EA on '08: We just didn't make hits

COO John Pleasants tells investors the publisher failed to execute last year, but is upbeat about his company's lean-and-mean '09 slate.

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Earlier this month, Electronic Arts painted a rather dismal picture with its recap of the crucial holiday-sales quarter. The publisher lowered its outlook for the current year, raised its expected layoffs total to 11 percent of the company, and delayed a handful of its most anticipated games, such as The Sims 3 and Dragon Age: Origins.

EA says it has learned from its experience with FaceBreaker.

Speaking at this week's Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Electronic Arts COO John Pleasants acknowledged the publisher's problems. Although a slumping economy and increasing investments in digital distribution and Wii development have hurt the bottom line of late, Pleasants said that the biggest reason for EA's lower financial results was that "We just didn't make hits."

"Now more than ever in this recessionary time, we see the consumer's flight to highly discounted product or very, very top, top 10 products," Pleasants said. "And our products that we thought were going to get into those slots didn't get in there. And that's execution, and we take full responsibility for that."

As for how EA will improve its lot in the coming year, Pleasants said that the company is making some changes. For one thing, it's going to concentrate its efforts on fewer products, with the total number of EA products released being trimmed 20 percent year-over-year.

Reflecting the publisher's restated commitment to Nintendo's console, Pleasants said that EA has 20-25 games in development for the Wii, "none of them ports." (Although brands such as Need for Speed and Dead Space will have Wii installments, they will be developed from the ground up specifically for the system.) He added that the company has been revamping many of those games as they go along to incorporate lessons learned from previous Wii efforts such as FaceBreaker K.O. Party and the EA Sports All-Play line.

"We're pouring the proverbial gasoline on that to make sure we drive that innovation," Pleasants said.

EA is even rethinking the way that it promotes its games. Pleasants said that the publisher has been waiting too long to get the word out on games, and will start promoting games much further out from their release dates, and with a steady stream of new assets (screenshots, trailers) to support them.

Discussion

207 comments
JJB03
JJB03

i really wanna see a mirrors edge sequal but i doubt that will happen with ?EA behind it all

beekayjay
beekayjay

Dead Space was really great. I'm jst as cynical as the next guy, but the fact is, Dead Space was a near perfect survival horror game that deserves to be mentioned as one of the very top of its genre. EA Redwood really proved themselves with that one. It deserves to be a hit, but sadly was released in around the time of other big name releases.

GameBeaten
GameBeaten

lol FaceBreaker. I still need to get Dead Space and Mirror's Edge.

BarkotGamer
BarkotGamer

EA had some good, fun, games in 2008. Mirror's Edge, Dead Space, Crysis Warhead, you name it. (Dead Space should have been considered a 'hit' IMO.) This year I hope Dragon Age: Origins will be a 'hit', because its the successor of the classic: Baldur's Gate. Good luck, EA. Please dont ruin what you little hope you still have in some of us.

Mikethechimp
Mikethechimp

Lol, people have hated EA for ages. Only now are a lot of people waking up and realizing Nintendo has become just as greedy.

ottumatic
ottumatic

Well I enjoyed Fifa 09 compared to Konami's PES 2009. I hoped they can continually maintained the same effort to Fifa 2010. Dead Space is a pretty solid IP in the horror shooter IP, they should make it longer. Go on EA!

dannyatkinson
dannyatkinson

I actually agree magusat999 but for me it is too little too late.

magusat999
magusat999

Look people - for once in a long time, the game company didn't blame it's poor sales on "pirates"! Instead of trying to inject it in the conversation, how about appreciating th fact that for the first time somebody actually is owning up to their own ball-dropping. Lets not encourage them to going back to the finger pointing - which led to ZERO innovation in games... and a whole lot of DRM-esque "security measures" (none of which worked anyway). If more game companies took responsibility for their screw-ups in the first place, they would have been spending money on GAMES instead of using it to cover their lies - and gaming probably wouldn't be in the quicksand it is in now. I have to give EA a rare kudos for this one.

joelgargan
joelgargan

Mirror's Edge was a four hour joke... Crap story, Crap ending... and barely entertaining Prince of persia-esque gameplay.

