Video game publishing behemoth Electronic Arts has issued the closest thing to a mea culpa as of yet for devouring – some would say destroying – a series of independent developers.
“I think that the idea that you’re going to have a top-down process that uses a lot of centralized tools to try and build a common brand with a lot of centralized creative calls is just not a good idea,” John Riccitiello, EA’s top man, said in a New York Times interview last week about his company’s acquisition of outside talent. “It could certainly make for a great case study at Harvard if it worked, but I just don’t think it works.”
Riccitiello, who reportedly fleshed out his position in a meeting with financial analysts last week, made a startlingly candid admission about EA’s record that will certainly come as a surprise to many veteran gamers who have held a long grudge against the company.
“There is no question that Origin and Westwood and Bullfrog don’t exist today, and you don’t generally buy things in order to close them,” Riccitiello said. “Those deals obviously didn’t work the way we anticipated. The leaders in those organizations got set up where they thought we were bringing in a bureaucracy. We were bringing in centralized tools and technology that homogenized the output and slowed them down. They weren’t listened to.”
The NY Times piece indicates Riccitiello “is promising a new path” that pays greater attention to the creative talent than abstract business-school based models.
“You can’t just buy people and attempt to apply some business school synergy to them,” Riccitiello said. “It just doesn’t work.”