Google+

What could spur three EA execs to jump ship?

Electronics Arts had a number of ups and downs in 2013--Battlefield 4 sales up, SimCity’s broken launch down--and 2014 is already off to a tumultuous start. The past week has seen exits from high level execs from three of EA’s biggest teams. First came resignations from the co-founders of Burnout dev Criterion, then PopCap’s CEO, and now Chillingo’s founders have all left their internal EA studios. It makes you wonder just what’s going on at EA these days.

All three developers had gone through some changes as of late. Criterion created some astoundingly good driving games in the Burnout and Need for Speed series, but 2013 saw them shrink in size to a staff of 17, while another EA studio, Ghost Games, took over the Need for Speed franchise. EA didn’t seem to have much need for the celebrated developer last year, though the publisher says the Criterion team is currently working on a new game. What that project is, exactly, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, both PopCap and Chillingo are a big part of the casual market, which in turn seems pretty important to EA’s current business model. So why are these people leaving just as microtransactions keep growing? And all this follows the exits of major people from BioWare in years prior. Are the departures by these influential people a reflection of something rotten in the world of EA?

EA’s certainly gone through massive restructuring following the resignation of Chief Executive John Riccitiello, and these recent exits could be another aspect of that. This could also reflect EA’s changing priorities of late. These studios were all purchased as part of a old regime that Riccitiello represented, so perhaps the roles of the developers are changing (even minimizing)--or worse, EA might be slowly shutting down or phasing out these groups entirely. It wouldn't be the first time a promising studio was purchased and subsequently closed by a major publisher.

On the bright side, maybe these big names are joining an ever-growing group of industry vets that are going independent. GR’s Ryan Taljonick wrote about former AAA devs switching careers to go indie. Could it be that all these guys are heading to start-ups and thinking small, while EA keeps getting more insular? Here’s hoping these guys all have some reason for leaving beyond disliking their jobs, because for a corporation that was voted worst company in America, this hardly helps public perception of EA. If the founders of these companies don’t want to stick around, how long till the rest of their teams follow?

We Recommend By ZergNet

25 comments

  • LEGOMatrix - January 8, 2014 1:24 a.m.

    Is it because EA is corporate Hell that sucks out more and more of your soul the higher you climb? Is it because it is subject to the will of shareholders who are idiots who know nothing about games and just want profits?
  • Shigeruken - January 7, 2014 5:33 a.m.

    I think a few influential people within EA have chosen a direction that other employees are unhappy with. It's true that the ship is slowly turning; moulding itself back into something we can all be proud to support, but I think that the change will come too slow for many people to be happy with. People are leaving for the same reason as always: they want to do something else with what little time they have left. This is almost certainly why so many Bioware employees have jumped ship. Seriously, universal cooldowns do nothing but hurt enjoyment and cripple gameplay. Whoever thought those were a good idea for a single player game should be fired outright, no matter what other contributions they've made to Bioware's games
  • mafyooz - January 7, 2014 3:41 a.m.

    Personally I've not bought an EA game or piece of DLC for any of their games I already owned since it became apparent how much the Dead Space franchise was being diluted and that micro-transactions were being shoe-horned in, and have no plans to in the future (if you don't like a what a company is doing for any reason, don't buy it's products). Maybe these execs leaving will herald the start of EAs return to the semi-mythical days when they didn't just try to squeeze every last penny from consumers, I won't be holding my breath though....
  • Shigeruken - January 7, 2014 5:36 a.m.

    Vote with your wallet, as Burnie Burns likes to say. I myself purchase Origin keys from authorized resellers to avoid the 60% regional markup. I've always been puzzled by how much they charge for games here in NZ, considering that our average weekly income is about one game less than America's.
  • TokenGamesRadarFurry - January 7, 2014 7:35 a.m.

    I just avoid Origin all together. Am I kinda bummed I can't play BF4 with folks? Sure, but EA's had enough chances. I won't buy another title from them until they stop being such rubbish...though hopefully they seem to be making baby steps towards that now.
  • mafyooz - January 7, 2014 9:09 a.m.

