The lights are on
Did you miss any of the big stories this week? Want to find out how the pieces fit together? You're in the right place.
More layoffs at EA, Partners division closed
We had a bad feeling that the bloodletting at EA wasn't over. Cuts started two weeks ago with EA Montreal's mobile operation, flowed through Playfish (after canceling three Facebook titles), and ended up with an additional 50 jobs cut at the publisher's studio in India. This week, things got even worse.
We received a tip late Wednesday night that EA Partners, the contract-based publishing arm responsible for bringing Rock Band, Brütal Legend, Syndicate, Kingdoms of Amalur, and the Crysis series to market, was going to be closed. Over the next few hours, we confirmed with multiple sources inside. The next day, we learned that the cuts were even deeper. PopCap's Vancouver operation and Quicklime were both to be shut down. Furthermore, reports indicate that the job losses spanned the entire company.
EA issued a vague public statement and an only slightly less obscure internal memo. Employees were advised of reorganization, but there was no specificity in either missive about studios that were closed. We believe that EA is currently in their quiet period (as I detailed last week), and cannot legally provide the level of detail we'd like before its scheduled financial earnings call on May 7.
We expect that once EA officials can speak freely, we'll have a better idea of which developers have been shuttered and what the reorganization means for overarching corporate priorities.
Microsoft finally sets a date for the next Xbox coming out party
Normally something this brief would be in the Quick Hits section, but it's big news. On May 21, 2013, we'll finally get to hear from Microsoft about its vision for the next generation. Hopefully, they'll lay to rest (one way or the other) the "always online" controversy, whether or not used software will be viable, and whether the company will be making a play against traditional cable providers.
Nintendo financials still limping, sales miss targets
Let's get one thing out of the way first. Nintendo is strong, well established, and has some of the most powerful franchises in the industry. The company isn't going out of business, but its leadership is making severe tactical miscalculations, especially in light of the missed sales targets and lower than expected operating income.
Earlier this week, I shared my opinion regarding Nintendo's decision to skip their traditional stage presentation at E3. Instead of hosting a major keynote in front of hundreds in person (and thousands via livestream), the company is opting for an early booth opening. There have been a number of comments on that story claiming that there is little difference between the two choices.
For those that haven't been to E3, this might seem like an equitable trade. I assure you that it is not. Sitting in the Nokia Theatre last year, I was witness to a flurry of flashbulbs, a seemingly unending flood of tweets (my own account was locked for excessive use), and a unified message after the show echoed by industry-focused and mainstream outlets in attendance.
The booth experience is completely different. It's chaotic, even when the rest of the show floor is open. The messaging is less focused, as PR professionals are intermingled with less informed attendants. Outlets spend different amounts of time with the titles, and have varying degrees of success getting questions answered. Balancing playing with note taking also dilutes the message.
Take a look at last year's E3 coverage of any specific game that was just available for hands-on demo on the show floor (not theatre presentations or developer walkthroughs, those are more controlled). Visit different outlets and see how differently those pieces were constructed. You will see a far more diverse array than you will in the recaps of the keynotes. Mainstream media picks up on the highlights from the bigger cornerstone events and less from the show floor.
Nintendo will likely be very successful in reaching hardcore fans through their Direct presentations and outlets that are laser focused on the Wii U and 3DS. It will also do just fine reaching the rest of the enthusiast community (fear not, we will be covering Nintendo at E3). However, the company will likely lose the very people they need right now: the parents and grandparents that were first-time consumers last generation. Nintendo needs to reach them, and this strategy will not enable that easily.
Announcements and Release Dates