Electronic Arts has just made itself the home of some of the video game industry’s most powerful women.
Two key hires, along with a number of existing high-ranking and influential women, are helping to shift the balance in the largely male-dominated industry—on both the executive and developmental sides.
On July 13, EA (EA) announced Jade Raymond, a 20-year industry veteran, had joined the company and will oversee a new development studio in Montreal, Canada. More immediately, Raymond, the producer of the first Assassin’s Creed game at Ubisoft (and executive producer of several other big games), will be in charge of EA’s Visceral Games.
The Visceral team is in the process of making a Star Wars action game, written by Amy Hennig, the creative force behind Sony’s first three Uncharted games (and herself often referred to as one of the most influential women in gaming).
“Jade brings serious chops to design for serious games,” says John Taylor, managing director of Arcadia Investment Corporation.
Raymond’s enlistment came just six days after EA named Samantha Ryan as head of the company’s mobile division. In that role, Ryan will oversee all of EA’s projects for iOS and Android, including IPs like Plants vs. Zombies, Madden Mobile, and the upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
Ryan replaces Frank Gibeau, who left the company suddenly after 20 years in May. She briefly worked in a smaller role at EA Mobile, after joining the company from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Ryan’s appointment puts her in charge of one of the more influential positions at EA, if not the industry. While EA Mobile has not had a hit on the level of Candy Crush Saga or Angry Birds, it has put out a steady stream of very solid performers, including The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Real Racing. In fiscal 2015, EA Mobile generated a record $524 million in revenues.
“It’s a powerful role within EA,” says Colin Sebastian, senior research analyst with R.W. Baird & Co., about Ryan’s appointment. “… [While] digital is currently the current fastest growing division, on a longer term basis, I think mobile is probably the fastest growing.”
Ryan and Raymond join a company that already had a strong slate of women in prominent positions. Lucy Bradshaw, senior vice president of the Maxis division, has overseen The Sims franchise for years and Chelsea Howe, creative director for EA Mobile, previously worked on titles like Zynga’s FarmVille and Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff.
And that strong female voice, say analysts, has been key to EA’s creative resurgence in the past few years.
“One of the things that differentiates EA from the other publishers is a focus on the widest possible market,” says Taylor. “EA’s portfolio is by far the most diversified of all the independent publishers in terms of audience demographics. EA paved the way for [female players], in my mind, with the introduction of The Sims.”
While it’s certainly much, much too early to think about future leadership roles for some of EA’s top women (CEO Andrew Wilson just took the job in September 2013, for instance), Taylor adds that their experience and current assignments certainly make it possible that one could be in line for an even higher position down the road.
“EA’s bench is pretty deep,” he says. “But mobile is a clear growth area for EA. … I think the new hires make that bench even stronger.”