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Tag Archives: Electronic Arts Inc.
The June rumor that console gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA) was looking to buy casual gaming pioneer PopCap Games has come true: on Tuesday it was announced that EA has agreed to purchase PopCap, the creator of such games as Plants vs. Zombies and Bejewelled, for at least $750 million in cash and stock.
It’s a micromanager’s dream come true: This month, Electronic Arts will release a business-centric add-on for Sims 2, the popular PC game that lets players control the lives of imaginary people. “For a long time, players have told us they want to see what Sims do when they go to work,” says Tim LeTourneau, the game’s senior producer. EA chose to interpret work as starting a company because that fit in nicely with the game’s overall gestalt of letting players create and manage complex little universes. Some of the developers had prior experience running small software studios; others read management books like In Search of Excellence to familiarize themselves with the subject. With Open for Business, which will retail for $35, gamers can direct Sims characters to move into commercial retail space or launch a business from their living rooms. Options include a nightclub, restaurant, bakery, car dealership, hair salon, and art gallery, though crafty players will soon realize that they can slap a price tag on nearly any object that appears onscreen. A financial dashboard calculates revenue, expenses, and profitability in real time–something any entrepreneur would love. In addition to designing a store, stocking inventory, and setting prices, players must manage employees, including assigning tasks and setting wages. They can also opt to micromanage, dictating break time and even a dress code. The possibilities don’t end there. If they create a large base of happy, loyal customers, Sim-run companies are eligible for business awards and can garner positive articles in the local newspaper. Over time, the business owners can negotiate better terms with vendors. They are also free to strike up interoffice romances and to bequeath ownership to their heirs. The game “is about telling a story,” says LeTourneau. “You could have a store that’s been in business for several generations.” Of course, there are some differences between Sim businesses and real ones: There are no taxes–income, corporate, or sales–to pay in the Sims’ world. Profit is measured not in dollars but in an imaginary currency (the simolean). And players who excel are rewarded with a mystical power: the ability to read their customers’ minds.
Trip Hawkins for still scrapping because “optimism is essential” Imagine Henry Ford leaving Ford to start another car company, or Walt Disney establishing a realm beyond the Magic Kingdom. Trip Hawkins (who counts these two men among his heroes) has essentially done just that. He built Electronic Arts, of John Madden Football fame, into a powerhouse — then left it to start another business (which failed) and now another (which, thanks to ever-shifting industry forces, is likely to compete with EA). Hawkins originally left EA to focus his energies on a start-up he had launched called 3DO, which was trying to devise a better gaming console. Hawkins had hoped that his former firm would grant him exclusive rights to a hot new game, thus securing 3DO’s future. But after Sony unveiled the PlayStation in 1994, EA kept 3DO at arm’s length. “Chip manufacturing is expensive and political,” Hawkins says. “I should have known a company with deep pockets like Sony could pull the rug out from under us.” Eventually 3DO went bankrupt. Hawkins, now 51, shook off 3DO’s failure and soon launched another company, called Digital Chocolate. “D-Choc,” as he refers to it, creates games for cell phones. So far, over three million D-Choc programs have been downloaded. The company, which raised $20 million in financing, grossed $4 million last year. Some observers have wondered whether mobile gaming, with its rudimentary graphics, represents a technological retreat for Hawkins, but he says no. Others suggest that D-Choc’s prospects depend on how aggressively his old pals at EA enter the mobile gaming market. “I expect them to enter more directly either this year or next,” Hawkins says, but “rather than fight with them for market share, we are trying to blaze new trails.” Of his reverse entrepreneurial journey from industry icon to upstart, he adds: “It’s like being an explorer who discovered North America and then found out, hey, there’s South America and Antarctica, too.” Lora Kolodny Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Omnimedia because she took one for the team Richard Branson, Virgin Group because he’s game for anything. In fact, everything. Michael Dell, Dell Computer for being brilliantly straightforward Jim Sinegal, Costco because who knew a big-box chain could have a generous soul? Diane von Furstenberg, Diane von Furstenberg Studio for staging an elegant comeback Julie Azuma, Different Roads to Learning for offering hope and help to the parents of autistic children Fritz Maytag, Anchor Brewing for setting limits Ray Kurzweil, Kurzweil Technologies and other companies because he is Edison’s rightful heir Craig Newmark, Craigslist for putting the free in free markets Jack Mitchell, Mitchells/Richards because his family business makes an art of customer service Frank Robinson, Robinson Helicopter for whipping an entire industry into shape Mark Melton, Melton Franchise Systems for giving immigrants their shot at the American Dream Michelle Cardinal & Tim O’Leary, Cmedia and Respond2 for rewriting the rules for husband-and-wife teams Mike Lazaridis, Research in Motion because someone had to stand up for all those frustrated engineers Trip Hawkins, Electronics Arts and Digital Chocolate for still scrapping Warren Brown, Cake Love and Love Cafe because only in America will someone quit a secure job as a lawyer to start a bakery Muriel Siebert, Muriel Siebert & Co. for being a notable first with a worthy second act Chuck Porter, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky for verging on reckless Katrina Markoff, Vosges Haut for setting a completely unreasonable goal for her business Barry Steinberg & Craig Sumerel, Direct Tire and Auto Service for showing the power of the peer group Victoria Parham, Virtual Support Services for serving as a mentor to military spouses Tom LaTour, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants for staying at fleabag hotels so that we don’t have to Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams, Mitchell Gold for creating a true comfort zone Izzy & Coco Tihanyi, Surf Diva for kicking sand in the face of conventional wisdom Tony Lee, Ring Masters for saving 16 jobs, including his own Rueben Martinez, Libreria Martinez Books and Art Galleries for simultaneously building a business and nurturing Latino culture
The advent of handheld gaming devices like Sony’s PlayStation Portable and gamephones from Nokia and Vodafone is good news for so-called “garage game” developers. Giants like Electronic Arts will continue to focus on titles such as Madden 2004 that feature pixel-rich imagery and cost millions to launch. But many portable devices will have limited power and slower Web connections. As a result, the games played on them “need to be streamlined to play smoothly,” says Tim Walsh, of game giant THQ’s wireless division. Since simpler games are easier for indie developers to produce, the opportunity for them could be huge. Games now generate more revenue than movie ticket sales, and Forrester Research reports that North Americans play games on wireless devices almost as often as they send text messages. And there’s a precedent for a garage game going mainstream: Tetris was developed by one lone programmer back in 1985.