Label president Gibeau says studio independence is key, though some game elements are mandatory

EA on dev management: We inspire, not insist

Should an EA Games studio not want to include online functionality to a project, a managing exec at the company has said he would “inspire” the team to think again.

In an interview with Develop
, EA Games label boss Frank Gibeau said he “firmly believes that the way the products we have are going they need to be connected online”.

He said, elsewhere, that dev autonomy was of the utmost importance.

When asked on what call he would make if the two principles clashed – if a studio thought its game isn’t appropriate for net features – Gibeau said he’d find a way of turning them around.

“I don’t go up to every game team and ask – what is your deathmatch mode?” he said.

“I look at how to make games a broader idea with online services.”

Develop put to Gibeau that EA therefore insists on certain features to be added to games – something which appears to go against its aim to foster studio independence.

“Well you say ‘insist’, I say inspire,” Gibeau retorted.

“What I learned early on in my career was that, if you’re going to lead a creative team, you have to inspire people. They’re the ones living in the game.”

He said his partnership with EA studios is “about collaboration – looking at being both critically acclaimed and commercially successful.”

Gibeau’s comments come as the relationship between developers and studios is perhaps under more scrutiny than ever.

In March, one of the most lucrative studios in the business – Infinity Ward – was thrown into disarray as swathes of staff left amid a row with its publisher Activision.

The studio’s co-founders, Jason West and Frank Zampella, set up their own studio and signed with EA Partners.

“I like to give studios a lot of creative autonomy, and that’s certainly proven by the types of games we’ve brought out over the last couple of years,” Gibeau added.

He went on: “It’s one of my core cultural studio values to allow developers to decide more on what they want to build. And a studio’s creative call needs to be balanced against a commercial imperative, and if you look at online these days – that’s the place to be.

“Game makers, the really good ones, they want to make great games but they also want to make blockbusters. One of the things they need to do is balance that out – I have the right team to help them.

“I volunteer you to speak to EA’s studio heads; they’ll tell you the same thing. They’re very comfortable moving the discussion towards how we make connected gameplay.

“I always found it a big problem when a game’s executive producer would come up to me and ask what I should do next. I would always respond that’s not my job. You’re job is to come up with the creative vision, mine is to edit and tweak so it’s a bigger commercial opportunity. I’m very clear about that.”

The second half of Develop’s interview with Gibeau can be found here.

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