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EA Rethinking Its Release Date Strategy

| 25 Feb 2009 17:30
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As the transformation of Electronic Arts continues, Glen Schofield of EA Redwood Shores says the company has discovered the folly of cramming new releases together for the lucrative holiday season, resulting in "far too many" games coming out at the same time.

It aggravates me: You go the entire year with little more than a trickle of new games to keep you entertained, then blam, October hits and you're buried in an avalanche of new releases which you have neither the time nor the money to accommodate. It dilutes the market: It's hard to concentrate on a hot new IP like Dead Space when it's jostling for shelf space and your attention with every other hot new (and old) IP on a holiday release schedule. And while EA is far from the only one to indulge in this bad habit, Schofield says the company has finally clued in to the fact that lumping all its releases together for Christmas is doing more harm than good.

Two of EA's most anticipated new IPs, Dead Space and Mirror's Edge, were released within a month of each other just prior to Christmas 2008 and while they received solid critical response and sold reasonably well, they failed to reach sales projections. "You can blame some of it on the economy," he said, but added that there were "far too many games" released at that time of year, creating a glut that had a negative impact on many titles.

"I think that we traditionally thought that people only buy games at Christmas or around holiday time, and now we're looking back and going, 'You know what, GTA launched in May; Resident Evil comes out in March'," he said in an interview with GamesIndustry.

"I think the industry has finally gone, 'Wow, we could probably just come out just like the movies do'. Movies launch on Christmas day, they launch blockbusters during the summer, and we're now learning that we could probably launch a game at any time, and if it's a good game it will be well received."

Despite the weaker-than-expected sales over the Christmas period, Schofield said EA's new direction under CEO John Riccitiello has the company back on track. "EA took some chances and made some really good games," he said, noting that the company is beginning to re-establish its "credibility" with gamers. And while Dead Space may not have lived up to EA's hopes, the company isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. "We haven't announced anything yet, but I don't think you take a game that's rated 89 and just go, 'Well, that was a failure'," he said.

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