    Yeah, I thought we got burned here in the UK compared to the US until an old friend of mine's husband, who is a New Zealander, pointed out how much of a mark-up you guys get screwed with even over what we get charged!
  • BladedFalcon - January 6, 2014 7:53 p.m.

    Maybe they all just realized what a sinking ship EA has become, and decided to jump into the much more freeing Indie and Kickstarter movement. If so, good for them. Publishers like EA are becoming more and more obsolete the more increasingly obvious it's becoming that Developers no longer need them anymore. Publishers need to start adapting and be less of restrictive, focus group, directive chair-driven assholes, or rot in hell.
  • shawksta - January 6, 2014 8:14 p.m.

    Ive seen various people try to question how EA will handle in the future and by Handle i mean "Fuck up" and by question i mean "How will EA fuck up *Insert Upcoming game we know barely about*"
  • TokenGamesRadarFurry - January 6, 2014 8:20 p.m.

    To be fair, they usually find a way.
  • BladedFalcon - January 6, 2014 9:33 p.m.

    "HAI GUYS! WE'VE CREATED A SUPER CREEPY, MOODY HORROR GAME! LET'S MAKE THE SQEQUELS PROGRESSIVELY LESS AND LESS SCARY! OH AND LET'S ALSO ADD MICROTRANSACTIONS!" "HAI GUYS! LET'S TAKE THIS FRANCHISE KNOWN FOR BEING SINGLE PLAYER EXCLUSIVELY, AND FORCE PEOPLE TO PLAY IT ALWAYS ONLINE! Oh AND LET'S NOT EVEN BOTHER MAKE SURE OUR INFRASRTUCTURE CAN TAKE IT!" "HAI GUYS! LET'S PARTNER UP WITH IMSOMNIAC! BUT THEIR GAME LOOKS TOO INTERESTING, COLORFUL AND FUN, LET'S INSTEAD ASK THEM TO MAKE IT MORE BLAND AND GENERIC AND REMOVE ANY APPEAL FROM IT! IT'LL SELL TONS!" "HAI GUYS! SO THERE'S THIS SUPER POPULAR TOWER DEFENSE GAME THAT GOT SUPER POPULAR ON COMPUTERS AND THEN ON ALL OTHER PLATFORMS! LET'S MAKE IT FREE TO PLAY AND REMOVE THE STRUCTURE OF WHAT MADE IT SPECIAL! AND Oh, LET'S RELEASE IT ON ONLY ONE PLATFORM INITIALLY!"
  • Divine Paladin - January 6, 2014 10:59 p.m.

    Actually, Insomniac themselves chose to "change" OverStrike. (That's quoted because we never saw what OverStrike was outside of a prerendered trailer not even made by Insomniac. As a fan I'd love to blame EA instead of IG, but that's not really fair to do. So I just ignore the existence of Fuse altogether, like everyone else.
  • BladedFalcon - January 7, 2014 5:23 a.m.

    Right, because EA has no history of meddling with a developer's IP and making/forcing the developer to claim it was their idea, even though it clearly wasn't. (See: The adding of MultiPlayer to Mass Effect 3, The adding of always online to Sim City and devs claiming the game couldn't be played offline even though it totally could. The change of Dead Space from a horror game to a gears of war clone.) What's more plausible? That a studio like Insomniac (Known for their wacky, fun weapons and personality, specially with the ratchet & clank series.) had an idea that they suddenly chose to scrap in favor of something more generic on their own. Or that this change was forced upon by a publisher with a vast history of executive meddling? Most properties under EA in the last 5 years have had chances that have been for the worse, or make no sense for the original concept and mantra of the franchise. Are you really telling me it's more plausible that all those changes were a coincidence and they all came from the developers, and not from the ONE thing they all had in common?
  • Divine Paladin - January 7, 2014 10:21 a.m.

