Picking the Scab
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For the past two month I've been wondering aloud about the strange phenomenon that caused all the executives at Electronic Arts to stop taking their medications and start gibbering like lunatics exposed to some Lovecraftian horror. I've been wondering because EA seems to have created a business plan based upon first investing heavily in massively multiplayer and Internet gaming, and then firing everyone who knows anything about the subject.
I was particularly struck by the fact that Westwood, which has shown an ability to make precisely one (albeit good) game over and over again for five or six years, has been tasked with creating a new online space combat game (Earth and Beyond) from the ground up, without any brand-name recognition or proven skill at making online 3D games.
Why is this so striking? Because EA owned Origin and sacrificed the developer on its unholy altar, while Origin was at work on a Wing Commander/Privateer online game. This game was under the guidance of Any Hollis, one of the most respected names in simulation. So you have a recipe that includes a) a team with years of 3D space-combat experience, b) a company that acquired a vast store of massively multiplayer development experience the hard way, c) a producer with a shelf full of sim awards, and d) one of the three or four most lucrative game licenses in history, and you pitch it out the window in favor of a new 3D game from a company with lots of experience making tiny 2D guys walk in the wrong direction.
Ater all the effort it took to brainstorm this business plan, EA celebrated by sacking everyone at Kesmai and maybe killing a puppy or two. Oh, and by pissing away a hundred mil on a dopey Harry Potter title that will never, ever, ever earn out even if it somehow spontaneously reveals the location of the True Cross.
After reporting that story, I got word from my Deep Throat (no kidding, it was Linda Lovelace herself who tipped me off) on what happened inside What Used to be Origin. My source had this to say:
"Andy has left EA and Origin permanently. the Wing Commander massively multiplayer game never got off the ground. Eventually it turned into Privateer Online, which ultimately got canceled. Andy went to work with EA Sports on some of their products. He started to work on the Harry Potter game here at Origin, which never saw the light of day. Andy was and is very well thought of by EA and Origin. However, he just didn't want to leave Austin for opportunities EA had for him in other parts of the world. So he elected to move on and remain in Austin."
-Thomas L. McDonald