GDC 2008: EA Focusing On Entertainment, Not Education
In the past, EA has worked to adapt their biggest franchises for educational purposes, but according to a company executive at GDC 2008, this won't be a common practice in the future. It's a noble endeavor, to be sure, but there is little money to be made with in the educational video game business.
Speaking at the Serious Games Summit, EA's vice president for global brand development, Steve Seabolt, said the publisher's primary focus remains on games that are "entertaining above all else." As just about any kid will tell you, educational video games simply aren't as fun as other games, and that is reflected in sales numbers every year.
"The reality is that we are a hit-driven business," Seabolt said. "And economically, we can't really commit to launching a product unless we think we can sell a minimum of 2 million units. If you talk to anybody in the venture capital community, there's probably more economic roadkill around educational games in the past 20 years than just about any other category. Nobody's proven that you can sell a huge quantity of games yet."
Evidently, EA has been approached by many people in the past looking to convert some of the company's biggest games into educational or training programs. However, for every one of these proposals that EA accepts, they reject "eight or nine." For example, it seems the Tennessee Department of Health asked them to develop something that would help people quit smoking, but EA believed this wasn't a "natural fit, nor was it an opportunity of scale." Bottom line- EA didn't get to be the industry's biggest publisher by releasing titles that aren't entertaining. And fortunately or unfortunately, most all entertaining games aren't exactly educational... It's just the way of the world, really.
2/19/2008 Ben Dutka