Electronic Arts has admitted it got it wrong with the releases of some of its biggest games of 2008, and insists the industry must now rethink its entire approach to putting products into the market.
Glen Schofield, general manager of the publisher's Redwood Shores studio in San Francisco, acknowledged that releasing new franchises like Mirror's Edge and Dead Space during peak season, which failed to hit sales projections, had been an education for the company.
“The one big thing we learned was, we came out with a bunch of new IP, actually with a bunch of new games at the same time,” he said, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz in Florence last month for the global unveiling of Dante's Inferno.
"Some people are calling this last year one of the best years in the history of videogames. You just had one great game after another, so we were just right in the middle of it, and you have to have a lot of money behind you to shout out."
"You can blame some of it on the economy," he said, but added that there were "far too many" games in general released during the holiday period, a situation which, given the dire economic conditions, the industry could no longer ignore.
"I think the industry has finally gone, 'Wow, we could probably just come out just like the movies do'. Movies launch on Christmas day, they launch blockbusters during the summer, and we're now learning that we could probably launch a game at any time, and if it's a good game it will be well received.
"I think that we traditionally thought that people only buy games at Christmas or around holiday time, and now we're looking back and going, 'You know what, GTA launched in May; Resident Evil comes out in March'."
Under the stewardship of chief executive Jon Riccitiello, EA instigated a new policy to bolster its portfolio with new IP and work to improve the overall quality of its output. Despite disappointing sales, Schofield believes the company is on the right path.
He said: "The other thing that we've done is establish a couple of things: one, some credibility back with EA. EA took some chances and made some really good games. And two, we established Redwood Shores as a triple-A studio, and now you can start to see that coming through with games like Inferno."
And Schofield effectively confirmed that a sequel to sci-fi horror title Dead Space is in the works, remarking: "We haven't announced anything yet, but I don't think you take a game that's rated 89 and just go, 'Well, that was a failure'.
"And you know what, we'll figure that out, because the hardest thing is the quality. If you figure out the quality, then at some point we're going to figure out how to get that out there."
The studio's next release is Godfather II, recently delayed from its original February date until April. Dante's Inferno, a God of War-style action title based on the first part of The Divine Comedy, is due in 2010.
Earlier this month, EA reported losses of USD 641m for its third quarter, and announced a restructuring plan that will see the publisher shed 1,100 staff worldwide.
The full interview with Glen Schofield is published today.