Today's Electronic Arts press conference at the E3 Media & Business Summit ended with a shocker. Namely, that id Software had decided not to partner with longtime publisher Activision for its next project, Rage. Instead EA will distribute the game under its EA Partners program, which lets independent developers take advantage of the massive publisher's marketing, sales, and support expertise without having to surrender any sovereignty over their IPs.
Today's id announcement is a coup for EA, which also has EA Partners deals with two other famed first-person shooter developers: Crytek, makers of Crysis, and Valve, the shop behind Half-Life 2 and Left 4 Dead. But while id is most famous for its horror-themed FPS series Doom and Quake, Rage is something new for the studio--an open-world game that has players driving through a postapocalyptic hellscape in Road Warrior-like vehicles.
"As we moved out with a new title and a new franchise for us, we shopped it around to all the major publishers," id cofounder John Carmack told GameSpot. "In fact, we've done it a couple times, [since] we're in the enviable position of having been able to fund the title ourselves...we were able to retire a lot of the risk to the publishers."
Now, several years into the game's development, id made "some hard decisions" and decided to go with EA Partners, despite having a poor opinion of the publisher's past record. "I'll admit that, if you asked me years ago, I still had thoughts that EA was the Evil Empire, the company that crushes the small studios...I'd have been surprised, if you told me a year ago that we'd end up with EA as a publisher."
Obviously, Carmack's opinion has changed. "When we went out and talked to people, especially EA Partners people like Valve, we got almost uniformly positive responses from them." Like other EA Partners, such as Harmonix/MTV Games, Carmack stressed that the EA Partners deal "isn't really a publishing arrangement. Instead, they really offer a menu of services--Valve takes one set of things, Crytek takes a different set, and we're probably taking a third set.
For EA, the decision was simple. "We look at the top independent developers in the games space," said EA Partners general manager David De Martini. "We're just trying to help them make the best game possible." He singled out EA's large roster of consults and experts which will help developers with PR as well as marketing their game when "it's at the right level of quality."
Does the Rage deal mean that EA Partners will also be distributing other id games such as Doom 4 and the forthcoming Castle Wolfenstein game? In a word, maybe. "It's a single title deal right now. As with previous id titles, we don't have anything locked up just now, and we'll be shopping around Doom 4 in the not-too-distant future." As for Rage, the game will be released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and Mac "when it's done."
To hear Carmack, De Martini, and id lead designer Tim Willits discuss the deal, check out GameSpot's video Q&A with the trio.