EA’s Matt Bilbey: I Struggle with the Perception That We’re the Bad Guys, Our Mistakes Are Just Louder
It’s no secret that Electronic Arts is often perceived by a portion of the gaming community as the villain in the games industry. After all, the company even ‘won the prize’ of the Worst Company in America twice in a row (2012, 2013) as featured on the now-defunct site Consumerist.
Debacles such as the Star Wars Battlefront II loot box fiasco and the unsuccessful launches of titles like Mass Effect Andromeda and Anthem didn’t help in the last few years, either. Still, in an interview with GamesIndustry, Matt Bilbey (Executive Vice President of strategic growth at EA) said:
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.
Perhaps the biggest indication that Electronic Arts is attempting to change for the better can be found in the EA Originals program, which aims to bring select indie games to the wider market. Matt Bilbey also explained why it makes sense for EA to do this.
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.
The next EA Originals game actually comes out tomorrow, by the way. It’s Sea of Solitude, a charming adventure game developed by Jo-Mei Games for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.