Last week, the new CEO of EA, John Riccitiello, announced in an interview: "We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play." Mike Sellers put up some commentary over on Terranova, including this satirical allusion to Cassablanca:
"I'm shocked, shocked to see all these derivative sequels!"
"Your Madden/Sims profits, sir."
"Oh, thank you very much."
Now I'm not going to criticise Riccitiello for making these comments, because it's great to see an industry notable admit that 40 and 60 hour games are a gross mismatch to the new mass market game audience. (My company noted this issue five years ago...) But seriously: you have to do more than just say that we're doing it wrong.
Firstly, you must invest in original products. EA is still the largest publisher by turnover; they are still, I believe, the smallest investor in original IP. They say they're changing - but we're still waiting for the original products.
Secondly, you must either train your staff to understand the new wider ("casual") audience, or hire new staff who are willing to learn about the new audience. I will run a workshop for you if you need help with this. We need to see an end to games alleged to target a casual audience, but made by cloning the hardcore classics the publisher's staff enjoyed. This practice is endemic in the videogames industry and it has to stop.
Thirdly, you should encourage your staff to spot innovation. I took Reluctant Hero around publishers recently; one came back afterwards commenting that it lacked original features. (I wish I could tell you which publisher, for maximum irony!) What does 'original' mean if innovative narrative structures do not count? It's not like I didn't provide a thick report to explain the market value of the original features of the design, either; they either didn't read it, or didn't understand it.
Lastly, you should be willing to take some risks. They don't even have to be big risks. But if your staff believe that "it can't be a good idea, because no-one else is doing it", your corporate culture has become venomous to innovation.
I applaud Riccitiello for his comments. Now I want to see EA take action that matches this self-criticism. If they lead, the others will follow.