EA arrives on Live Arcade

Publisher taps Bizarre Creations to develop its debut XBLA game, Boom Boom Rocket; online marketing VP Chip Lange explains what took so long.

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When Microsoft brought the original Xbox online in November 2002 with its Xbox Live service, there was one glaring omission from the list of publishers supporting online play in the form of Electronic Arts. It was not until May of 2004 that Microsoft announced it had brought the publisher on board its original online initiative during its Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference.

At the same conference, Microsoft introduced the world to Xbox Live Arcade, a new service that would let Xbox owners download casual and classic games to the original Xbox, with a slate of initial offerings from Namco, PopCap Games, and Garage Games. The service picked up steam with the November 2005 release of the Xbox 360 and quickly saw publishers like Konami, Capcom, and Midway sign up to digitally distribute their games, but EA again waited on the sidelines.

The world's largest third-party publisher is waiting no longer, as EA today announced its first foray onto the Xbox Live Arcade downloadable game service, a rhythm-based game called Boom Boom Rocket. The game is being developed by a team at Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing 3, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved) and designed by EA's casual game community Pogo.

Boom Boom Rocket takes players through a 3D cityscape, requiring them to blow off fireworks in time with the beat of 10 original songs. The better players keep the beat, the more spectacular the fireworks displays become. If they can perfect the game's songs, players will be rewarded with new fireworks designs. Each song will have three different difficulty settings, and players can play normal, speed, or multiplayer head-to-head games on one console. While the game won't include online multiplayer, it will feature Live Arcade standard leaderboards.

While Boom Boom Rocket is the first EA game for Live Arcade, it won't be the last. The publisher stated that it has additional games currently in development for the service. Boom Boom Rocket is set to arrive on Live Arcade this spring.

GameSpot recently spoke to EA vice president of online marketing Chip Lange, who boldly promised Boom Boom Rocket would be "the most fun you're going to have on Xbox Live Arcade all year." He also answered questions about the publisher's debut on the downloadable service, what types of games EA would make available, and on which platforms they will appear.

GameSpot: Why did it take so long for Electronic Arts to get onto the Xbox Live Arcade?

Chip Lange: We've been working on this game for a while, from getting to that fun center and that feel-good place that defines great XBLA games, and then partnering with a world-class developer to take this thing from being a good XBLA game--and I would argue there's a lot of "good" XBLA games--to being something that's very special that we can be proud of launching our presence on the Arcade with.

GS: EA has plenty of development teams of its own that have produced some pretty successful games. Why go to a developer outside the company for this?

CL: When the Pogo team, who had the genesis of the idea of Boom Boom Rocket, were looking for a developer who had some experience on the Xbox Arcade got together [with Bizarre Creations], it just felt like a good match. The Bizarre Creations guys felt like they had a good, solid grasp of the fun factor we were after, and they were able to create a development timeline as well as add to the design and the feel of the game that made us feel this was the best path we had to get a game done in a limited timeframe with a high degree of quality. It was one of those "1+1=3" equations. You had a great design and a great developer, and it really took the game to a whole new level of fun factor.

GS: You say the developers had a limited time frame. From the beginning of design to release, how long are we looking at here?

CL: About 10 months.

GS: Will EA release new songs, fireworks designs, and other downloadable content for Boom Boom Rocket?

CL: We haven't announced anything. Certainly this game design lends itself to that type of addition, but we don't have any plans to announce today on incremental content that goes beyond that. I think there's enough content in the game right now to keep people banging on this thing for a long time.

GS: Will Boom Boom Rocket fit under Microsoft's 50MB size limit, or will Microsoft make an exception for it, as it is doing with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night?

CL: I haven't heard of any exemption being made; we're designing games to the 50MB spec and we're happy with the content we've been able to get in there. It's kind of fun to design to that because it makes you design a game that is wonderfully simple but elegantly addictive.

GS: Is Geometry Wars creator Stephen Cakebread actually involved in the development of Boom Boom Rocket?

CL: I actually don't know off the top of my head. I know their team has been deeply involved with the Pogo team, and Bizarre Creations is bringing a great team to the table.

GS: Can we expect EA games to be appearing on the Wii's Virtual Console service and the PS3 PlayStation Store in the future?

CL: I think it's safe to assume that any platform that has a good, solid business center and a community around it will be supported. I think we develop products on more platforms than any other publisher in the world. I'm not announcing anything on the Virtual Console or the PS3, but certainly we evaluate all of that, and we've got the development capacity to get our content to any platform where it matters.

GS: On these platforms, are the plans just for new titles like Boom Boom Rocket, or will we start to see catalog titles from the SNES and Genesis era, maybe a mix?

CL: What you can assume is that we're looking at the whole landscape. One of the nice things about EA is we've got such a wonderful library of classic IP and such a wonderful pipeline of developers to design fresh new things like Boom Boom Rocket that we've kind of got the best of both worlds in our ability to mine both of those worlds and localize them onto those respective platforms as responsible.

GS: With Boom Boom Rocket being a Pogo-branded game, will it make it onto the PC?

CL: We're only launching it on the Xbox Live Arcade right now, and we'll gauge how it does and see how this thing migrates as a franchise.

GS: Was there a specific reason for the choice to only have offline head-to-head multiplayer?

CL: In the concept phase, we discussed doing a Live multiplayer mode, but we decided to put our resources into the single-player experience, which in our view is the most important game mode. The core game mechanic isn't as much about competition as it is individual achievement.

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