William "Bing" Gordon is Chief Creative Officer of Electronic Arts, so when he talks the industry listens. And recently he's been talking about why EA has decided to license the Unreal engine when, in 2004 it paid a substantial dollar figure†
for Renderware producer, UK-based Criterion
Just as a reminder for those new to (or those who have forgotten all about) Renderware. It was at the time (early 2000s) the leading middleware used by developers to create game engines - it meant that devs no longer had to re-invent the wheel every time they needed an engine - it was used in Max Payne 2
and Burnout II
, for example.
So, the last thing on anybody's mind was that EA bought Criterion in order to kill it off. Back to 'Bing', who was speaking in a Gamasutra††
"Renderware didn't get the next-gen parts that we needed. We actually underestimated Epic early on. They told us, 'We're going to do this, this, and this,' and we thought, 'Eh, it's going to be kind of hard.' We also overestimated our team, then we looked up three months, six months, and nine months later and said, 'Whoops, we underestimated Epic. Again. And overestimated our own team.' We had a couple of teams that were waiting on Renderware. We probably stuck with it too long.
This, then, seems to propose that it was mismanagement rather than a deliberate policy by EA of buying the leading middleware simply in order to stop anybody else benefiting from it. So, what is the in-house (Rendware) team up to now?
According to Bing, they're working "Mostly (as) a dev house".†Electronic Arts: 2005 Annual Report page 97: "Net income includes amortization of intangibles of $1 million, acquired in-process technology of $9 million and employee stock-based compensation of $3 million, all net of taxes, and $3 million of non-deductible acquisition related costs from our 100 percent acquisition of Criterion."†† Gamasutra