Commentary

EA Sees Indie Talent As 'Blueprint' For Gaming Success

The biggest news on the casual gaming front this week seems to be Electronic Arts' latest commitment to casual and social gaming, with the creation of EA Blueprint. The big idea for Blueprint seems to be finding and supporting independent developers, supplying them with funding and project management (cash and managers, two things EA has a nearly endless supply of), to produce games based on EA intellectual properties for Facebook and other social networks.

The group is being run by Neil Young, EA's former Los Angeles general manager, who was also the brains behind EA's Majestic, which was an ARG back in 2001, before ARGs were cool. Also onboard is Alan Yu, EA Los Angeles' director of artists. EA has also partnered with Hollywood mega-agency CAA (which represents stars ranging from Anne Hathaway to Zac Efron), to add some star power to the project.

So, EA is contributing cash, management, and intellectual property, and CAA is contributing its creative talent, and they're both relying on independent developers to provide the coding. But it's not as if Electronic Arts doesn't have a legion of developers to draw upon already. So why are they going after the independents?

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If you check out the top games in Facebook's application directory, the answer almost jumps out. Nearly all of the top games were created by college or high school students. The game with the most active players, "Scrabulous" (please don't sue me, Hasbro!), was developed by two brothers from Calcutta. "Jetman," another popular Facebook game, appears to have been developed by a high school student. A handful of the games in the top 25 on Facebook were developed by full-time developers, but the edge clearly seems to go to the coders who work late nights in their dorm rooms, for fun rather than for a paycheck (though many entrepreneurial independent developers have turned their apps into cash cows).

It's a sharp strategy, EA's attempt to leverage those independent developers (who already have expertise in developing Facebook app) into a field that's tricky to get into and prone to changing quickly and without notice. There's an increasing market for these games, and the supply has yet to catch up.

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