The Wall Street Journal, 2 September 2008 reports that Electronic Arts is releasing this week, “Spore, one of the most talked-about titles in videogame history.”
What is Spore?
Spore is a simulation game (like the The Sims and Grand Theft Auto). In Spore, “players shape the evolution of everything from tiny organisms to mature creatures to planets and galaxies. The most unusual feature is that users’ creations are not only theirs to view; they become part of the environment experienced by others.”
The interactive last part sounds like a prehistoric version of Second Life, which just may be the most interesting part to the new game.
On a recent vacation, I had the opportunity to test a free software download version called Spore Creature Creator, and while the game concept and the strange looking creatures were intriguing, I found the game quickly turned ho hum, boring.
Why is Spore so Important to Electronic Arts?
Electronic Arts has had six consecutive money losing quarters and is desperate for a product winner.
“Analysts have chided the company for being too reliant on sequels to its successful game franchises [such as Madden Football etc.], rather than developing new titles to spur growth.”
At a development cost of $50M, and $25M in marketing, distribution, and manufacturing costs, the company needs to sell a whopping million and a half copies of Spore at a price of $50 just to break even. (Note: a “blockbuster—generally mean sales of one million units or more for a PC game).
What is wrong with Electronic Arts Spore game concept?
Desperate times lead to desperate measures—Electronic Arts is losing money and prestige and is desperate for a hit, and one that signals a turnaround for the company. However, Spore is not a game changing event.
First, Spore is based on other simulation style games and is adding what? I’d say, aside from some creative graphics, not much. So it’s not particularly innovative, which is what they really need a dose of (you can’t keep milking the same cow endlessly with sequels—even Star Wars and Harry Potter eventually run out of steam).
Second, when organizations, like Electronic Arts are struggling and faced with daunting challenges, they need to be careful not to fall into the desperate flailing of a drowning victim. It’s important to remain calm, keep your whits about you, and always follow a careful thought out plan to survive.
To me that’s really the essence of Enterprise Architecture, sound planning and governance.
In the case of Electronic Arts, instead of simply rolling out their next sequel, they needed to be planning on their next big innovation. While Spore may be a cultural curiosity or phenomenon for a while, it does not measure up to true innovation.