists" you could see they founded EA as a place to foster creativity and originality.. and now look at what they release and whats important to them

Very true I believe their initial mission statement was something like this

"We are an association of electronic artists who share a common goal. We want to fulfill the potential of personal computing."

I dont know what it is now probably something like

"We are an association of businessmen who share a common goal. We want low risk products that provide immediate money, screw potential we need guaranteed money"

theres probably definitely a company song that the execs sing about taking over companies bleeding them dry of creativity and stealing everything of worth until they cease to exist except as an EA company number while all the time the EA glob grows bigger each verse ends with an evil laugh and there is one verse for every studio they have taken over. I have no doubt Blizzard/Activision have one as well.

Im not sure exactly what they were saying but it sounds like we learn from our mistakes which everybody does and I mean everybody even animals do. Still I hope they make bigger mistakes and I mean real big irrecoverable financial mistakes and soon.

Anyway Im not to fond of EA overall tbh but they may make a good case study for seeing how money can corrupt any ideal.

Wait. Of they worked with 3DO, that means they have access to Battletanx

One can hope they remake it....

Raiyan 1.0:
Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes, eh, EA?

Such a sad part of gaming history, I'll probably never see another Dungeon Keeper game again.

Legion:

Metalrocks:

Drenaje1:

I was unaware that Bioware's shoe soles were such a lucrative offer for EA.

well, bioware belongs to €A for quite some time now but you get my point. €A doesnt make games, they just profit from other companies, because €A is too stupid to make games them selfs. all they know is how to make the same game over and over again.

He was taking the piss because you said 'soles' when you meant 'souls'.

A 'sole' is what you have inside your shoes.

ah s***. i should read my comments more carefully before i post it. sorry, my bad.

Grey Carter:

Raiyan 1.0:
Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes.

That mistake being "don't get bought out by EA?"

Or perhaps more precisely don't sell out to EA? Or in Westwoods case don't sell out to Virgin Interactive then get sold to EA.

EA Owes it's successes to it's failures? No, it owes it's success to the series of studio's it bought up, exploited, broke up and then ran into the ground like Westwood. It owe's it's successes to the blood and toil of exploited developers it used up like toilet paper then flushed away, keeping their intellectual property and hard work.

Ah the megadrive era, when I was genuinely protective of the plucky EA and their idealism....

EA what happened to you man? You used to be cool, before you became stupidly succesful.
As others note, it's curious how EA made these mistakes and survived to learn from them, yet don't offer the same courtesy to the developpers they buy up...

Y'know what I get from this? "Hey guise, remember when we were a small company!? LOL we so humble!"

Thoric485:
What about running Origin, Westwood, Bullfrog, Mythic and Pandemic into the ground?

I don't think they learned a lot from that, looking at how BioWare is heading the same way.

Except the fact that the employees can simply be shifted to other areas, a boon of being owned by a conglomerate that people don't really talk about. Some employees were absorbed by EA proper and are now working on a game called Mercs, Inc, which is what the studio was working on when it closed. Others were folded into EA Los Angeles and are developing another game under Visceral. EA doesn't necessarily kill all projects when they shut a studio down, and they certainly don't just dump employees into the streets. Although I'll never be happy until I get a new battlefront game.

The snarky question that comes to mind is, "So, what are the current generation of failures preparing them for?"

It's easy to hate on EA. They've made some very good games, even recently. But they've also made some very bad ones, their market strategy seems to be built on contempt for their clientele, and in many cases their absorption of smaller companies seems to mean a slow death of what made those companies (and their products) worth acquisition in the first place.

It seems likely that the real heir to the qualities so prized by the old EA is going to have to come out of the digital distribution and/or independent scene.

Hopefully they won't sell out to the current EA when they do.

I'm just sad they didn't just die completely from one of their failures =/ The game industry would have been a better place without EA

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here