Electronic Arts are looking to branch out of being a pure gaming software company. They now want to be a major player in the hardware market, by investing heavily in their own 4th generation console, which will make them the fourth major player. They are doing this, as they see the console market as being a strong growth area. The other three major players are Microsoft (Xbox 360), Sony (PlayStation 3) and Nintendo (Wii).
To achieve this, EA CEO John Riccitiello made a prepared statement that his company will be investing $80 million to develop a competing console, “We intend to invest $80 million in gen-4 console development in fiscal 2013. We are strong believers that console will return to strong growth, representing great opportunity, one that is in lockstep with our digital plan.” Note that EA are not fazed by the drop in retail sales of boxed games, because online services such as Steam are taking off, making this a strong growth area.
This ties in with previous news that EA are to start making games for Linux. This makes even more sense for consoles, because their new console will need an operating system and by using Linux they avoid licensing fees that a proprietary OS like Microsoft’s Windows would demand.
Of course, with the top AAA titles exceeding $80 million in overall development costs for a title, the $80 million commitment may not actually translate into very many next-gen titles. EA would not go into detail about the platforms, the number of titles or when we might expect them.
When EA is ready to dive fully into next-gen development, Epic Games would love to “help” them. We observed a tweet from Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski regarding EA and next-gen titles: “We have just the engine for them!” Bleszinski is no doubt referring to Unreal Engine 4, which was already being demonstrated to some developers behind closed doors back at GDC.