Electronic Arts plans a "fundamental shift" in how it makes games, says CEO
There was a time when Electronic Arts was literally the worst company in America. That time was last year, actually, and even though it managed to avoid the three-peat in 2014, there's no question that EA has a long way to go to shed its less-than-sterling reputation. Fortunately for those concerned about such things, CEO Andrew Wilson has a plan.
Simplistically put, Wilson said the new mandate at EA is to ensure its games are functional and fun at a much earlier stage in the process than it has in the past, to be more rigorous about ensuring quality control through the process and to be willing to delay a game's launch when it's necessary. That may sound like simple common sense, but Wilson told Kotaku that it represents a "fundamental shift" in its processes.
"We always believed you need a playable build. We've been building games a long time," he said. "But in the heat of battle you kind of do what you can. We have now said there is no alternative. If the build is not playable, you have to push the schedule until it's playable again. You can't eat up that time."
Earlier betas, like the one for Battlefield Hardline that went live this month, are also a big part of EA's new way of doing things. Hardline is already in a "very polished state," he said, but opening the beta now—the game doesn't launch until October—gives the company a "longer ramp and a much longer phase to bring far more people into the game."
He also promised to be more forthcoming with information about what EA is getting up to. "The world is changing. This Hollywood blockbuster mentality of, 'Keep all of the information to yourself' is not something that makes sense in today's world," he said. Again referencing Hardline, news of which leaked ahead of the official announcement, he added, "We can't keep a secret anyway, so we may as well just start talking about it."
The first bit of the interview game me the impression that Wilson was just spouting conventional corporate platitudes, but as he went on (and it's a fairly meaty talk), he started to convince me that maybe he's serious about changing things up. Electronic Arts is never going to be a nimble indie operation tightly connected with its fan base, but I have no doubt that it can do better, and Wilson comes across, to me at least, as someone who might be the guy to make it happen.
"I really want us to change as a company and start making more new stuff, and in order to do that, you have to get feedback, and in order to get feedback, you have to be willing to open the curtain and have a conversation about it early," he said. "And those fears you would have had in years gone by of competitive advantage and what if someone else sees what you're doing and will they build it quicker? At the end of the day if we build a great game, it doesn't matter."
Dare to dream, right?