SmashingX
SmashingX

@ dannyatkinson - yeah i know a guy that pirates 360 games. it's pathetic and shameful to call yourself a gamer without supporting the developers.

gameking5000
gameking5000

That's not enough though. However, your right what happened to the sport games!

razlken
razlken

i must honestly admit that last year's EA games were pretty good, Mirror's Edge and Dead Space were good. Mass effect was a good one too... IMO EA is actually going bad because of it's stupid fans, that want to play sport games exactly like the one last year but with shiny graphics, and don't want any kind of innovation... it already happened with other companies; e.g psychonauts and beyond good and evil... great games but bad sales and don't say it's the publisher fault (at least when there's no DRM and stuff like that) so let's just wish the games EA stops to Release are not the good ones...

itachi100
itachi100

you guys just never put any content into your games! you just add the basics with a ton of drawbacks for the genre and be done with it after adding crap like secuROM

itachi100
itachi100

LOL EA! and you think you DESERVE IT!!! :D LOL, YOU PUT DRM AND LAZY BUILDS! IN ALL YOUR GAMES! dont expect much recognition from that

dannyatkinson
dannyatkinson

I hate EA for so many reasons. Let's review. 1- They put out tons of garbage games but can't finish TIBERIUM. 2- They think it is cool to use stupid DRM that cripples your PC. SecuROM just needs to DIE. 3- They are killing studios like Westwood. Trust me THEY WILL EVENTUALLY KILL BIOWARE. It will happen. It is companies like EA that are killing PC gaming. It has very little to do with pirates. Just check any file share site and you will see all the Console games there. I am so sick of people saying that PC gaming is dying because of piracy. That is just not true. I think Console games are way more pirated than PC games. If you do not believe me check out the console modding scene.

Jedi_Dad
Jedi_Dad

I am not an EA fan by any means because historically they do what they want without considering the fans much. Creating fewer games will allow a more focused environment and hopefully more fun and polished games when they are released. The BIGGEST thing EA could do better is actually listening to and incorporating more fan feedback from the forums into their games.After all, gamers know what they want to play and what would be fun! And since gamers are the ones BUYING the games, they might ought to look into that...

pwnzord
pwnzord

That's true evil_monkey248 the DRM doesn't mean anything to console games, and yes Spore was hyped to no end that when I finally got a copy of it I had a much grander idea of what it was going to be. Although if they simply didn't dumb down broad genres to create the different phases we could have had something there.

Irishspud79
Irishspud79

Dead space was my favourite game last year above all else,great gameplay,graphics and excellent audio. I'll always keep my copy. Well done on that one EA! Mirrors edge wasn't too bad for me either,just needed something more to it..maybe EA will improve on it for a sequel?

evil_monkey248
evil_monkey248

I myself, Rather enjoyed Dead space, Mirrors edge, Mass Effect, and NHL 09. To me EA is going in the right direction. Although, pwnzord, I also did buy spore and that was the only EA game recently I have been very displeased with. (BUT this was kind of expected with such huge hype for the game) DRM doesn't bother me because its not on console games, and I pirate all PC games. (DRM on console, what a joke :P ) Anyways, to the people who uncontrollably hate everything EA does, just continue not buying their games, more chance that they'll be in stock when I go to the store! :D

