One of the most disliked companies in video games is publisher, Electronic Arts. It sure does catch a lot of heat for some of its business practices and doesn’t have the hottest track record when it comes to things like microtransactions, and controversial titles like Anthem and Star Wars Battlefront II. Despite this, EA’s EVP Matt Bilbey struggles with the outward perception that the company is full of bad guys.
According to an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Bilbey defended the company when it comes to its public perception.
25 years at EA and I still struggle with the external perception that we’re just a bunch of bad guys. We love making and playing games. Unfortunately, when we make mistakes on games, the world knows about it because it’s of a size and scale.
The conversation then shifted to the company’s EA Originals, a publishing deal in which smaller studios see 100% of the profits earned for every game sold. You might recognize titles like Fe, A Way Out, Unravel, and Sea of Solitude as part of EA Originals. These games differ from the usual suspects published by EA, in that they often have unique ideas you don’t usually see.
Bilbey had this to say about its partnership with smaller indie studios:
As we got bigger, there is the concern that we had become disconnected from new talent coming through. EA Originals is our opportunity to connect with that talent and those smaller ideas. When you are part of a big company, it’s too easy to fall into the trap where when you see a game concept… it has to be big. The notion of actually coming up with small, unique game ideas… We know from the work that we’ve been doing on our subscription business that gamers will play a FIFA or a Fortnite — they have one main franchise — but then they want breaks from those games to play something that’s maybe five or ten hours long.
EA Originals are also games that we don’t make in the bigger part of EA, or don’t make enough of. So while there was a philanthropic part to it, selfishly it was the way for us to connect to talent on smaller ideas. When you are in a company and have had successes and mistakes around live service microtransactions, free-to-play, what geographies, what partners to work with, what animation engines… it actually feels good for our teams to sit with EA Original developers and you can actually give real advice. It genuinely makes you feel good. It’s advice to help them not make the same mistakes.
Based on the interview from GamesIndustry.biz, Bilbey pointed to EA Originals as a way to prove that EA isn’t the super-villain it’s made out to be. These publishing deals behind the scenes are friendly towards indie developers, but stories like that often get lost in the weeds.
EA Originals do offer a unique partnership; how often do you hear about developers gaining 100% of the profits earned when working with a publisher? Because of the company’s size, it can afford to help out smaller indie developers.
Will this make up for some of EA’s poor business practices in the public’s eyes? No, certainly not, but it is a compelling argument and a great way to earn some goodwill from its community.