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For much of EA’s history, Europe has played a large role in the publisher’s success. In 1987, the company set up a European division to market games for the personal computer. Consoles were adopted at a slower rate in Europe and PCs, particularly the Amiga, remained the dominant gaming platform well into the ‘90’s. "That’s when our international business started to take off," Gibeau remembered.
Europe now accounts for over 40% of EA’s revenue, and the company has been investing heavily in European development. In 2004, EA added Criterion Software to its U.K. studio system. Criterion created the Burnout series of racing games as well as the recent FPS, Black. Criterion also produces the RenderWare game engine.
Gathering further European talent, in 2006 EA completed its acquisition of the Swedish developer, Digital Illusions CE, makers of the popular Battlefield 1942 series. Recently, EA also bought German developer Phenomic, creators of The Settlers and Spell Force.
As Electronic Arts makes its way through the latest hardware cycle, its success enables it to publish games across the technology spectrum. The graphic muscle of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 allows games like Need for Speed: Carbon to provide a rush of sheer velocity while Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 immerses players in a simulation so realistic one can almost smell the freshly cut green. On Nintendo’s new machine, Madden NFL 07 embraces the Wii’s controller in innovative ways.
Future releases will see franchises like Criterion’s Burnout and EA L.A.’s Medal of Honor radically re-imagined for the next generation, while EA Montreal prepares a brand new IP called Army of Two. However, even as EA commits itself to providing state-of-the-art games for the latest consoles, the company recognizes the importance of casual games as the mobile phone, portable, and online markets become increasingly popular.
Art and commerce have always been uneasy bedfellows, and nowhere is that tension more evident than in the world of video games. Perhaps after looking at the history of Electronic Arts we may have some insight into that hot point of ignition where business and inspiration combine to create cutting edge games.
As Trip Hawkins explained, "Entrepreneurship is a creative art form. Like other creative people, we do it because we have to do it. We have no choice but to express ourselves in this way. But of course like all artists we are optimists, so we believe good things will come.
"It is not about making money, it is about making a difference."