    EA has no ownership or say in ANY development made under their Partners Program. Fuse was the last game in this program. Insomniac's said literally a dozen times that THEY took the change themselves. I was a very active member on the IG forums during the fiasco, and while everybody everywhere else was blaming EA, we heard from moderators and actual employees (I'd like to say Vitti but it might have been Beast! that said it more prominently), as well as Ted Price himself in a site update, that this was all Insomniac. And considering the change was only aesthetic (besides one major gun change, because apparently the development of that bubble gun seen in the first OverStrike trailer was too wonky), according to all Insomniac accounts, we can't blame EA for taking the fun away either. Lastly, if you want previous history of Insomniac doing this, look at the changes THEY chose to make to Resistance. R3 was (although beloved now) hated by fans for a while because IG changed all the color palettes to a mostly brownish "generic" color and changing to a more general FPS structure. I love IG; they sit as one of my favorite studios. But I will not blindly bash EA for some mistakes that Insomniac has made and owned up to themselves. I would LOVE to pin it on somebody else, but we've seen straight confirmation several times, and it'd be wrong of me to throw more rocks at EA with that knowledge.
  • BladedFalcon - January 7, 2014 11:21 a.m.

    Well, you certainly have more detailed and insight on the whole matter than me. So I'm not going to argue with you there. If nothing else, it sounds very clear that insomniac wants to take full responsibility for the change. I just think it's fishy, y'know? I mean, again, look at almost every single game and franchise that EA has touched in the past 5 years, and tell me it isn't odd that many of them tend to have very strange, or fishy changes done to them. And those that don't, get almost no support or publicity from them. (Like Shadows of The Damned, a game that was it's own thing from beginning to end... And EA did a shit job promoting it even though they were publishing it.)
  • Divine Paladin - January 7, 2014 11:37 a.m.

    Oh I don't disagree: EA has been awful with franchises over the past few years. There is a lot of reason to defend Insomniac in the Fuse fiasco, because of this. I thought much the same when it first happened. Now that I know better, I try to get the word out when the opportunity is there. With 99% of franchises, EA fucks up somehow, but with just one, it wasn't their fault. I'm surprised we haven't seen EA close studios down as much, on an unrelated note. My biggest problem with Activision is that they cut studios into pieces, and right now it seems like that would be EA's territory.
  • shawksta - January 7, 2014 12:31 a.m.

    I dont think............... ............No wait PvZ IS a Tower Defense Carry on
  • Jackonomics2.0 - January 7, 2014 1:06 a.m.

    Dont forget the inevitable fall of Star Wars http://i.imgur.com/gu4EuF1.jpg
  • Shigeruken - January 7, 2014 5:42 a.m.

    Let's not forget the reaper star child forced into an otherwise perfect story, with random dream sequences breaking up the tension and flow of gameplay to remind the player of how little they care about one child introduced in a poorly executed and arbitrary scene.
  • BladedFalcon - January 7, 2014 7:30 a.m.

    Yeah, that was pretty shit. But I wouldn't necessary go so far as to blame EA for that one. I mean, that is a story plot point, bot something corporate execs would care very much about either way. That particular blunder I would pin it more to the writers of the game themselves. What MIGHT have influenced that as well, is that one of the main writers for the previous games, Drew Karpyshyn left Bioware and didn't write anything for ME3. and maybe his departure could have had something with EA. Only that way could I see EA being to blame for the crappier plot points in ME3 :P
  • Shigeruken - January 7, 2014 5:50 p.m.

    Oh, I heard Karpyshyn wrote a surprising amount of ME3 before he decided to leave. If he didn't then I suppose Walters did a better job than I've been giving him credit for haha. Yeah I get that it's not a management decision, I was really just venting. It does tickle my funny bone to think about how many poor decisions EA has shed responsibility for.

Showing 1-20 of 25 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000

OR…

Connect with Facebook

Log in using Facebook to share comments, games, status update and other activity easily with your Facebook feed.