What’s going on at EA?

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AbandonShip

You really have to wonder what’s going on EA at the moment. Perhaps there’s a crisis of management, perhaps there’s something foul afoot – but you have to sit up and take notice when EA’s year has a such a tumultuous start. In the last week, the company’s seen three sets of executives leave.

First to go were Criterion  co-founders Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry. As you’re aware, Criterion mostly made a name for themselves by making excellent Burnout games, but for the last few years it seems that EA management has forced the company to make Need for Speed after Need for Speed – which is as likely a reason as ever for the pair to make an exit.

Speaking on the matter, Ward said on Twitter that he and Sperry were going to start a brand new company, so it’s quite ostensible that they felt creatively shackled. Last year, Criterion shrunk down to be a studio of just 17 staff.

Later departures from EA studios came from the casual sector. Popcap CEO Dave Roberts announced this week that he was leaving the company after 9 years at the helm, joining company co-founder Jason Kapalka in departing.

And now, casual gaming stablemates Chillingo – responsible for launching the first Angry Birds and Cut The Rope – has lost its founders as well. Founders Chris Byatte and Joe Wee announced earlier this week that they too were leaving the companies they created, leaving their brands under EA’s stewardship.

This all comes after the unexpected resignation of former EA boss John Ricitiello and the resulting management shuffle that’s seen former EA sports head Andrew Wilson take the reins.In somewhat related news, Visceral Games executive producer behind the frankly awful Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel has revealed how development of the game was rather unpleasant.

On his LinkedIn profile, producer Julian Beak iterated how the developers were on a “negative trajectory of morale” during the development of  Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, leading  to what he calls an “underwhelming production.”

It’s starting to seem as though something is very rotten, deep inside the company that’s been voted the worst in America for two years running. Perhaps it’s the corporate culture; everything is decided and controlled by people in suits who know very little about games and very much about how nice profits look on a balance sheet. When creators have no creative freedom, their product inevitably suffers – as does any passionless thing that’s done ultimately for money.

EA, undeniably, still has some of the very best games and franchises – the new Mass Effect and  Dragon Age inquisition is certainly very high on my radar, for example – but if things continue this way, they might not have enough talented creatives left to make genuinely amazing games.

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Geoffrey Tim

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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