Dilan120
Dilan120

I bought Mirrors Edge and I really liked it and its story and the only thing that worries me is that EA maybe wont make a much needed sequel I really hope that EA makes a sequel and I would be really happy if they did and I would sure like them alot more

pwnzord
pwnzord

@Dualmask "Then again, most M-rated games don't sell as well as T- or E-rated ones." Not really sure where you're getting this, by most accounts the game that sold the units in 2008 was rated M (GTA4). I'm sure you had a fair amount of consumers that were limited from purchasing the game because of age, or others who were just simply turned off by the game itself. But I think it would be safe to say that the rating has minimal impact on who will pick up the game. There are greater issues at play why someone does or does not purchase the game. But since this is about EA I'll throw in my two cents. PC games from EA are tough for me to get behind the DRM restrictions put upon the paying customers just doesn't sit well with me. Despite that I bought a few EA games for the PC in 2008 (Mass Effect and Spore one of which was a huge bust I'll let you guess which one). As for the console games go the only one I had any dealing with was Dead Space. It was alright, I enjoyed it enough to 1k it, but I can't say that I was blown away (or frightened at all I just can't understand why anyone ever was in this game). The story was simple, far from being innovative and don't say that the ending was its best part. It was easily deduced throughout the course of the game. Mirror's Edge I didn't play yet, but I plan to check it out. If it is anything like the demo I'm sure it will be enjoyable but nothing too special. And that's what EA is anymore these days. I don't play sports games, so to me EA is just another company putting out average games, nothing too special. The only difference with them and another developer and or publisher is that they deal it out in a higher volume. Perhaps this will be a good thing if they decide to put more focus on developing better games, rather than just making use of the licenses that they have.

Dualmask
Dualmask

Almost every game that comes out these days is too short to spend $60 on. I rent just about everything these days. If I can see everything I want to see in five days time for $8, why pay more? I'm not really into survival horror games anymore so I had no interest in Dead Space, but a friend of mine has it and from what I saw I expected it to be a big seller. Then again, most M-rated games don't sell as well as T- or E-rated ones. As for Mirror's Edge...I didn't like it. I got bored with the gameplay around the third or fourth level, but I applaud the game's design. It just didn't have enough depth for me. Looks like the game industry giants are finally starting to notice that gamers aren't stupid...give me a game I can pour at least 30 hours into of single-player gameplay that's fun and challenging, and I'll consider parting with my hard-earned $60.

airboygt
airboygt

This downhill slide for EA began with the NFS series. First there was that abysmal "PROSTREET"; that tripe was such a departure from the series that EA should not have used the NFS name on it. Next EA tries to recapture the magic of "Most Wanted" with "Undercover", a slightly valiant effort but it ultimately succumbs to the similar things that spelled doom for Prostreet. First off, NFS is about "Mischievous, illegal behavior that can be safely preformed in a fantasy setting." Trying to "Clean Up" the NFS image is what is killing the series, first with the insurance company sponsors on PRostreet to the "Undercover Cop" in undercover. These contrivances to try and justify vehicular mayhem are just plain INSULTING to the game player. Next, trying to make a game into a movie should not be a priority in the games development cycle. How about making the game fun first? Undercover lacked: In game Music track editor, No right analog stick camera control (this is essential in a game like this), no GPS to guide you to another location (warping there is for crybabies), A good HUD map, and A GOOD Story. EA needs to take a step back and look closely and what made this series fun in the first place before attempting another go at it.

Draaagoon
Draaagoon

I do agree that EA need to take a more 'quality over quantity' route but I am slightly concerned that they seem to be focusing so much effort into the Wii. I understand that they are doing this as it is the most sold console which in turn will probably mean the most sold games but I do hope they aim to make some good games for the PS3 and 360. Dead Space was a good game and Mirrors Edge was probably one of the most original games last year, just needed a little more fine tuning.

Oloryn
Oloryn

Whats funny is that I actually found many of EA's games last year pretty good, Dead Space being a great example. If they think they can change up the company to make games consistantly better than a "non-hit" like Dead Space, then it sounds like they're going the direction all of us gamers had been hoping...focusing on quality over quantity. Sounds good to me.

gudni
gudni

Im really looking forward to seeing gameplay footage of the new Need for speed games. I hope Nitro will not stray too far from being a recognizable NFS arcade experiance(I want a lot of car licenses and i still want a little car customization) . I have a feeling that Dead Space Wii will be one of this years most intense shooters.

