Electronic Arts recently shut down Blueprint, a strategic project to enable the company to develop more software without onsite programmers. Coding Horror blogger Jeff Atwood is a professional programmer who lives in Berkeley. That makes him biased against cheap-outsourced-programer sites like Guru.com. But Atwood's hard-to-explain discomfort — and the war stories left by commenters — are based on an unpopular truth: There's no substitute for being in the office.
No one knew exactly what the Blueprint division of videogame maker Electronic Arts was up to. Officially, it didn't exist. Now, it officially hasn't been shut down, but there's no one working on it. An ex-employee who blabbed to Variety tried to explain: Blueprint's dozen or so staff were charged with creating a way for EA to reliably develop games without hiring onsite, full-time employees. Now more than ever, you'd think that's a businessworthy project. Instead, Blueprint seems to have confirmed there's no substitute for a building full of crazed code monkeys with all the hardware and free snacks they need to crank out Madden NFL 09.
As they say in fashion: One day you are in, and the next day, you are out. And the same is true even for podcasting startups long after podcasting went out of style. Ron Bloom, cofounder of then Podshow, now Mevio, just touted the rollout of a site redesign on Monday. Now a tipster tells us that Bloom has been replaced as chief executive by Jeff Karp, the SVP of marketing at video game publisher Electronic Arts. The company received $15 million more in funding in July for a total of $23.5 million. The new site has rolled out "channels" of entertainment and other programming, but one look at the trend on Compete shows you all you need to know about the startup's prospects even after the name change.
Will Wright's new videogame, Spore, allows buyers to install it on three computers at most, unless they buy another license. Copyright activists and just plain huffy consumers clogged Amazon.com with 2,000 one-star reviews for the game, based solely on the three-machines limit. Spore's maker, Redwood City-based Electronic Arts, has upped the limit from three to five. An EA spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that fewer than one percent of buyers attempt to install on a fourth machine (EA can collect these stats from its activation servers, just as it can change the number of allowed machines on the fly.) "Less than one percent" is a standard PR dodge. Still, in theory, boosting the limit to five should appease all but a few customers. In reality, the not-so-smart mob won't be happy until the game is free and EA tries to make its money selling T-shirts.
Copyright crusaders are climbing over one another to denounce Will Wright's Spore from video game publisher Electronic Arts. Even the normally stable ZDNet warns Spore's three-install limit could kill PC gaming. Kill it! Meanwhile, the scientific-methody gang at Ars Technica decided to test the system. They hit plenty of annoyances — at one point Spore's DRM servers were down — but a call to customer service got them more than they expected:
Take-Two Interactive, the marketer of Grand Theft Auto and various sports videogames, has watched its stock price plummet to $16.99 on the news that Electronic Arts has decided to quit trying to buy the company for $26 a share. Much like Yahoo's drop after Microsoft took an offer off the table, Take-Two's shares are headed south of where they were when EA initially made an offer. I'm counting the days until a third company meets the same fate and I get to write the obligatory trend piece.
Click to viewAs part of Electronic Arts's efforts to promote Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, the video game publisher gave away $35,340 in free gas at a station in a north London neighborhood. The game, set in Venezuela, uses gasoline as a form of currency. However, the scene that developed looked more like Baghdad shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein, with a line forty cars long and actors in camouflage fatigues trying to placate angry commuters trying to get out of their driveways. In the end, the company ended the giveaway with a little over half the free fuel doled out.
After Electronic Arts said it will not renew its takeover bid for videogame house Take-Two, Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick wrote EA CEO John Riccitiello a letter asking if his company could please present itself to EA management before it makes any final decisions. Riccitiello relented. Zelnick's goal: Convinve EA to raise its current offer to buy Take-Two from $25.74 per share, a price Zelnick says "undervalues Take-Two's franchise and financial performance." For his part, Riccitiello announced over the weekend EA would allow its bid to lapse this evening because it would be impossible to get any deal done before the start of the holiday shopping season. Take-Two shares are down 2.5 percent on today's trading. We always thought PowerPoint was a bit of a buzzkill.
Wordscraper is the latest Facebook game that looks remarkably like Scrabble from developers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla. The new name and new look will hopefully be enough to keep the law dogs from Hasbro and Electronic Arts from running it out of town like they did to Scrabulous. Besides the new name and the new color scheme, players are allowed to modify the board and futz with the rules.If it ends up looking like Scrabble, it'll be the users who are infringing on copyrights, not the creators. One problem Wordscraper might have in becoming as popular as Scrabulous once was? Scrabulous has completely disappeared from Facebook profiles, meaning members will have to look for and re-select Wordscraper. When searching apps for "Scrabble," finding the official version is much easier, and Facebook has made it harder for apps to spread from user to user on the social network. So, anyone up for a game of Attack?
Is San Francisco-based mobile videogames startup Hands-On Mobile in trouble? That was my first thought on reading that it had sold its Korean unit to Electronic Arts. EA moved to buy Hands-On's closest competitor, Jamdat, in 2005, and has been aggressively expanding in cell-phone games since. Hands-On, once rumored as an IPO candidate, has a string of offices around the globe, which must surely be expensive. It's possible EA made an offer Hands-On couldn't refuse. But the fact that Hands-On is selling, not buying, speaks of strained finances.
Electronic Arts' original bid to acquire videogame maker Take-Two expired on Friday, but was renewed this morning. Despite Wall Street predictions to the contrary and a $1 billion cash infusion, EA did not raise its $25.74 a share offer for the company behind the Grand Theft Auto series. Analysts predicted EA would raise its bid above $30 a share and shareholders bought the hype, trading the Take-Two up to a $27.10 close on Friday. Take-Two CEO Ben Feder said that spike and a decline in the number of Take-Two shares tendered indicates shareholders recognize EA's offer "undervalues our company."
Yahoo VP Elizabeth Harz has left the company to become SVP of global ad sales at videogame publisher Electronic Arts. At Yahoo, she was most recently in charge of poring over marketing data — the kind of background that will be invaluable to EA as the company develops advertising strategies for casual games on sites like Pogo.com and mobile devices. And in the wake of Jerry Yang's announcement that the new AMP brand advertising platform will be ready to go by the third quarter, it sounds like more bad news for Yahoo. Even if the code works, you need people to bring in customers.