EA Owes Its Success To Its Failures

The Wooster

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Jul 15, 2008
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EA Owes Its Success To Its Failures


Long-standing EA developer, Rich Hilleman, explains that EA learned to succeed by failing.

It's hard to imagine that Electronic Arts was once a small company, as opposed to the absurd corporate behemoth it is now. According to creative director, Rich Hilleman, who's been with EA since the 80's and worked on the original Madden game, the company's growth from two man start-up to corporate juggernaut can be attributed to its tendency to screw up in surprisingly fortuitous ways.

"There are two real cases in EA where I think we made bad choices, and ended up being brilliant choices," he told Gamasutra. [http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/167201/Two_of_EAs_best_decisions_were_its_worst_in_disguise_.php]

The first case was the Amiga. EA's Amiga games were almost universally terrible. Only Deluxe Paint managed to make any money, and that's stretching the definition of "game" a little bit.

"And so the Amiga, for us, taught us a whole bunch of new things," said Hilleman. "We had to get good at music, we had to get much better at art, we had to get better animation that wasn't all sprite animation, we had to do 3D for the first time - a whole bunch of things that we had to do."

"But how it paid it off is almost all of that stuff went straight to the [Sega] Genesis. And so really what happened for us is the Amiga was sort of a pre-run of what the Genesis business was for us."

The Genesis (or Megadrive, for you civilized readers) became EA's earliest stomping ground. It saw the release of games like the Strike Series, Road Rash and the first game in the FIFA Soccer series, which is EA's second best-selling franchise and the best-selling sports sim series to date. Impressive, given that EA had to reverse-engineer its own genesis development kit [http://www.destructoid.com/a-bit-of-gaming-history-ea-reverse-engineered-its-own-genesis-devkit-99328.phtml] - hence the distinctive yellow-tabbed carts.

The same thing happened again with the horrendous, 3DO system in the early 90's. EA's failures on that system were excellent practice for the PlayStation, which would arrive shortly after.

"We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how do you build products for disc-based media with this particular set of characteristics," he said. "And although 3DO didn't achieve the commercial results we were after, [PlayStation linchpin] Ken Kutaragi was definitely paying attention, and that product carried a lot of the same characteristics that [former EA exec] Trip [Hawkins] had wanted in the 3DO titles.

"As a result, everything we did on 3DO was a preface for what we could do on PlayStation 1."


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CrazyBlaze

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Jul 12, 2011
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Just goes to show that all failures are experience to use to learn for the future. Though I'm sure there are a lot of people who wished that those failures had closed EA.
 

RA92

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Jan 1, 2011
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Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes, eh, EA?
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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Interesting, though to be honest I find it ironic to see the 3DO being mentioned as horrendous and touted as a failure, when arguably the whole "interactive movie" schtick from that period is becoming the standard today. Back with the 3DO it was felt people didn't want to play games so much as watch movies with some interaction, and so that era, along with early CDROM games was full of games with mostly unknown actors in cheap costumes being digitized for games which were limited in many cases to what the video allowed.

While things have moved more in the direction of Mocap technology rather than direct digitization I see increasing similarities to the failed games of that time, and a lot of what was on the 3DO platform and what's being produced now accross the board, especially when you look at things like "Heavy Rain" or the way games have increasingly been moving towards cinematics and away from game play.

Oddly, I see very few similarities between the PS1 and the 3DO overall in the terms of games and I'm not entirely sure how experience with the 3DO's type of development was a benefit to the PS-1.

Besides which, I kind of thought EA had some of the more successful games of that time period, I seem to remember Wing Commander 3 and maybe 4 being both 3DO and PC games. EA had Origin at that point if I remember, and was makign a big deal about what it was spending on it's games "almost like movies" and bragging about how it hired Mark Hamill to star in Wing Commander (which was kind of sad on a lot of levels, since I always liked to name my own pilot and engage in a bit of wish fulfillment fantasy.. lol).
 

The Wooster

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Raiyan 1.0 said:
Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes.
That mistake being "don't get bought out by EA?"
 

