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Gibeau: Best Games Come From "Small Teams With Strong Cultures"

Matt Gardner
Development, EA, Frank Gibeau

Gibeau: Best Games Come From "Small Teams With Strong Cultures"

EA Labels head honcho Frank Gibeau has said that one of EA strategies going forward will be to reinforce the idea that you don't need to throw money and bodies at a project to make it successful, rather that the best games tend to have, as Gibeau puts it, "small teams with strong cultures".

"When I started up the EA Games division with that collection of studios, the key insight for me was to move from a highly centralized studio organization to a decentralized organization," he told VentureBeat. "My belief is that you get the best games from small teams with strong cultures. The developer culture is critical in getting quality and to intellectual properties that sustain. In the case of each of those studios, they were given the opportunity to continue to invest in their culture, to expand and bring new talent in.

"The trick is not to let them overexpand and get too big. They should only take on projects that they have the right amount of talent and technology and leadership to be able to execute at high quality. The worst thing to do is to grow them too fast."

Gibeau went on to talk about the iterative cycle and how it has made studios such as DICE stronger and more effective.

"It’s an iterative process. You do it cycle over cycle. If you look at the DICE culture, it’s the same buildings, the same name, the same core leadership team. They’ve been through multiple product cycles together. That’s the other key thing about getting to great games. Small teams, tight cultures that are able to build multiple games over multiple years, so that they get better and better and they learn where their gaps are."

Gibeau's stance is that balncce is key, and that rather than overcommitting resources, the key is to find "the right team size and the right amount of time to deliver on quality."

"Doubling the team doesn’t get you — you can’t deliver a baby twice as fast," he continued. "There’s a point in time where too many people get on a project, and the law of diminishing returns sets in. Quality declines if it becomes too hard to manage. You’d rather have a smaller team with a longer period of time to work on a game.

"When we think about opportunity costs, we think about the strategy in front of us as a company. What are we trying to do? What new ground can we break? Should it be a new IP? Should we try a new platform? Should we go into a new genre? Again, we take that team dynamic and team composition very seriously. If we have 30 people, we’ll look at it — does it make sense to make Battlefield Premium? Does it make sense to start up a mobile-game team? That’s the constant process we go through.

"The good news is, you can start new projects with a small team to figure out if there’s a hot prototype here. Then you can pile on folks there to take it to scale. If the prototype doesn’t work, you move on to something else. It’s kind of kill early, kill often, and then only the strongest ideas survive. That’s when you can start to scale up your production. We have a fairly rigorous greenlight process. We have a methodology that’s served us well."

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