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Kabam exec calls EA layoffs "Darwinism at work"

Kabam exec calls EA layoffs "Darwinism at work"

Fri 03 May 2013 7:44pm GMT / 3:44pm EDT / 12:44pm PDT
MobileFree-to-Play

Andrew Sheppard says publisher caught in disruption, likens it to brick-and-mortar busts like Borders and Blockbuster

Last month, Electronic Arts laid off a reported 1,000 employees in the latest attempt to turn the publisher's fortunes around. In a guest editorial on VentureBeat today, Kabam president Andrew Sheppard called it "industry Darwinism," a sign of a changing business leaving the old ways behind.

An ex-EA employee himself, Sheppard expressed his condolences to those affected.

"But you can't stop evolution," Sheppard said. "Console game companies are standing on the same ground as others that were disrupted before them. Borders was shuttered by Amazon, Blockbuster buried by Netflix, and Encyclopedia Britannica withered by Wikipedia. When consumers get something faster and cheaper via the Internet, disruption occurs, and the companies that don't evolve quickly inevitably decline."

Sheppard said there's a wave of disruption hitting the industry right now, one that favors free-to-play and mobile devices over boxed retail products and consoles.

"Consumers, of course, have the final say," Sheppard said. "They're voting with not only their pocketbooks but their bags as well. Free-to-play has taught consumers they don't need to shell out $60 for a game before they even try it. Free-to-play has changed how we pay for our entertainment. Mobile devices have changed how we play our games. Together, they're an unbeatable foe for the venerable console games industry."

Naturally, those are two areas Kabam focuses on. It operates 20 browser-based free-to-play titles, including Wartune and Kingdoms of Camelot. Additionally, it has more than a dozen offerings on iOS and Android devices, such as the multiplatform efforts Book of Heroes and The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth. Last year, the firm brought in revenues of $180 million.

18 Comments

Chris Lewin
Software Engineer

20 67 3.4
Popular Comment
Mobile game dev thinks mobile is the future! News at 11!

Posted:A year ago

#1

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,512 1,294 0.9
Free-to-play has taught consumers they don't need to shell out $60 for a game before they even try it
Someone remind me again why publishers stopped producing demos to promote their $60 games?

Posted:A year ago

#2

Steven Wemyss
Senior QA Engineer

33 31 0.9
It was because Demo's of many games have been found to actually work against sales of your finished product as they will often mean impulse buyers will try it and then decide yay or nay rather than just buy the game. That said a good demo certainly helps improve sales but lets face it those are usually pretty few and far between.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Yiannis Koumoutzelis
Founder & Creative Director

360 203 0.6
A good Demo of a good game always helps. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the games were at a quality level that a demo would not support the sale. SO in a way, publishers preferred to "swindle" the customer by using a franchise name rather than spend more to improve a game. (this is how even legendary franchises died! true story!) The success of mobile, is the revenge of that swindled customer!

I totally agree with Sheppard. 100% and Chris,
when i was starting my professional path, i had started a small studio in my home town introducing ... god forbid, the Internet! An exotic thing back in '95. People got interested and started looking into making a web page for their business. There was this local TV station owner who started losing business towards something he didn't understand, when one fine day he stormed into our office, started behaving like an a$$ towards me and my partner, while yelling at him:

"And you got that fkn whiz kid here who thinks Internet is the future!"

That is the guy you just reminded me of! ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Yiannis Koumoutzelis on 4th May 2013 1:30pm

Posted:A year ago

#4

David Serrano
Freelancer

299 270 0.9
But the EA layoffs don't represent evolution. Because there's still nothing to indicate EA executives have finally acknowledged the dire need for their company to fundamentally and radically change. So laying off non-executive level employees amounts to a tribe of neanderthals letting their sick and elderly die because they're losing the competition for food with homo sapiens. The sacrifice only delays the inevitable: extinction. If EA doesn't retain the type of proactive leadership needed to effectively compete against disruptive competitors and technology... and if the company is not restructured in a way to allow it to quickly adapt to disruptive competitors and technology, EA will not survive. Fewer mouths to feed is not the solution to their problem, radical top to bottom change is.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 4th May 2013 6:01pm

Posted:A year ago

#5
Ive seen the future, its Oculus Rift.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Aleksi Ranta
Product Manager - Hardware

272 126 0.5
a good demo of a bad game, is there such a thing?
a bad demo of a great game, is there such a thing?
I think it works like this:
a demo of a bad game = no increase in sales
a demo of a good game = increased sales.

Posted:A year ago

#7
I don't think demos help even with good games. I think they may help with good games that don't have a large marketing budget however.

Anyway isn't most of the layoffs at EA in the mobile division?

If anything I think this is just an exercise in reducing costs from their less profitable sectors and focusing on the rest which if so I can't see how that's a vote of confidence for mobile at all.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

556 607 1.1
@Aleksi in theory you should be right.

