Develop 2010: Company co-founder discusses he impact of publisher buyouts

BioWare: EA buyout â??saw huge cultural changeâ??

BioWare says that protecting a studio’s culture is key to success – but a publisher takeover can have a mass effect on the delicate balance.

Speaking during a keynote session on the second day of the Develop Conference in Brighton, BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk made an illuminating lecture that detailed the precise ways in which the company builds its culture.

Zeschuk, now the general manager of BioWare Austin, said that most of people at the company would be able to list its core values off by heart.

But developing a strong culture isn’t easy, he said, and every time a studio adjusts its customs there will be a knock-on effect on staff. He said that, as BioWare grew to become a 400-man outfit, some staff inevitably no longer fitted in.

But the biggest impact, he said, was back in 2007 when Electronic Arts acquired the group.

"Joining EA created huge cultural change," Zeschuk said.

"It probably took us a year to learn how to interact [with EA]. Three years later we’re still getting used to some of it," he added.

Zeschuk said that merging cultures and building an interface between both publisher and developer was key. He said the group had to thread the needle by maintaining the Bioware culture while looking at EA’s culture.

"It’s like any relationship," he said, "you have to put time and effort into it. If you asked me ten years ago if we were to be a part of EA I would have said ‘impossible’. Now we’re very proud of it."

BioWare has sold 25 million games since 1995, having been bought by elevation partners in 2005 and then by Electronic Arts in 2007.

"Culture is important", adds Zeschuk, "make sure you know you goals and your values, make sure you’re talking about it."

He concluded: "People leave when they feel their companies aren’t consistent with their values."

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