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EA Sports turns to a game jam to churn up new ideas

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

EA Sports' Florida studio has turned to an internal game jam to come up with new ideas for its existing lineup of projects, or maybe a new game altogether — and possibly even a non-sports game, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Darryl Holt, the site executive for EA Tiburon in Maitland, told the Sentinel that the game jam was staged in recognition of the studio's 20th anniversary. (It was bought by Electronic Arts in 1998.) Holt said employees at the studio not currently engaged in a project can request something called "Action Time," which is two weeks to develop a new idea. The game jam is essentially a broad use of "Action Time," Holt reasoned.

Tiburon employs about 800 people and there should be plenty available for Action Time. EA Tiburon's catalog of known, ongoing projects has dwindled to just three currently — EA Sports PGA Tour, Madden NFL, and NBA Live, which faces an uncertain future. Last year it canceled the NCAA Football series in light of litigation brought by former college players and put its golf series on a one-year hiatus to get it ready for a next-gen console launch in 2015.

The last spinoff title it developed was NFL Blitz, which launched in January 2012. Mutant League Football is owned by EA, and Cam Weber, the general manager for football games, has joked in the past that he's constantly been asked by developers to try to get that series restarted. Scuttlebutt has it that won't happen because it would essentially compete with the Madden franchise, for which EA is thought to pay about $50 million annually in licensing guarantees and royalties.

Mike Young, the creative director and longtime veteran of the Madden NFL series, is participating, and told the Sentinel his team was working in his garage past midnight on their concept. These will be voted on internally by full-time employees today, and there's no guarantee that winner will become something the public ever sees.

"It's not every day that a new intellectual property comes to EA Tiburon," software engineer Felix Rivero told the Sentinel. "It's injected a lot of life and excitement into the process."

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