In a rare show of candidness, Ian Bell, CEO of Slightly Mad Studios, jumped aboard a livestream the other day and let some strong accusations begin flying. They were targeted at his former publishing partner, EA, and it was not pretty.
Bell’s Slightly Mad Studios developed Need for Speed: Shift and Shift 2: Unleashed under contract for Electronic Arts. He said EA then approached them for a third game in the series. However, things didn’t go as EA had initially presented them:
“We made a game called Need for Speed: Shift. We made a game called Shift 2. And EA came to me and said two months into Shift 2, “Can we give you 1.5 million if you agree not to talk to any other publishers, to agree any other games or work on any other arrangement with any other publisher. And we’ll give you $1.5 million and we’ll sign Shift 3“. So I said okay. That sounds like a good deal. I took the $1.5 million. I paid the guys loads of bonuses. And two weeks before we were due to start Shift 3 they cancelled. With no warning. They said “We’re not doing that anymore.”
Bell then describes how, after effectively shutting Slightly Mad Studios down for the duration of their contract, EA began poaching some of the team’s key members for other projects. This must have been absolutely devastating to Bell and his fellow teammates at Slightly Mad that remained loyal. He continued:
“We were in trouble, we had nothing left. We were done. They literally destroyed our company. They tried to kill us. They tried to steal our technology as well. They tried to fuck us over, there is no other way to put it. That’s what they tried to do. And we have no love for EA and this company. They’re assholes and corporate monsters.”
Bell insinuated that this was likely all a ploy for EA to steal the game technology that Slightly Mad had developed for use within their Need for Speed games. However, before signing the contract that would ultimately maul them, Bell brilliantly created a partnering company and put the technology within the ownership portfolio of them. Thus, even upon signing the deal to create Shift 3, EA had no rights to the third party tech.
This news of EA’s blatant heartlessness is quickly running rampant across gaming sites and blogs. So it will be interesting to see if they have any type of rebuttal for Bell and his interpretations of the events. We’ll have to wait and see if they respond. You can check out the interview below, time stamped to relevant moment of Bell’s story.