FrankEAnstein Strikes Again

The news about C&C: Rivalzzzzzz got me thinking - has EA ever successfully revived a lapsed franchise that wasn’t theirs to begin with? All I’ve found so far are the flops: SimCity, Dungeon Keeper Mobile, Syndicate, etc. Is this something they’ve been able to pull off before? If not, why am I seeing people talking about “If Rivals is successful maybe we’ll get a ‘proper’ C&C again”? Is that how it actually works with them?

I mean, what do you mean with “theirs”? EA is not the company Trip Hawkins founded but, possibly more relevant, kinda never was. Even the Wikipedia page paints this picture of an ethos of developer-first, internally rewarded teams and so on.

EA routinely referred to their developers as “artists” and gave them photo credits in their games and numerous full-page magazine ads. Their first such ad, accompanied by the slogan “We see farther,” was the first video game advertisement to feature software designers. EA also shared lavish profits with their developers, which added to their industry appeal. The square “album cover” boxes (such as the covers for 1983’s M.U.L.E. and Pinball Construction Set) were a popular packaging concept by Electronic Arts, which wanted to represent their developers as “rock stars”.

There are two games mentioned there. Neither were developed by EA internal teams (in fact, neither were even published by EA in other territories so they’re not even the only publisher). Ozark Softscape and BudgeCo get the credit for game creation. The article then moves on to topics like Bullfrog and this is the EA model: publish then acquire. It basically means that everything that is “EA” is kinda not their franchise to begin with because they acted as a classic publisher, a company dedicated to the publishing of software (as that Wikipedia page points out, in-house development didn’t happen at all during those first years of EA).

Medal of Honor is Dreamworks Interactive (which wasn’t EA even if it now is, called DICE LA). The franchise never really lapsed (2007 was the last game before the 2010 reboot) but did at least do kinda ok in terms of press for one game before the franchised was dropped when Battlefield became the new hope for competing with CoD. There are probably quite a few more like this which I think, however we define the rules, will count (The very first MoH was developed for EA but the studio was owned by DreamWorks and Microsoft, who EA purchased it from only after that first MoH shipped).

Going off that mention of the Syndicate reboot, SSX rebooted about the same time by EA Vancouver (it didn’t do amazing but wasn’t called a huge flop). But surely SSX is internal EA? I mean, it was developed as an EA property initially but EA Canada isn’t really EA Canada originally. That’s Don Mattrick’s DSI. So does that count as just internal EA, from “Electronic Arts’s largest and oldest studio” or is it like Westwood, Origin Systems, or Bullfrog: anything they make isn’t really EA because they lived a long and important life before being acquired? Dungeon Keeper was developed by Bullfrog for release by EA in 1997; but EA acquired Bullfrog in 1995 so that was not much less an EA game than SSX is.

Oh and speaking of Bullfrog, Populous: The Beginning is a good example of a revival which did ok. Pretty big departure that didn’t set the world on fire but did well enough. The original Populous was 1989 so well before possible disqualification for the franchise starting when already under EA’s control.

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To be more specific: one side-effect of this pattern they have of acquisition, interference/derailment, and dissolution (most recently brought up in the discourse after Visceral was shut down) is that there’s a sizable list of properties that, for whatever reason, they’ve effectively buried: Ultima, Dead Space, C&C itself, probably Mass Effect given its current “unofficial official hiatus” status, etc.

What I’m curious about is whether they’ve ever managed to do the reverse: receive a property that hadn’t been around in a while, and successfully revive it. Populous might’ve worked, but they didn’t keep it going - you had the one game and poof, next thing you know it’s a decade and change later and Godus is on Kickstarter.

It really depends on what you mean by “theirs” and what you count as being “revived.”

Battlefront was effectively dead for quite a while before EA brought it back, and while it’s certainly gotten a fair share of ire for its business practices, it’s hard to argue it hasn’t been a massive success for EA.

EA bought DICE in 2006, which was when Battlefield was in kind of a lull. Battlefield 2, 3, and Bad Company were well liked but they weren’t CoD competitors in the way that they are now.

Also, there are certainly franchises that EA has failed to revive, but a lot of the time that isn’t really the fault of the game itself. Syndicate is a fantastic game that just failed to connect with a huge audience. It was also published by EA but developed by Starbreeze, which EA never purchased, so it doesn’t really fall under this umbrella entirely.

That’s not a great track record mind you, and that ignores all of EA’s other problems.

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