The last few years have been very good to some developers. With major game successes popping up with absurd regularity over the past few months, you might think that every breakthrough means a big payday for the folks who built the game, and a free pass to take on their next blockbuster title. Sadly, this is not the case. The truth of the industry is that more often than we’d like to see, a development team’s hard work is rewarded not with praise, but with a push out the door.
But sometimes, good work and quality output is rewarded justly. Most of you have heard of Dead Space, Visceral Games‘ third-person horror shooter, and know how the title managed to fly under the radar prior to release. After being unleashed upon the masses, the game received a great deal of critical and financial success, and both Visceral and EA are eagerly awaiting the response to Dead Space 2. What you might not know is that Visceral Games actually began their life as EA Redwood Shores, and remains a subsidiary of EA.
Instead of playing the role of evil, profit-hungry corporation and announcing that the entire staff will be fired upon the game’s release, EA is instead acknowledging the studio’s work in a grand fashion. EA will be placing four existing studios under the umbrella of ‘Visceral Games,’ and plans to globalize the team’s resources. The end result: EA plans to use a global team to become the dominant power in the third-person action genre. In a recent interview with Gamasutra, General Manager of EA’s expansion Nick Earl explained how the move fits into the structure that the publisher has been moving towards over the past year:
“We moved into a genre structure about nine months ago inside of the Games label…Inside the Games label, we went into a structure based on genres, where there are three group GMs — one for the MMO group, another manages the driving and first-person group, and I manage action and strategy.”
“Action, to us, inside of the Games label and the company, really means third-person games. For us, we’re talking about third-person action adventure games.”
EA will be looking towards Dead Space as the goal for every new IP they take on, and hope the re-branding will send the message to all involved of the new standards that have been set. The studios being inducted are EA Los Angeles, EA Montreal, EA’s art-focused studio in Shanghai, and EA’s newly-built Australian office. The key phrase for the new system is “collaboration, not separation” according to Earle, who drew comparisons to other instances of streamlining leading to improved profits and quality:
“When you work across borders and cultures and time zones, it definitely adds an element of challenge there…We’ve been doing this now for three and a half years in a quiet way, but we have been trying to perfect the recipe.
“Regardless of which particular geography, everyone feels like they’re part of one group…Think about the DICE brand as becoming a strong FPS brand with games like Battlefield, Bad Company 2, and with BioWare being a strong brand for RPGs — we’re trying to do that inside the action space, where EA has not had a strong position for some time.”
Earl explains that the each studio is capable of bringing their own unique assets and talents to a project, meaning Visceral Games is in a position to insource, as opposed to outsource. Although five projects will be worked on, each studio will be used in varying capacities for each. With a project leader managing each different IP and reporting directly to Earl, the team hopes that the streamlined restructuring will result in a greater collective drive. Only time will tell.
It’s nice to see Visceral Games having their hard work recognized, even if some may see this as EA using a development studio’s credit to their own advantage. The reasoning behind it all is to create a powerful force of successfull franchises, and that remains good news to gamers everywhere until proven otherwise.
If nothing else, this news should be a reminder to the gaming community that while publishers may often be seen as nothing more than suits, the amount of work and dedication done by many is astounding. And with news of developers being left jobless, or games being delayed, it’s easy to overlook the bright side. Just as many teams are looking forward to lengthy franchises, and small studios are looking forward to yet another chance to give players a unique experience.
What is your take on EA’s new plans, ranters? Do you see globalization as the next age of game development, or a chance for disaster?