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EA's Gibeau: Respawn Deal 'Fell Into Our Laps'

As Electronic Arts looks to expand its EA Partners business, EA Games label president Frank Gibeau tells Gamasutra it's well-positioned in the action category, after a deal with ex-Infinity Ward heads at Respawn "fell into our laps."
From a commercial standpoint, Activision essentially rules the first-person shooter market with one franchise: Call of Duty. But now rival Electronic Arts believes it's poised to take back some of the shooter market, thanks in part to upcoming games like a rebooted Medal of Honor, and a distribution deal with Respawn Entertainment, the studio founded by the two fired heads of Activision-owned Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward. "[The Respawn deal] was something that fell into our laps, after they were terminated and announced they were free and independent, and we went for it," said EA Games label president Frank Gibeau in a new Gamasutra feature. "The fact that those guys are doing what they're doing, we're very excited." Gibeau is very careful with his wording. Activision fired former Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West earlier this year, accusing the two of "insubordination." Activision alleged that the two flew to Northern California to strike a deal an unnamed competitor, presumably EA, while still employed at Activision, an allegation that both EA and Respawn are quick to deny. Respawn has yet to reveal what they're working on -- or if it's a shooter at all -- as the studio ramps up hiring efforts. Gibeau admitted that Activision "certainly" has ruled over the shooter category. The most recent Infinity Ward game, November's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, had generated over $1 billion as of January. The recently-released $15 map pack add-on for the game sold 2.5 million units in its first week on Xbox Live. "Jason [West] and Vince [Zampella] and their team [at Infinity Ward] clearly created and did things in the entertainment business that have never been done for in gaming. So lots of respect to them. Those guys are big players," Gibeau said. "The fact that we were able to take advantage of an opportunity that came our way and partner with Respawn and create a relationship with them has been spectacular, something that we're very excited about. It's a key part of how we're growing our EA Partners business going forward," he added. Along with EA DICE's Battlefield, another major component to the publisher's overall shooter market strategy is Medal of Honor, a franchise reboot set in modern day Afghanistan, as opposed to the series' traditional World War II setting. Gibeau also noted that EA Partners has signed deals to bring other first-person shooters to market, including Crytek's Crysis 2 and Epic and People Can Fly's Bulletstorm. "From an overall shooter portfolio standpoint, we fully intend to go into the shooter category to shake it up," Gibeau said. For more from Gibeau, as well as the creative heads behind the new Medal of Honor, read the full Gamasutra feature.

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