During these recent years, EA has received a somewhat bad reputation due to its use of microtransactions, loot boxes, and pay to win mechanics in its games. In a recent interview, EA’s vice president talked about the public perception that EA is “just a bunch of bad guys” and how they are trying to change that with EA Originals.
During an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Matt Bilbey, Executive Vice President Strategic Growth at Electronic Arts talked about how hard it has been for him to deal with the negative public perception about the company.
“25 years at EA and I still struggle with the external perception that we’re just a bunch of bad guys,” says Bilbey. “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.”
But that’s not all though. In the past, EA has made mistakes in regards to its use of microtransactions, loot boxes, and pay to win mechanics in its games. Star Wars Battlefront II was one of these games. However, that doesn’t mean that EA hasn’t learned from it, or still isn’t trying to.
EA has recently invested a lot of time and effort into its EA Originals program. It is an initiative EA started to focus more on small developers and promoting their games. This is something Bilbey talked about in his interview.
According to Bibley, as EA got bigger, there was a concern from gamers that the company has become somewhat disconnected from the community as a whole, that they are only focusing on big projects rather than new talent.
“As we got bigger, there is the concern that we had become disconnected from new talent coming through,” Bilbey admits. “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 C. 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 seems to be taking a very steady pace with its Orignals initiative. Originals began with Coldwood and Unravel. Since most of EA’s focus has been towards developing its own games, the Orignals program has been progressing slowly but steadily with the company signing a studio every year. However, at E3 2019, EA revealed three studios. One of which is Jo-Mei Games which worked on Sea of Solitude. Sea of Solitude is also less than a week away from launch.
“EA Originals are also games that we don’t make in the bigger part of EA, or don’t make enough of,” says Bilbey.
“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.”
From what Bilbey has said in his interview, it seems like EA is trying to make up by focusing on what really matters to gamers in general. Gamers want something new, they want games that they never have played before. That only comes through innovations and studios who thrive for innovation.
Perhaps one of the most prominent studios EA has signed in its Originals is Respawn Entertainment and their latest upcoming game, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. If EA continues to invest in unique titles, it is likely this will drive the public perception about the company into a more positive direction.