Remember back in July when newly appointed EA CEO John Riccitiello shocked the gaming world by admitting that EA was boring, and committed to creating new and original IP? It was an encouraging sign - perhaps the industry was ready for some much needed change. How utterly ironic, then, that we totally misunderstood Mr. Riccitiello's intentions. It wasn't that they planned to take EA's huge capital and invest in original games, but rather that they intended to buyout the largest independent developers and acquire their catalogue of original product.
In case you haven't heard, the news broke last Thursday that EA is purchasing the holding group for both BioWare and Pandemic for $855 million, which also happens to be Riccitiello's old company.
EA was sitting on $3 billion before this purchase. But why spend that money creating new jobs? Why spend it diversifying the market a bit? Why spend it fostering competition? Far more lucrative and easy to spend it snatching up an existing infrastructure.
The message this sends to the industry does indeed seem to be: there's no need for publishers to invest their capital in original product; they should simply seek out already successful studios and acquire them. Riccitello's previous comment was not a commitment to creating original product, as we originally believed, but just a commitment to selling it. I suppose we were naive for believing otherwise.
If Riccitello is to regain any credibility in the eyes of the gamer hobbyists, we had better see some sign of investment in original game projects beyond this acquisition strategy. Now would be a good time to draw attention to any original projects EA might be investing in outside of the spotlight, thus assuaging our concerns that this buyout is the sole extent of their commitment to originality.
It's ironic: in November, the release of Crysis and Army of Two will meet my target of three original titles in a twelve month period, thus dissolving FEAP (the Futile EA Protest) - my personal stand against EA's poor track record in original products. Perhaps it will be necessary to consider an appropriate successor.
Most recent original IPs from EA:
Black (Criterion), published February 2006 (acquired through acquisition of Criterion)
Boom Boom Rocket (Bizarre Creations), published April 2007 (Xbox Live Arcade)
Boogie (EA Montreal), published August 2007