GDC '08: EA takes games seriously

Publisher offers a look at how it adapted The Sims, SimCity, and Madden NFL franchises for educational purposes and why it won't be making a habit of the practice.

by

SAN FRANCISCO--An executive with Electronic Arts gave a presentation at the Serious Games Summit portion of the Game Developers Conference, and one of the overarching themes he returned to repeatedly was that EA is not in the serious games business.

EA's vice president for global brand development of The Sims label Steve Seabolt was there to bring the audience up to speed on a handful of the company's games that had been adapted for educational and training purposes, but he stressed the company is still laser-focused on making entertaining games above all else. One of the main reasons why is that every dollar spent on making an educational game is one less dollar the publisher had to spend on its frontline franchises like Army of Two or Madden NFL Football.

"The reality is that we are a hit-driven business," Seabolt explained. "And economically, we can't really commit to launching a product unless we think we can sell a minimum of 2 million units. If you talk to anybody in the venture capital community, there's probably more economic roadkill around educational games in the past 20 years than just about any other category. Nobody's proven that you can sell a huge quantity of games yet."

Seabolt said EA is frequently approached by people looking to convert its games to educational or training purposes (or perhaps to commission a new game outright), but that it turns down eight or nine such proposals for every one it accepts. As for how it picks its projects, the publisher insists that the proposal fits well within the existing brand, that players would "be delighted" by the association, and that the project is an "opportunity of scale," or has a wide reach.

"That's probably the hardest thing to say no about," Seabolt said. "When the Tennessee Department of Health asked us to do something for a smoking-cessation product, that wasn't a natural fit, nor was it an opportunity of scale."

As for what projects have met the criteria, some have already been well publicized. For instance, the publisher last year donated an open-source version of SimCity to the One Laptop Per Child project. The SimCity Societies partnership with BP Alternative Energy also started off as a serious gaming proposal.

Seabolt said that 18 months ago, with development well underway on SimCity Societies, BP approached EA with an offer to pay for a game to teach youth around world about energy choices and consequences. Instead of creating a new game from scratch, the publisher decided to update the way pollution works in the game.

Instead of managing the generic "pollution," players have to consider the various amounts of carbon each of their energy sources pump out into the atmosphere. Technologies like solar panels and low-carbon power plants might cost more up front, but they provide longer term benefits that can lead to a happier, healthier population.

The publisher has also converted its various franchises into a few lower profile serious games projects. Seabolt talked about EA's contribution to Carnegie Mellon University's Alice, the open-source educational computer programming tool. For the next iteration of the program, EA is helping to underwrite development and is contributing art and animation from The Sims to put an accessible face on students' sometimes daunting first steps into computer programming. Alice is currently used in dozens of universities and a few high schools, and the developers are working on versions for grade school students as well.

Even the Madden NFL franchise has been tapped for serious gaming. The best-selling football franchise is at the heart of XOS Technologies' PlayAction Simulator, a pigskin training tool used by NCAA national champions the LSU Tigers. The simulator allows players to get a first-person perspective on how different plays look and then grades them afterward on abilities, like reading the defense and choosing the best receiver for a pass.

Discussion

58 comments
division_9
division_9

Serious games?, Screw education, Thats what a SCHOOL is built for, not EA.

Trashcan_Man
Trashcan_Man

Prove it, EA. Spend more time scrutinizing the quality of the games you stamp your name on instead of wasting time hosting conferences to wave your stick around. =P

metaljeff
metaljeff

They take money, and the obvious stupidity of the average gamer, VERYYY Seriously!!...Long Live 2k Sports!!!!!

des_kong
des_kong

Hmm... maybe this damm article is paid by EA

The_Fairfaxian
The_Fairfaxian

So let me guess, no Sim City 5 (and SCS doesn't count). Well screw you then EA.

