EA: Why Will Wright’s Name Shouldn’t Be On A Game’s Box (Or: How To Give Proper Credit)

If you were a game publisher, how would you give credit to the game developers you employ?

Would you put their names on the boxes of their games? Maybe a photo on the back?

Or would you keep their names off and push your own publishing brand?

Maybe you’d put the name of the movie director who helped conceive the game on the box and no one else’s?

Would you ever put Will Wright’s name on a box? Because, you know, all the big actors and authors and musicians get their names on the stuff they help make.

I asked EA CEO John Riccitiello back at E3 what he thinks the best approach would be…

Multiplayer: You’ve been talking about the talent and the creative teams. One of the very first EA advertisements that was very influential showed the original creators in a black and white ad….

John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts: Yes. “Can a computer make you cry?” [Note from Stephen See the ad here.]

Multiplayer: That’s it. And it really highlighted the individuals responsible for EA games. Are you interested in bringing more names like Will Wright to the fore that are in EA development teams helping people recognize individual people, faces and names for the games they are playing?

Riccitiello: Sort of. In music it’s typically a writer and a band of four. With films it’s a couple of lead talent, actors and actresses, a director and maybe a cinematographer. With games it’s typically 30, 50 100 people that make these things and they’re all integral to the process. So I’m absolutely in favor of bringing forward the teams. But the team dynamic in creation of our product is quite different than other forms of entertainment.

“In times past, major publishers would say ’This is an Electronic Arts game.’ It’s from them and it’s all about them. And the truth is, it never was.”

If you were at our press briefing on Monday [at E3] we put what I believe are 12 of the 25 most talented people in the industry and they work in Electronic Arts or with Electronic Arts. We put them on stage, whether it was Patrick Soderlund showing us “Mirror’s Edge” or Glenn Schofield showing us “Dead Space” or Will Wright showing us “Spore.” We put these guys forward because they’re the best at what they do. But they’re more representative of teams than they are individual stars. And they know they’re representative of teams. What I try to put forward is a recognition there.

I’ve always been of the belief you should give credit where credit’s due. And I think in times past major publishers would say “This is an Electronic Arts game” or ’This is name-the-
other-publisher.’ It’s from them and it’s all about them. And the truth is, it never was. It’s really about the teams that create this stuff and we’re big believers in that. And I’m personally all about that. Again I don’t think there are any creator in the industry that would say it’s them individually making that happen.

“I can get a little frustrated when an individual is pulled out when I know how hard and how much innovation the rest of the team brought to the table.”

Multiplayer: So other than Steven Spielberg or Will Wright we’re not going to see any game developers have their name on the box any time soon?

Riccitiello: I don’t think we’ve ever put Will Wright’s name on a box.

Multiplayer: Just Spielberg then..

Riccitiello: Look, there’s business relationships you make with creators from time to time. Clearly Spielberg’s support and help and design of “Boom Blox” was great. We’re working on another title with him. And there are people who bring their sort of entourage of fame with them. At times that makes sense to put their name forward. But the truth is, behind “Boom Blox” there was a team of people, incredibly dedicated, talented people. And at times I can get a little frustrated when an individual is pulled out when I know how hard and how much innovation the rest of the team brought to the table.

We live in a country where People magazine is maybe the best-selling publication in the country, and they want to put stars on the front. It’s really hard to put a class of 100 on the cover [and] giving you the same sex appeal. I get that.

I know we live in a star-centric culture, but our business doesn’t work that way. There’s no doubt that the creative vision of Will Wright is vitally important to “Spore.” But I will tell you something: Lucy Bradshaw, the executive producer and the entire team around them, is every bit as responsible for that game as Will is. And Will wouldn’t tell you anything different.


There you have it. Who’s with Riccitiello? No developer names on the box? Praising teams first and foremost, rather than star developers and publishers? Is that the ideal approach for giving credit to game creators?

Will Wright image via Wired.com.