During an earnings call, EA chief financial officer (CFO) Blake Jorgensen said that the company doesn’t get enough credit for its studio acquisitions. Setting aside the absurdity of a highly paid corporate executive asking that the billion dollar company they work for receive more acclaim and recognition, it’s a chilling thought to even consider that EA does acquisitions good.
In between praising its recent acquisition of UK-based racing sim studio Codemasters – a purchase made to the tune of 1.2 billion dollars – and celebrating big engagement numbers for Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends, Jorgensen felt it was important to remind shareholders how much credit they deserve for these gains.
Regarding Codemasters latest release, F1 2021, Jorgensen credited the developer’s ability to integrate with EA’s publishing and marketing departments in exceeding sales expectations. “It’s to the testament of an exceptional game development team that was able to produce the right assets, to produce the right marketing materials to help us drive this business and the teams working together,” Jorgensen said. “And you know what? I think we don’t get enough credit for that.”
Jorgensen extended this line of thought towards Apex Legends, the success of which he used as an opportunity to emphasize EA as an ideal development partner. “EA is a bunch of people who really can work well together. And we do a great job of working with other parts of our company. And when we bring in acquisitions, we work well with them.”
“[Look] at what’s happened with Apex. Respawn has obviously driven the amazing development of Apex, but they’ve partnered with us extremely well to drive what is now — it’s coming up to almost $2 billion in business over two years. That’s unheard of in our industry,” Jorgensen said. Then he added, “And I’m not sure we get enough credit for it.”
While there’s no denying that the EA of today is likely very different from the EA of ten or twenty years ago, these remarks feel incongruous with the history of the company as we know it. While Mass Effect: Legendary Edition and the upcoming Dead Space remake indicate a willingness to reconsider its past triumphs, there are numerous sore spots in its history.
It was just four years ago that EA closed down Visceral Games, a studio that lost its identity to games like Battlefield: Hardline and Army of Two: Devil’s Cartel despite the commercial and critical favor it had earned with its Dead Space series. The studio was developing Project Ragtag under Amy Hennig before operations ceased. For some die hard fans, a Dead Space remake feels hollow without Visceral.
And although EA appears to be incredibly bullish about Apex Legends, it hasn’t always been sunshine and roses with Respawn Entertainment. It’s difficult to forget Titanfall 2’s infamous launch. The less established shooter’s sales were hurt by a release date that sandwiched it between EA’s own Battlefield 1 and its rival in the military shooter space, Call of Duty.
And although Respawn founder and CEO Vince Zampella appears to be favored within EA thanks to Apex Legends, his irritation over the Titanfall 2 launch was noted back then. When asked about a third Titanfall, an EA representative said that the publisher remains committed to the franchise and Zampella snapped, “So, whatever the fuck that means?”
So even though EA is currently doing well by its studio acquisitions, there’re reasons to beware. Its history with now defunct studios like Visceral, the Battlefront developers Pandemic Studios, Command & Conquer creators Westwood and Dungeon Keeper and Theme Park makers Bullfrog all started out rosy then quickly went south. There’s plenty of reason to fear if any of its current studios start losing favor.