Eric Johnson

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Exclusive: EA Partners Founder’s New Company Will Invest $40 Million in Mobile Indie Games

moneybagsHey indie devs, want some money? Talk to Tom Frisina.

Frisina founded and formerly headed up EA Partners, which co-publishes games from outside of Electronic Arts. Now, he’s launching an independent company that will do almost exactly the same thing. “Almost,” because all the indie games Frisina’s new company, Tilting Point, partners with and invests in will be mobile.

Tilting Point says it will put $40 million into phone and tablet games over the next three years, backed up by mentorship and lots and lots of data-driven marketing.

“We’ve seen plenty of great games with solid development budgets this year fail because of a lackluster monetization plan or nonexistent marketing,” Frisina said.

Joining him at Tilting Point are three other EA veterans: Partnership expert Dan Sherman, development director Steve Coallier and lawyer Jim Hsu, who also added Zynga to his resume before joining Frisina’s team.

2221baaBeyond founding and managing EAP for more than a decade, Frisina’s biggest coup was probably bringing EA into the picture on both Medal of Honor in 1999, and Battlefield 1942 in the early 2000s.

More recently, EA Partners’ hits have included Crysis and its sequels, the Rock Band series and Valve’s Orange Box (a.k.a. the three-pack of Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2 and the first Portal game). The division also handled the retail publishing of Portal 2, but by that point, Valve had already established its online store, Steam, which currently rivals EA’s store, Origin.

Those are all big games that require at least decent console or PC hardware, spanning multiple platforms. There’s still an audience and a future for those sorts of titles, but Tilting Point looks smart to focus on just the simpler mobile devices that are reaching much broader gaming audiences.

TiltingPoint_FINAL-LOGOThat focus clearly distinguishes the new company from both EA Partners and other publishers of games not developed in-house.

However, sources at both Tilting Point and EA stressed that Frisina’s new venture is neither a rejection of his old team nor a nose-thumbing “look, EA, this is what you should be doing!” statement.

That’s partly because Frisina, while important to EA Partners’ growth in the 2000s, hasn’t run EAP since way back in early 2007 — before the iPhone launched, and years before the iPad, so before mobile and tablet gaming hit a mass audience. He left his full-time job at the company in March of 2010. He’s still on the board of EA International, and is an academic consultant to the company by way of a position at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts that EA underwrites.

Sherman, Coallier and Hsu also all left EA in 2009 and 2010.

“Everyone [on my team] left for different reasons,” Frisina said. “Personally, I have the utmost respect for EA senior management and staff, and remain very proud of my current relationship and to have been given such great opportunities over my 13 years.”

EA’s corporate communications SVP, Jeff Brown, praised Frisina’s skills and said Tilting Point will have a “good team” at the reins.

Here’s the main section of the official announcement, which Tilting Point will release later today:

Tilting Point Created To Champion Premier Independent Video
Game Developers
Fostering talent, funding development, fueling discovery

New York, NY — March 14, 2013 – A contingent of seasoned game industry veterans, including lifelong video game and tech entrepreneur Tom Frisina, pulled back the curtain today on Tilting Point Media, a company built to address the growing needs of independent developers in the rapidly growing but capricious mobile and tablet video game markets. Evolving beyond the traditional definition of a digital publisher, Tilting Point aligns itself with top independent development talent and offers the funding, support, and resources to give carefully selected games mainstream success. The company is investing $40 million in the next three years to fund the development and marketing of mobile and tablet games while executing groundbreaking marketing campaigns and providing unbiased, data-driven advice to game creators through a number of strategic partnerships.

“Our view is that independent developers own the future of games,” said Tom Frisina, Executive Chairman of Tilting Point. “However, a studio’s potential can be severely hindered without a partner they can trust to help navigate the challenges of discoverability and monetization. We will nurture the best teams, positioning them for independent success over the long term. We’re taking the expertise and resourcefulness gained from our combined backgrounds and applying them to a new publishing model, where development talent gains the tools to control their own destiny.”

Over the past year, Tilting Point has signed agreements with several of the world’s most successful game makers, including Signal Mobile, Housemarque, and 1337 Game Design & Senri, with more high profile deals in negotiation. The company will release its first titles in 2013 while continuing to grow its assemblage of elite development partners.

“We’d describe Tilting Point as our co-pilot,” said D.R. Albright III, President and Creative Director at Signal Mobile. “They are facilitating us reaching our goals without taking over our intellectual property. Signal is excited to be working with Tilting Point and I look forward to releasing our first game together in 2013.”

The Tilting Point team will be at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco from March 25-29. Contact information is available on www.tiltingpoint.com, and regular updates will be available on www.facebook.com/tiltingpoint and on Twitter @tiltingpoint.


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