After Electronic Arts announced the closure of Visceral Games and the cancellation of its Star Wars project, EA CEO Andrew Wilson cautioned people not to see it as a referendum on single-player games. That said, it may have been a referendum on linear games.
Speaking at the Credit Suisse 21st Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference yesterday, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen explained the company's reasons for closing Visceral and axing the game.
"Over the last five or six years, [Visceral Games] had shrunk in size," Jorgensen said. "It was down to about 80 people, which is sub-scale in our business. And the game they were making was actually being supported by a team in Vancouver and a team in Montreal because of that sub-scale nature. And we were trying to build a game that really pushed gameplay to the next level, and as we kept reviewing the game, it continued to look like a style of gaming, a much more linear game, that people don't like as much today as they did five years ago or 10 years ago."
It was about three and a half years ago when EA hired Amy Hennig to be the creative director on Visceral's Star Wars game. Hennig is best known for her work at her previous employer, Naughty Dog, where she was creative director for the studio's acclaimed series of linear action games, Uncharted.
EA may not have much interest in publishing linear games, but Jorgensen said he's still looking to salvage what he can from the Visceral project.
"[W]e made the tough decision to shut down that game team and take the parts of that game, and today we're looking at what we're going to do with those," Jorgensen said. "Will me make the game in a different style at a different studio? Will we use parts of the game in other games? We're trying to go through that today."
Jorgensen said the company has been redeploying Visceral developers throughout the company, and is attempting to retain as many of them as possible.
"We haven't had to do this very often," he said. "We try to do it as early as possible in game design, and we probably let this go a little further. But I'm a believer in sunk costs. You've got to cut the bridge when you realize you can't really make a lot of money on something, so that's the decision we made."