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EA Sports On NBA Elite: "It Was Just Going To Be A Bad Game"

With NBA Jam on shelves and earning praise (deservedly), EA Sports is being a little more candid about NBA Elite, the canceled title and Jam’s original dancing partner.

“Ultimately, it was just going to be a bad game,” Andrew Wilson, head of worldwide development for EA Sports, told IGN. “I think that the goal of reinventing how people play basketball games and giving the gamer infinitely more control over the outcomes that appear on the screen in front of them, was something that just needed to take longer than we had.”

That would all stand to reason, but this is not Gran Turismo 5, Red Dead Redemption or everything at Valve. In annualized sports titles, especially against a direct competitor, there’s no development goal, however ambitious, that makes the release date tentative or optional. And EA Sports, by all appearances, had every intent of putting this out on Oct. 5 right up through the release of its demo, when withering criticism and glitch-filled videos popped up. Remember, this is a game canceled a week before release, late enough that some copies made it into the wild.

Wilson also addressed the restructuring that has taken Elite from EA Canada and sent the project to EA Tiburon, where four other sports titles are already built. “This is not about the current Elite team failing,” Wilson said. “In fact, I think they did a tremendous job to get to where they did. I’m very proud of their willingness to jump in and take a risk and try and reinvent the business.”

I wouldn’t expect a senior executive to go trashing current or former employees when what’s done is done. Especially since EA Canada made three very good sports games this year. But here’s where actions are more candid. Moira Dang, the former general manager of EA Canada, left the company shortly after the Elite cancellation, amidst a division-wide restructuring that cost Tiburon’s general manager his title (though he remains within the company.) Wilson’s now the executive in charge of development; everyone reports to him. (He reports to EA Sports president Peter Moore.)

Heads rolled over this, as they should have. NBA Jam is on shelves for the holidays, and even at $US10 less than Elite’s price, it’s likely going to sell well, definitely better than a flawed Elite would have with Jam paired as a free download. But the NBA is an expensive license; Kevin Durant, the cover star, cost money; this game even commissioned a fully custom soundtrack. And it received a full marketing effort from one of the industry’s super-publishers. There is still a lot of money lost here. EA Sports pulled the plug only because it would have lost more if its admittedly bad game had gone out.

Doing the Right Thing: cancelling NBA Elite 11 [IGN via Pasta Padre]


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