"Never Happened" Before
One of the difficulties in making a generational jump has always been the cost. Shinier games running on more powerful systems traditionally cost more to make, and there have been numerous cases in the past when companies have failed to make the grade simply because the cost was too high.
EA Labels boss Frank Gibeau, however, is hoping that's not the case, revealing in a new interview that EA are aiming o ake it throughh to the end of the year with no increase in year-on-year spending.
The reason? Frostbite.
"Frostbite has been the core difference," he told VentureBeat. "When you have a proven technology base with tools that work and you’re able to move teams around, because they’re all trained on the same engine, it makes for efficient and low-risk development. That was a critical decision, to invest in that early on and put the resources in. It causes stress in other parts of the business because a lot of our top guys were working on next-generation behind the scenes. But that was a big breakthrough for us, for sure.
"We are reiterating that we intend to exit this year with spending flat, year-over-year. During a console transition year, that has never happened. I think in the last transition, our R&D went up 30 percent. The fact that we’re cranking these kinds of games on flat spending is astonishing."
Of course, the last time around, EA were banking on Criterion's RenderWare engine, and that didn't work out so well.
"I was on the publishing side of the business when we bought Criterion. The idea was that RenderWare would power all of our games in the last transition. The problem was that it wasn’t ready for prime time. It hadn’t shipped any games. The tools, the pipelines, the tech just weren’t mature or complete. Then I took that learning because in my role as the head of the studios, I had to make sure we understood how we were going to manage the technology."
Gibeau's not about to let that happen again, and insists that with Frostbite and Ignite (on the EA Sports side of things) behind them, EA is perfectly poised to make the jump this gen.
"We understood the architecture of these machines was very different from last time. Looking at the opportunities there, we went after Frostbite [Battlefield] and Ignite [on the sports side]. We created two technology paths and invested early and got them to the point where we were able to ship games on them. We weren’t fighting the engines as we were developing. In the last cycle, the engines weren’t done. Guys were fighting the tools. They weren’t spending any time polishing the games while we were starting new [intellectual property]. So we wanted to de-risk the technology piece as much as possible.
"That was the key learning. You nailed it — we blew the last transition because we relied on RenderWare. It didn’t work. It set us back for multiple years. I was not going to repeat that mistake."