The Borg

Electronic Arts and the Closure of Pandemic Studios

Pandemic Logo N4G

“Optimism need not suffer - only naïveté”

The news today is that Pandemic Studios is being forced to close up shop, with its founders, Josh Resnick, Andrew Goldman and Greg Borrud already let go some days before. This comes mere days after 40% of Mythic staff gets cut1.

With shaking hands, I bust out my very special Devil’s Advocate crystal ball, and take a hesitant look into the future. In five years’ time, I can see it now, gamers will exhibit the exact same feeling of dismay as we did, just there and then, combing over archives of video game history. Putting the ball aside, I come to realize that we should not focus so squarely on the now - it is a global recession we have here on our hands, after all, and the ends should justify the means.

EA the Borg Perhaps we shall revisit the past, then, to take a look - say, at five years ago? I have here a copy of Andy Robinson’s comprehensible list of every company EA has bought and shut down from 1998 to 2008. It’s true; some five years before, Electronic Arts had just contributed the three most disappointing, debilitating game studio liquidations of the past decade:

  • In March of 2003, Westwood Studios (along with EA Pacific) was liquidated, with all of its willing staff assimilated.
  • 2004 meant the end to Bullfrog when EA combined their side studios into EA UK.
  • In February 2004, Origin Systems, Inc., too, was was disbanded.

I can’t truly say that I remember how bad it felt to see these three colourful entities disappear only to fade away into the canon of our collective nostalgia – all I have left now is a faint recollection of my increasing disbelief over any and all praise heaped onto EA for having successfully introduced a slew of original IPs etcetera etcetera.

John RiccitielloDisbelief, too, is the word I would use of EA CEO John Riccitiello coming out and nearly apologizing for the company’s past mistakes in handling their acquisitions. If I was ever offended, I forgave; at the very least I forgot. Maybe, just maybe Electronic Arts had finally discovered the error of their ways.

But after a critically successful string of new original titles over the past two years - Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space - the commercial realities suddenly set in and overnight, Riccitiello’s tune underwent a perfect 180:

“…anything that doesn’t measure up to looking like it can pencil out to be in very high profit contributor and high unit seller got cut from our title slate from this point going forward.”2

Here be a quote from March 18, 2008, from Pandemic Studios President Josh Resnick (Courtesy of MrWasteland):

“…we’re absolutely part of a greater family now within EA and I definitely get it now, thinking about the other studios within EA and helping them and taking advantage of the synergies in terms of what they’re doing and what we’re working on…”3

Optimism need not suffer - only naïveté? Perhaps the only thing irrevocably lost here, once again, in this ever-widening gyre, this bipolar-circular motion, is our shared understanding and appreciation of Electronic Arts and its legacy? Kai Steinmann, an ex-EA developer, sheds some much-needed positive light on the situation:

The upswing of all this is that, if EA follows pattern, they will be staffing back up in a few months. The more conspiracy theory minded among us might even wager a whisper that it’s a shell game for the accountants’ benefit.4

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