However (as Steve points out) a bad game can still generate sales through impulse purchase and because people might "trust" the studio or publisher behind it. If there is no demo that shows just how bad the game is, people might buy on blind faith or because they fancy what they see on the box. By the time they get home and find out how bad the game is, the money is already spent.

The other thing to consider is how people consume entertainment these days. a 15 to 20 min demo might be all they need to satisfy their curiosity for a particular product, so even a demo for a good game an potentially hinder sales. Those on the fence might just say "yeah it's a good game, but not for me, not right now" - and opt out. I feel the AAA industry banks a lot on hype, marketing and blind purchases still.

Posted:A year ago

#9
It could be EA has such a high overhead cost, that the option of doing nothing or producing a mediocre title is a catastrophe. Optionally, it could still experiment with smaller titles with multiple small incubator teams (like special ops teams). And maybe choose some good range of winners in various IP and mobile, F2P, console, MMO divisions

Posted:A year ago

#10

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
If a game demo sucks, its likely the actual product will as well. A demo of a good game will help sell the game. Demos of good games help sell games. I enjoyed Kingdoms of Amalur, Mass Effect 3, DMC and DOA5 demo's.

Posted:A year ago

#11

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

556 607 1.1
@Rick: having worked with several publishers in my caereer, i can assure you that demos of good games do not alway help sell games. Why do you think a lot of good games don't have demos.

Imagine a game like Bioshock: infinite. A demo for that would only have shown outdated gameplay mechanics and confused players with parts of the story, not giving them the full picture. I'd argue a demo for the game might well have hurt sales. The publishers i have worked with in the past have statistics and numbers for this.

For you personally a demo of a good game might well get you do buy a game, but i'd argue that you don't necessarily represent the broader market.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,512 1,294 0.9
Imagine a game like Bioshock: infinite. A demo for that would only have shown outdated gameplay mechanics and confused players with parts of the story, not giving them the full picture.
Instead, people who bought it are greeted with a complete game for $60 with outdated gameplay mechanics and a story that doesn't really gel until about half-way through. :p

I find it interesting that one of the deeper games of the past few years, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, had an 8 hour "demo" some months prior to release, in the form of a leaked beta meant for reviewers only. Anecdotally speaking, that did nothing but help sales, and assuage fears that Eidos were dumbing the IP down.

I don't think there is a perfect once-size-fits-all approach to releasing demos. But in the face of F2P, it seems bizarre to ignore the possibility of releasing a demo entirely; some cynical publishers might want to consider releasing demos for older games. Once pre-orders and first-week sales are out the way - with all the cash that goes with them - it would be a good way of enticing uncertain customers to part with their cash. Valve and some other publishers already do this, in a way, with the occasional Free Weekend on Steam for a game that's also on sale.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 6th May 2013 6:33pm

Posted:A year ago

#13

Barrie Tingle
Live Producer

368 144 0.4
On Steven's comment, that very thing nearly happened with me and Forza 3. As a fan of the series I had Forza 3 pre-ordered and I played the demo, I disliked it so much I cancelled my pre-order. Only about a day before launch did I place my order again. The final game was nothing like the demo and was a game I spent many hours in and enjoying. It was the only demo I have ever played and the last one as I now go based on what I want to play.

This of course doesn't work for everyone but I am willing/able to lay down $60 for a game and take a risk on it being enjoyable.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Tim Carter
Designer - Writer - Producer

555 292 0.5
Layoffs aren't Darwinism...

They're just a project ending.

This is entertainment. Entertainment is built on PROJECTS! You aren't making widgets here... You're making works of art. Works of art get finished. When they're finished, MOVE ON!

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 6th May 2013 11:56pm

Posted:A year ago

#15

Keldon Alleyne
Handheld Developer

431 406 0.9
I played the demo for World's Deadliest Warrior, and immediately bought it. Best game ever!!! Second one lost it though.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Yiannis Koumoutzelis
Founder & Creative Director

360 203 0.6
"But the EA layoffs don't represent evolution."
that exactly is the point. there is no evolution, or there is very slow evolution and as a result you need to scale down as entire departments become irrelevant. if the studios that closed down had evolved, and they were not one trick ponies, they would not be a liability!

Aleksi,
yes there are good demos of bad games and bad demos of good games.
You never heard of demos which only show the more polished part and the rest of the game is really bad? Or, you never heard of early buggy demos slapped together hastily and the final polished game being awesome?

i.e. many people got diablo3 based on the more polished open beta excerpt, but later regretted that! ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Yiannis Koumoutzelis on 7th May 2013 2:51am

Posted:A year ago

#17

Richard Westmoreland
Game Desginer

138 90 0.7
Did no one tell this guy that EA also laid off a load of social and mobile developers too? This isn't Darwinism, this is large corporations failing to understand the human consequences of what they do. Studios aren't just factories, to be used to pump out one IP until the cow is milked dry. They can easily adapt to work on new IPs or different types of games if you give them the chance.

Posted:A year ago

#18

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