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Battlefield dev DICE expands to Los Angeles for EA’s Star Wars game

Star Wars the Old Repbulic Bioware EA layoffs

Electronic Arts has a new studio based in Los Angeles that’s been named an offshoot of Sweden-based Battlefield developer, DICE. The publisher is shooting to build a team of 60 at DICE Los Angeles by the end of 2013, GamesIndustry International reveals. The crew currently in place includes key members of Danger Close, the studio behind EA’s most recent Medal of Honor games.

DICE Los Angeles is tasked with taking on one-third of EA’s recently announced Disney partnership that will see the publisher delivering no less than three Star Wars titles, from BioWare, Visceral Games, and DICE, in the coming years. Interestingly, the choice of southern California as the home for this new iteration of DICE is a very calculated one, as Karl Magnus-Troedsson, general manager of the Stockholm-based DICE, explained.

“There is an extreme talent pool over that we want a part of. It’s no secret that our main competitor is there,” he said. Many of the industry’s key game developers are based in Los Angeles, including Call of Duty overseers Infinity Ward and Treyarch, no doubt the “competitor” Magnus -Troedsson referred to. The hope on EA’s side is that the consensus-based decision-making culture at DICE coupled with the geek-friendly lure of working on a brand new Star Wars game will attract some local talent.

The expansion comes as a surprise following recent news of wide cuts at EA that reportedly saw the publisher’s workforce slashed by 10 percent (via Kotaku). This is only the latest development in a recent series of restructuring moves, including the reported closure of the EA Labels program; the confirmed shutdown of Facebook dev Playfish, a $300 million acquisition from three years ago; the confirmed closure of Dragon Age: Legends dev BioWare San Francisco; and the sudden, but not unexpected, departure of longtime company CEO John Riccitiello.

This push to build a new team at DICE Los Angeles speaks to EA’s commitment to investing in a Star Wars-friendly future. The partnership with Disney is a huge get for the publisher, and amounts to a potential source of big income for many years to come. The trick will be nailing those first three releases. Star Wars has an uneven history in the video games space, one that leans mostly toward the negative in recent years following the tepid-to-poor reception of games like The Force UnleashedThe Force Unleashed 2, and Star Wars Kinect, along with a string of underwhelming mobile games.

The recent closure of LucasArts creates a huge opportunity to deliver on the promise of great games set in a galaxy far, far away. EA’s massively multiplayer role-playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic from BioWare continues to move forward and expand, especially following its switch to free-to-play in 2012. The game has its critics, but it’s been generally well-received by fans, thanks largely to the lengthy character-driven stories that were built for each of the eight character classes.

BioWare is also responsible for the last-gen RPG Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which is arguably one of the most widely appreciated examples of Star Wars fiction, interactive or otherwise, in the franchise’s history. It was LucasArts that published KOTOR, along with its Obsidian Entertainment-developed sequel, but EA acquired the Canadian studio in late 2007.

There’s been no word yet on what the three confirmed Star Wars games will offer, and we’re not likely to see anything soon given how recently the partnership was announced. A new studio for DICE relieves the pressure of the developer having to double up on both Battlefield and Star Wars, though it also raises questions about what the “DICE” name means with an entirely new team in place. The choice of Los Angeles as a home is a smart move on EA’s part; we’ll just have to wait and see for now what sort of talent the young studio attracts.

Note that the above information on the new DICE studio in Los Angeles is originally sourced to the Wall Street Journal. A paywall sits in front of that content, so we relied instead on the very thorough report from Head over there if you’d like additional context.

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