PumpkinBoogie
PumpkinBoogie

Why in the world are most of you people hatin' on this article??? Are you people even paying attention? Half of you are sitting here wondering why Gamespot is "wasting" the time to print this, but in case you didn't pay attention to what the title say like me point it out: GDC '08, meaning Game Developers Conference 2008!! HELLO, and in case some of you haven't been paying attention to the website Gamespot has been advertising on the site for a at least a week now about it! Don't believe, then go back on to the homepage or hell, just look up and the top of this very page and you'll see it up there....duh. Ok and so what, it's talkin' about EA--and sure we all know that EA ain't the saint of companies--it still is after all a company that develops games....wow, imagine that. Secondly, what the hell is up everybody (well not all poster but large majority) misreading what the overall point of the article was? Or what's up with everybody just reading the title part "EA takes games seriously" and then just pickin' and choosin' what you wanna see out of the article? Let me breakdown--educational style--somthing most of you probably didn't bother to pay any attention to, the title of the article was a PLAY ON WORDS--meaning the actual phasing of the title wasn't meant to be taken literally, but rather it was the opposite..... If you still don't get what I'm sayin'--I'ma break (and shut) it down w/ one perfect stone, or shall I say sentence taken directly off the first part of the article: "An executive with Electronic Arts gave a presentation at the Serious Games Summit portion of the Game Developers Conference, and one of the overarching themes he returned to repeatedly was that EA is not in the serious games business." The exec of EA, which a game developer company, did a presentation at the "Serious Games Summit" part of the GDC which(was also in the title) is the acronym for the Game Developers Conference, clearly pointed out that though they've done educational things with some of their titles for some groups and organizations--they are NOT in the business of serious game making! And there you have it, kiddies....the play on words of the title catch right in front of ya'.....Gamespot intentionally wrote the article's title in a way that purposely played on the Serious Games Summit part that was in the article. Clever of Gamespot's writers, right? ;) (apparently though, it was soo "clever" that some people's asinine comments reflect the fact that it flew right over their heads....:roll: )

Gastman
Gastman

Why is everybody all of sudden hate EA. I know that they are buying developer left and right but they go money to do that they want. The only EA games that I got are Madden, NFS, and NBA Street.

Canitbe
Canitbe

There you have it, the sole reason Sim Societies is a horrible piece of garbage.

DarwinBC
DarwinBC

dammit I just wasted time I'll never get back! Damn you EA. Plus why is gamespot wasting there energy posting corporate propaganda? I'm going back to work

Dryker
Dryker

That's a whole lotta words saying, "we gave'em stuff we had layin' around the office. Aren't we cool?"

Cobra5
Cobra5

Is this a news article, or some kind of advertisement...?

aaron5829
aaron5829

Err, what ?? Am i missing something here ?? The only game i own for PS3 from EA is Burnout...

datbush
datbush

gotta love corporate BS

KamuiFei
KamuiFei

I'm not so sure about "taking games seriously" sums up what EA is all about. If the title says something like "EA rehashs same games to make money seriously" then I would believe it.

Shmoe82
Shmoe82

EA, I can think of a few great Edu games: Oregon Trail, sim city 1,Yukon Trail, Number munchers. Just because you guys have no imagination doesn't mean that making an edu game is a bad idea. You have made your own horrible games in the past.

PiNwOrM
PiNwOrM

ocdog45: EA loses money when they do the edu-crap thing. The people proposing the educational editions arn't paying them to do so, it's the other way around if anything (though there are some possible exceptions)

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

EA might be serious ... but they still are an overgrown monster that doesnt know how to hold on to good things and just throws crap around like a monkey on roid-rage......

DFalcon999
DFalcon999

If they take games so seriously, why am I laughing every time one of their sports titles come out, especially Madden? Granted, I hate sports games in general, but EA's are the only ones that make me actually laugh.

ocdog45
ocdog45

keep it real, education games suck.... way to go EA. money hunger losers!

Lisandro_v22
Lisandro_v22

GDC '08: I don't take EA seriously. Normal guy says that doesn't care a *** about what the Exec in charge of Electronic Arts' hit virtual life franchise says. By Lisandro_v22, GameSpot die EA u are the poison in videogame industry

NA3D
NA3D

At least the title of this is correct. EA takes games seriously, and only cares about the money that comes out of them. That is the real title of this. EA agreed to do that little tweek to SCS because they knew sales were not going to be so great, so why not get some $$$$ from BP for putting an ad into their game. "Even the Madden NFL franchise has been tapped for serious gaming. The best-selling football franchise..." That is funny, because Madden sales are still down from past years. Of course you have the next-gen sales boost for the series, but once you figure that in, their sales are horrid for the game. There was a point in time that EA was a great company, but that time is not now. We all know what EA is today, and it is not a company we respect. Within a few years, if not later this year even, EA will buy out Ubisoft. Buying another company just to make it so that their company shows a profit when sales are not doing that great overall. I am ashamed of this website for even letting this article be able to get in the top stories section. This is not a story, this is just an article that was puked up because someone was forced to because EA most likely threw money in the right direction. Now where is the real news? I am waiting for something interesting to happen, and I am not seeing it on here. Never say EA is taking anything seriously again, unless it is about them seriously only thinking about money, seriously distroying the quality of a great industry, or seriously FINALLY about to go out of business.

