EA has a lot of sequels coming out, and the publisher knows this as well as anyone. The self-awareness doesn't concern Frank Gibeau, however, president of EA's four labels (EA Sports, EA Games, Maxis, and BioWare). Rather, Gibeau is defending their lack of IPs, noting that the current market just isn't right for launching any new series.
So what's wrong with the here and now? As of now, the industry is sitting on the tail end of the current hardware cycle, and everyone is expecting solid next-gen news at least by next year's E3. To Gibeau, this is a bad time for releasing IPs, because the reward doesn't outweigh risk, no matter how much consumers seemingly want to see new IPs. Still, he thinks sequels come with risks of their own.
"The time to launch an IP is at the front-end of the hardware cycle, and if you look historically the majority of new IPS are introduced within the first 24 months of each cycle of hardware platforms. Right now, we're working on 3 to 5 new IPs for the next gen, and in this cycle we've been directing our innovation into existing franchises.
"If you look at what we're putting into Need For Speed: Most Wanted we're taking a lot of risks there, the same thing with Battlefield - you have to admit that, from Bad Company 2 to Battlefield 3, there's a huge amount of change there.
"But, if you look at the market dynamics, as much as there's a desire for new IP, the market doesn't reward new IP this late in the cycle; they end up doing okay, but not really breaking through. We have to shepherd the time that our developers spend, as well as the money that we spend on development in a positive way, so we're focused on bringing out a bunch of new IPs around the next generation of hardware."
That's not to say the publisher has no IPs on the way, of course. As Gibeau stated, "3 to 5 new IPs" are currently in the works for next gen, and it's all about timing them to maximize benefit. He does believe the next generation holds potential and should drive the industry forward, but mobile gaming's future isn't so clear.
"When you launch a new IP it needs to do something really, really remarkable, and that's easier to do when you have a new set of technology that gives you novel capabilities. This is the longest cycle that any of us have ever seen, and we're at the point where a little bit of fatigue has set in, and people are wondering what they can possibly do next. I've seen the machines that we're building games for, and they're spectacular.
"Gen 4 hardware is a huge opportunity, and it's going to lead to a huge growth spurt for the industry... The only thing that could really displace that is really high-end tablets and IPTV, and IPTV is further out than just a couple of years. I mean, the capabilities are there, but it's going to be a really long time before it breaks through. But those are the only two places I see that kind of risk occurring, and the good news for EA is that we're going to publish across all of them. We might ultimately find that to our advantage."
We should note that not all companies follow this same train of thought. After all, Bethesda and Arkane are releasing Dishonored fairly soon, and Sleeping Dogs scored a win for Square Enix and developer United Front Games.