Covarr

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May 29, 2009
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I don't really see how anybody could classify EA's 3DO outings as failures. They did Shockwave: Invasion Earth, which was so good that I still find myself wishing for a remake.

P.S. Thanks
 

Vault101

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Sep 26, 2010
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Therumancer said:
Interesting, though to be honest I find it ironic to see the 3DO being mentioned as horrendous and touted as a failure, when arguably the whole "interactive movie" schtick from that period is becoming the standard today. Back with the 3DO it was felt people didn't want to play games so much as watch movies with some interaction, and so that era, along with early CDROM games was full of games with mostly unknown actors in cheap costumes being digitized for games which were limited in many cases to what the video allowed.
).
current games...as "cinematic" at they are still function better as games...
 

weirdee

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Apr 11, 2011
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yeah, but to think...

maybe the failed companies are just "test runs" to them?

sometimes it's like they don't even feel responsible for anything

who am i kidding, it's all the time
 

gigastar

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Sep 13, 2010
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Grey Carter said:
Raiyan 1.0 said:
Too bad the likes of Bullfrog and Westwood never had the chance to learn from their mistakes.
That mistake being "don't get bought out by EA?"
I like to think thats one mistake no one will ever make again.

Though if it wasnt by EA, chances are they would have ended up enslaved to another publisher anyway.
 

laserwulf

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Dec 30, 2007
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Neither the article nor the linked one about EA's first dev-kit explain why their Genesis cartridges actually had the yellow tab. In a Game Informer interview with one of the founders (I'd have to dig through my pile of issues to find exactly which one), he admitted that there was no practical purpose for the tabs and they just wanted their carts to have a distinctive look (while not exactly deterring folks from dreaming up fancy theories).
 

Metalrocks

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and now bioware sold their soles to ?A. gave us a bad ending in ME3. im sure it was ?As idea to cut corners and make money with future DLCs so as the MP in a ME game.

damn ?A, got my self BF3 last week and i have only problems with it. servers are lagging like hell. what was the 4GB patch for?? im staying far away now from any games with a ?A logo on it. otherwise i make a mistake by giving them money.
 

Antari

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Nov 4, 2009
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EA owes its success to the nature of the industry. NOTHING more. They didn't happen under a lucky star. They exploit the fact that the industry is constantly introducing new kids into gaming. Hense the constant record breaking for every game that comes out. It has absolutely nothing to do with anyone at EA having the slightest clue of what they are doing. Outside of blatent exploitation.
 

Thoric485

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What about running Origin, Westwood, Bullfrog, Mythic and Pandemic into the ground?

I don't think they learned a lot from that, looking at how BioWare is heading the same way.
 

Zen Toombs

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I guess this means that EA is about to make absolutely massive strides in how they wrap up a series?
 

Metalrocks

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Drenaje1 said:
Metalrocks said:
and now bioware sold their soles to ?A.
I was unaware that Bioware's shoe soles were such a lucrative offer for EA.
well, bioware belongs to ?A for quite some time now but you get my point. ?A doesnt make games, they just profit from other companies, because ?A is too stupid to make games them selfs. all they know is how to make the same game over and over again.
 

GeorgW

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Aug 27, 2010
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It's funny, I think I've read an article where EA says they're proud of their mistakes 5 times over the last 2 years, only it's different EA people saying it every time. It seems like everyone at EA knows they make a lot of mistakes, yet they continue to make them. That doesn't seem like a success to me...
 

Qitz

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Well, that's good because there's an awful lot of fail for them to learn from. Of course, this hardly matters since they rarely ever put that knowledge to use.
 

Legion

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Oct 2, 2008
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Metalrocks said:
Drenaje1 said:
Metalrocks said:
and now bioware sold their soles to ?A.
I was unaware that Bioware's shoe soles were such a lucrative offer for EA.
well, bioware belongs to ?A for quite some time now but you get my point. ?A doesnt make games, they just profit from other companies, because ?A is too stupid to make games them selfs. all they know is how to make the same game over and over again.
He was taking the piss because you said 'soles' when you meant 'souls'.

A 'sole' is what you have inside your shoes.