One of the most intriguing items in the EA Play line-up this year wasn’t any of the triple-A titles that took up the vast majority of the hour-long event. It was a brief section detailing EA Originals – EA’s attempt to build bridges with the smaller studios.
The origin of the EA Originals programme came with Unravel, the side-scrolling platformer with more charm than a bag of pipe-smoking puppies. That partnership between EA and Swedish studio Coldwood left such a positive impression that they’ve decided to go one step further.
In a press release, Patrick Sonderland, Executive VP of EA Studios said:
EA Originals is about three things:
First, it is about taking first-time experiences that are unique, gorgeous, innovative and memorable, and bringing them to the world.
Second, it is about supporting small developers and helping them make the most of their games. We’ll seek a few projects each year for EA Originals, and partner with them throughout the process of development to marketing to publishing.
Lastly, it is about funding, and offering small studios a level of security with an EA Originals game.
The first game released as part of EA Originals is the stunningly beautiful Fe, from developer Zoink, which reminds us of a 3D version of Ori and the Blind Forest (meets Never Alone). With a focus on a personal narrative and deep themes such as our place in the natural world, this sets the bar for the sort of games we’ll be seeing as EA Originals starts to take off.
This is an impressive step for EA, who have been keen to rebrand themselves after years of abuse about their practices – for a company that’s been obsessed with milking gamers for everything it can (not, in fairness, that it’s only EA), it’s heartening to hear the studio take an interest in the wider industry, saying…
We want the profits from these games to go into the hands of the studios making them. We want them to be recognized for their work, so they can keep innovating and creating, and so the players get to play more and more amazing games.
Back when the company was frequently rated worst company ever, EA had a habit of supporting small studios before buying them out and letting them burn. We’re hoping that lessons have been learned and that this time EA’s attempts will be beneficial to all involved – especially the gamers.