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Former EA exec David De Martini dies at 56

Worked on EA Partners, Origin and more

David De Martini photo 720
David De Martini in December 2013, upon joining Oculus VR as head of worldwide publishing.
Oculus VR
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

David De Martini, a game industry veteran who made his name at Electronic Arts leading franchises like Tiger Woods PGA Tour and divisions such as EA Partners, died yesterday at the age of 56.

De Martini's death was initially reported by Geoff Keighley on Twitter last night. De Martini's son, Dominic De Martini, confirmed the news to Polygon today, saying his father died yesterday morning at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California, of complications from a lung transplant.

David De Martini entered the video game industry in 1998 after working in software development at companies such as Autodesk and Pacific Bell. He joined EA in October of that year, where he led development on major sports franchises such as NASCAR, NCAA March Madness and Tiger Woods PGA Tour.

In a phone interview, Dominic De Martini said his father was a passionate sports fan. David De Martini loved to play tennis and golf, and cheer for his hometown teams: the San Francisco 49ers — for whom David De Martini and his father held season tickets for "like 50 years," according to Dominic De Martini — and Giants, as well as the Golden State Warriors.

Viewers of Geoff Keighley's GameTrailers TV may recognize De Martini from episodes of the show, which was originally known as Game Head. De Martini was the executive producer on The Godfather, EA's 2006 open-world game based on the 1972 film, and appeared in a skit on a 2006 episode of Game Head in which he and some cohorts laid a mafia beatdown on Keighley. (You can see a snippet of that segment in a clip from a 2007 Game Head interview with De Martini, which Keighley posted on Facebook yesterday.)

That interview concerned the EA Partners program, which De Martini led as senior vice president and general manager starting in 2006. Under the EA Partners initiative, EA published a number of games developed by outside studios, teaming up with those companies to provide varying degrees of funding and assistance. EA Partners titles include Harmonix's Rock Band series, Crytek's Crysis franchise, Double Fine Productions' Brutal Legend, Epic Games' Bulletstorm, Valve's Portal 2, Insomniac Games' Fuse and Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall.

Double Fine CEO Tim Schafer remembered De Martini on Twitter today, calling him "a great guy" and "an early supporter of Brütal Legend at EA." The game, said Schafer, "probably would not have happened [without] him."

"He was the ultimate leader and team builder"

De Martini began working on digital distribution at EA in 2010 as senior vice president of global e-commerce. In that role, he oversaw the launch of the platform as Origin in June 2011, after leaving his position at EA Partners earlier that year. During his time at Origin, the service's customer base grew to more than 50 million users. De Martini also drew the ire of cost-conscious gamers when he famously criticized Valve's Steam sales in an interview a year after Origin's debut, saying the practice "cheapens your intellectual property."

Following a 15-year tenure at EA, De Martini left the company in October 2013. He joined Oculus VR two months later as head of worldwide publishing, as the virtual reality firm began to ramp up its efforts to bring third-party games to the Oculus Rift — a role similar to his position at EA Partners. De Martini departed Oculus in July 2014, a few months after Facebook announced it was buying the company for $2 billion.

"David DeMartini was an early pioneer at Oculus and we were fortunate to learn from him, to call him a friend and to experience his incredible determination and infectious humor," Oculus VR said in a statement to Polygon. "He will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family and friends right now."

Upon his departure from Oculus VR, De Martini started his own consulting firm, De Martini Consulting. He also served on the advisory board of Side-Kick Games, a developer of mobile and VR games that is working on a VR title based on Lionsgate's Now You See Me films.

De Martini is survived by his wife, Monika, and two children, Christine and Dominic.

"He was the ultimate leader and team builder," said Dominic De Martini of his father.

Update: An EA representative sent Polygon the following statement on De Martini, which the company later posted on Twitter:

"David DeMartini was an institution here at EA for many years. His trademark wit, passion and warmth shaped every team, game and project he touched. We've lost a great one, and our hearts go out to his family, friends and everyone that had the great fortune to know him. DeMar will be truly missed."

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