G.I. Joe and Gaming's Future


Electronic Arts, the world’s largest video game maker has gone all out for “GI Joe,” the video game based on the blockbuster movie, to the point where they’ve painted a massive “Cobra” head on the field that runs through its campus south of San Francisco’s airport.

A couple of hours ago, EA employees played soccer on it. Now, as we see tiny video-game artists walk over it, I realize .. well, I realize how really high up we are.

That’s because I’m looking at the field from the roof of Electronic Arts, 117 feet up. My partner in news, photographer Mark Villarreal, is scoping out the view of Redwood Shores, while I fight back vertigo and mentally check what GE’s life insurance will provide for my family.

Back on the ground, EA’s Jason Enos helped develop “GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” and now he’s helping to sell it. He says partnerships will play a big role in getting the company (and industry) over its recent slump, not just with Hollywood studios, but with companies like Hasbro (which developed GI Joe). Bring Hasbro into the fold, and you’ve got a built-in consumer base you can tap. This is important for a company like EA, which has a built-in audience for its video games, but needs to expand to bring its sales back up.

Enos admits, “Yes, we’re happy people think our games look like movies,” but imagine if EA could be known as a consumer giant? A company you can count on for entertainment, of all kinds. GI Joe, long the kind of title you’d expect to see on your XBox 360 and Playstation 3, is also available for the Nintendo DS, and the Wii. You can bring it with you, or play at home. If you remember GI Joe from the 80’s, hop on your console. If you’re the child of someone who remembers GI Joe from the 80’s, you can bring him with you in the backseat of the car during your family’s next road trip.

That brings us back to the roof. It’s an amazing view: Looking left, we see Oracle’s headquarters, and for once in my life I can look down on Larry Ellison.

A high-up perspective helps take an overall view of where the video game industry goes from here. Still one of Silicon Valley’s biggest industries, gaming has struggled lately, with consumers gradually cutting back on their purchases as the recession drags on.

As EA well knows (and Enos readily admits), it’s easier to have a successful video game if people are already geeked from a successful movie tie-in (see, “Lord Of The Rings,” “Transformers,” etc, etc.). “GI Joe” delivers the goods, there, too, with a 60 million dollar opening weekend. That bodes well for video game sales. EA is certainly up to the challenge.

Just don’t look down.

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