gnbfd
gnbfd

"GDC '08: EA takes games seriously" And why did they just sum up the entire article making thousands of people wasting their time to read this? We know EA makes good games We know they do it for money You didn't even put that in the article. WTF?

PhantomPhoot
PhantomPhoot

EA gets serious. Thousands get confused. Poo-poo to GS for making a pointless article.

truenextgen
truenextgen

I wont blame the writer on this one. I'll blame gamespot. I'll blame them for asking the writer, to write something about this. And they were like "About what??"

Razgard4612
Razgard4612

the title says it all. kinda a pointless article.

Pete5506
Pete5506

EA I wish you luck with that

technowiz999
technowiz999

haha the title is the entire article...wasted like 5 minutes reading the thing only to have learned nothing new

Brmarlin
Brmarlin

"The reality is that we are a hit-driven business," Seabolt explained. "And economically, we can't really commit to launching a product unless we think we can sell a minimum of 2 million units." I'm going to call BS on this. NFL Tour much?

haesuse
haesuse

what a great waste of my precious time! also is it me or has the GDC been 99% EA related. those buggers are taking the world over!!! fear the wal-martization of gaming y'all!!! lol

lotsofgunfire
lotsofgunfire

I wasted 10 minutes to read this. comments are better than the article.

FullSurface
FullSurface

EA sucks there games are great but their aid to the community is horrible, no customer service = bad buisness the franchise im attached to is NFS, even tho my file got corrupted for the 3rd time on 2 dif xbox's and let me mention they suck at PC games as well, if u think im crazy search up game.dat on google, an error theyu never fix which crashes games within minutes of startup. im runnnig top of the line computer and fully updated everything, just bad buisness like i said.

counter_reality
counter_reality

"If you talk to anybody in the venture capital community, there's probably more economic roadkill around educational games in the past 20 years than just about any other category. Nobody's proven that you can sell a huge quantity of games yet." Now, I don't know exact numbers, but it seems to me that games like Brain Age do fairly well for themselves and that is a semi educational game.

Rasgueado
Rasgueado

Yeah... more garbage from people trying to consolidate business with 1 product that sells enormously. There are a bunch of reasons educational software doesn't sell, but here are two that I like. One is that a *lot* of the titles out there really aren't very good, and the other is that most people don't really try to *sell* them. Nintendo spent loads of money on trying to make sure that the right people saw advertisements for Brain Age, and it sold. The reason a lot of product doesn't move is because the right people don't know it is there because the publisher won't bother to advertise it. Same thing happens in music.

The_Dude1212
The_Dude1212

No...really? I guess I must have been living under a rock!

clawboy
clawboy

EA = serious business. Dam straight!

dt2003
dt2003

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

Quintinius
Quintinius

"EA = serious business" Heh, what jokers.

randomfulness
randomfulness

lol @ title. Keep churning out those sequels...

AJMarra
AJMarra

EA = serious business

Mrbiggerdems
Mrbiggerdems

Yea rite ea takes money seriously and rushs games is how they make that $$$. last great game from EA was Crysis.

360player_eq12
360player_eq12

eh if u want a learning game go buy math blaster or something.

Gruug
Gruug

EA could have shortened the whole program just be saying, "Hey, it doesn't make us any money....forget it and get over it." Besides, EA was looking at taking money out of internal quality control. How dare they donate resources to making a "serious game".

RgvXavi
RgvXavi

rabble, rabble, rabble. i hate EA and what they have done to some quality franchises. and the fact they Monopolized the whole sport's genre. However, I find the last paragraph very interesting. The PlayAction Simulator actually sound's like something that would help a football player, more specifically the QB's and LB's or CB's. By throwing random formation's and audibles it could closely simulate what happens in an instant on the football field. I may hate EA but I'd love to get my hand's on that simulator.