WestSideAzn
WestSideAzn

Well, they better get ready and make Fight Night Round 4 the best boxing game to come out for a while. Round 3 was awesome, but they just need to improve on that. Oh, and a better Need for Speed as well.

arod1122
arod1122

I find this to be good news because they will try even harder with their upcoming titles even though 2008 wasn't really a BAD year for them. Sure it wasn't the best but it was average to above average in my opinion.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

thats good. i just think the games weren't appealing enough to most gamers. at least they marketed the crap out of their games...i think its just better ip

gamerman_96
gamerman_96

battlefield: bad company has some pretty good online play. Thats what makes it an o.k. game.

gamerman_96
gamerman_96

I really liked mirrors edge, but they could have spent a little more time on it and made it an rpg, it could have done much better than it did if it was one.

jphillips1868
jphillips1868

EA insists on hosting its own servers and then discontinues the online component of their games a few years after launch. To me, this siginficantly lowers the value of their games. I choose to give my gaming dollars to more customer friendly developers.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

as im not into sports games (except boxing), id say the only 2 notable games EA have made have been Dead Space & Mirrors Edge.

gameking5000
gameking5000

They're right only a few hits is no where near enough

Ton77
Ton77

dead space ring a bell?

Gblazer01
Gblazer01

they should concentrate on the 360 and the PS3 instead of the wii. its a waste of time fooling around with a childs system

lordrave
lordrave

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

13wanderer
13wanderer

Dead space is currently my favorite game.

LtPrino
LtPrino

There was nothing wrong with Mirror's Edge. I enjoyed it.

invictuslemming
invictuslemming

You can blame the recession or that most EA games are currently sequels of the 8th generation. When you spit out the same thing 10 times over eventually people start to notice it hasn't changed much from the previous 8 incarnations. I say 8 because generally the first sequel has its merits and improvements from player feed back. After than its really just a rehash of the same old thing over and over.

LtPrino
LtPrino

I am looking forward to the Wii Dead Space game.

DoeJohn531
DoeJohn531

I think the only EA game I purchased in '08 was Dead Space...

andrew_ribbons
andrew_ribbons

Get shot of the rediculous DRM off your PC games, then i'll consider your games again.

GamerNerd4LIFE
GamerNerd4LIFE

i rented facebreaker and thought "i just wasted 8 bucks to rent this piece of CRAP" and downloaded mirror's edge demo and thought "this is a game not a motion sickness ride" simply mirrors edge and facebreaker= CRAP ON A DISK

Death_Masta187
Death_Masta187

why are you all shocked dead space was not a hit? who wants to pay 60 bucks for a 10 hour game... every one just did what I did an rented it and beat it on a weekend... dead space will sale better when it is a bargain bin title. same with mirror's edge.

starfoxmcleoud
starfoxmcleoud

They need to make Mirror's Edge 2 without question. But if they add more gunplay then it could completey ruin the entire game. As long as they keep the original formula and make it almost twice as long, and add more tricks in Faith's "Oh snap!" move list, it shouldn't have a problem with the fans EA already has with Mirror's Edge.

dmish82
dmish82

'Twas a shame. Dead Space is now THE definitive survival-horror game as well as the scariest game I've ever played. Mirror's Edge was extremely fun and polished. Only drawback to it was that the time trials were so frustrating that it ruined the replay value. And then Burnout Paradise was such a sleeper hit with such great continued support. I really hope EA continues on this path and hopefully things improve upon themselves. Congrats to EA in '08!

Theman3788
Theman3788

The last two years I have been extremely impressed with EA. Its sad that they have to come to this level, but a business is a business. As for all of you that says that EA makes crap, Dead Space was an excellent game, Mirrors edge was an extremely gutsy move, and Battlfield bad company was a blast, no pun intended ;-)