EA’s former chief design officer, Patrick Söderlund, is opening a new studio with ambitious plans, and it’s already got a publisher.
Söderlund, who was Battlefield developer DICE’s CEO until EA bought the studio and recruited him to its executive program, is teaming up with another former DICE developer, Johan Andersson, to launch Embark Studios. Unlike most startup developers that don’t have an ex-EA executive (and the second highest paid at that) at their helms, Embark has the good luck of having a publisher that’s also acting as a primary investor in mobile game publisher Nexon.
It sounds like Söderlund will have a hands-on role in developing games, according to an interview with The Verge.
“At EA I was always very close to the game-making, as much as I could given the job that I had,” Söderlund said. “This is a way for me to get much closer, to get back to actually making games, and designing stuff and building things on my own.”
But what kinds of games will Embark be making, considering it’s partnered with a mobile game publisher? Well, it sounds like Söderlund has high ambitions for combining technologies like “connected players, big data, speech recognition, cloud computing, and advanced AI” into an actual game.
Starting off, however, Embark will most likely “start by developing games that maybe share more traditional gameplay experiences, but at the same time try to prove out a couple of key things that I need to prove out for the future,” Söderlund said. “I don’t feel like coming up with the ultimate dream or the ultimate idea, and hiding in a corner for 10 years, and showing up with something that may or not work, is the right approach for us.”
Söderlund exited EA in August 2018 to “begin a new chapter later this year,” according to an open letter from EA CEO Andrew Wilson. Prior to that, in 2017, EA had given Söderlund a $20 million bonus to get him to stay and even created his title of chief design officer in 2018.