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Why does EA's internal engine Frostbite have a public-facing brand?

Electronic Arts today announced a rebranding for Frostbite, its internal game development engine. It’s the first new logo for the tech in nearly a decade.

Speaking with about the rebranding EA’s Frostbite GM Tim Cowan addresses our question of why an internal game engine needs a public-facing brand in the first place, much less one that gets periodically refreshed.

“Frostbite’s had a long history of being a public brand,” Cowan says. “It’s something our gamers know about…

“I think you see in a lot of cases where when you’re talking about a game, you also talk about the technology that powers those games. And Frostbite is something we believe is unique. It has unique capabilities and the technology powering those games is going to help us build unique experiences that gamers are going to really like.”

Beyond giving players an idea of what to expect from games built with Frostbite, Cowan acknowledges there’s a recruiting angle to it as well.

He believes there is an appeal for developers to work with an engine focused on making games instead of one that does double-duty being used for movie production or as its own business licensed externally to other companies.

Cowan also says it’s an attractive opportunity to work on an engine team that truly understands what a game’s development team is trying to achieve, creating “a level of partnership, support, and collaboration that knows no boundaries.”

“We can bend this engine to our will and make it do the things we need it to do. We fundamentally feel like we get a ton of value out of that aspect of an internal engine. We can direct it and take it where we need to take it for our games, and we can move fast and quickly without any boundaries on that front.”

While Cowan emphasizes Frostbite’s flexibility, he acknowledges that wasn’t always the case for either the engine or EA in general.

The roots of Frostbite came out of DICE, which was building it around the needs of its Battlefield series of shooters.

Over time, it expanded to be used in other EA titles like the Need for Speed series, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, and Dragon Age: Inquisition, and now the company has built it into a more general-purpose option for developers.

In fact, EA believed Frostbite to be so flexible that around 2015, it decided to go all-in on Frostbite and pushed to get all of its games on the engine. That push didn’t go as planned though.

“Building games is hard,” Cowan says. “Changing engines is hard, regardless of the engine. So we stepped back and looked at that. We really believe that game teams will make the best games when they really have the ability to use the best tools and technology. We acknowledged that games are unique, they have unique cases, so let’s let [developers] have the power to make the choice for what’s best for them.”

Cowan says it’s still widely used within the company – this year alone saw new releases Dead Space, PGA Tour, and UFC 5 among the franchises releasing on the engine for the first time – but EA has become a bit less dogmatic about Frostbite use.

“We don’t need to force all games to use it,” he says. “They can look at what makes sense for their game. It could be another internal engine; we have a lot of other internal engines still at EA today… You might look at Unreal or Unity.”

He adds, “We don’t aspire today to be the engine for everyone. There was definitely a period of time where we had a ‘one engine’ strategy where we were very intentionally trying to get all of EA’s games onto one engine. We are not doing that today. What we’re trying to do is make it the best engine for the games that are using it.”

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