One of the big surprises during EA's E3 2015 press conference wasn't the new Mass Effect. It wasn't Star Wars Battlefront. It wasn't even Pelé. It was a little character called Yarny, appearing in the decidedly un-EA game Unravel.
Unravel is the type of title we'd expect to see from Ubisoft or at an indie showcase. It has more of a Child of Light vibe than something from the publisher that brought us Dead Space and Battlefield Hardline. But games like Unravel are part of EA's future, according to executive vice president Patrick Söderlund.
"For me, it's about not necessarily where EA has been, but what we should become," he tells us. "I believe that we have a responsibility as game developers to push new things, whether that's internal or external. I believe in bringing a great game to players out there when we see one and have the opportunity to sign one. We will continue to seek great ideas and great teams, whether they are internal or external. Unravel was something that crossed my desk. When I saw it, I said we had to get this."
Coldwood's Unravel isn't the only smaller project EA is working on. Last year at E3, the company announced it was working with Hazelight, a new studio founded by Josef Fares and other members of the team behind Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.
"As for Hazelight, I played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons," Söderlund tells us. "He came and pitched a concept. In general, we will treat an external team similar to an internal team. We have the FIFAs of the world, the Star Wars: Battlefronts, the Battlefields, the Maddens, the big blockbuster brands. We should obviously invest money we make from those in making them even better, but we also need to think about investing in other things as a company. We need to broaden our portfolio. I want EA to be a company that's associated with an Unravel, or a Hazelight, or a FIFA, or a Battlefront."
Söderlund mentions Ubisoft specifically as a model for how large publishers can nurture indies. That company has its big hits like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry, but also releases smaller projects, like Valiant Hearts: The Great War.
"Every developer and every game has its own history and its own past," Söderlund, who began his career in a basement coding with three friends, explains. "I think its important that we get associated with talent. There's nothing that says that Martin from Coldwood or Josef from Hazelight couldn't be developing the next 10 million seller for us."