“The movie game business is falling apart,” according to EA Games President Frank Gibeau, who said the publisher would rather focus on quality original games because licensed titles just aren’t worth the resources required to make them.
It’s almost inevitable: Blockbuster movie leads to terrible, half-baked videogame. No matter how many times a cheap tie-in game bombs terribly, publishers keep cranking them out, hoping that the weight of a big license will be enough to generate big sales. But you can count EA out, Gibeau told Develop, because “the days of licensed-based, 75-rated games copies are dead like the dinosaur.”
Gibeau said EA was in a rough state when he took over in 2008, with a lot of unhealthy franchises and too many low-quality games being published. Part of his strategy to turn things around involved giving studios enough time to build good games, the freedom to take creative risks and the end of licensed games that didn’t offer enough of either, like the James Bond franchise.
“We dumped that license because we felt like we needed to own more intellectual property, and we don’t like where James Bond is going with all the creative limitations on it,” he explained. “The percentage royalties you have to pay the licensors are going the wrong way for publishers. The margins are being squeezed. And, to top it all off, the movie-game business is falling apart.”
“Considering the total amount of money we have to spend on those types of James Bond games, and the total amount of man-hours we had to put into them, we thought, hell, let’s work on our own IP. The guys who made James Bond games for us, well yeah, they went on and made Dead Space,” he continued. “And look where we are now; what would you rather publish, retail and play – the latest James Bond or Dead Space 2?”
He admitted that sometimes those creative risks don’t quite pay off, such as with Mirror’s Edge, which he said suffered from “issues with the learning curve, the difficulty, the narrative” and a lack of multiplayer, and to a lesser extent Dead Space, which was a money-maker but still “didn’t hit expectations.” That doesn’t mean that EA is pulling the plug, however.
“One thing I will say is that we won’t give up on those IPs,” Gibeau said. “A new idea obviously has a lot of risk attached to it, but if you get it all right it can be huge.”
In that vein, Dead Space 2 is currently scheduled for release on January 25 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, while a Mirror’s Edge sequel is presumed but hasn’t been officially announced.