Electronic Arts video game company plans to relocate its Central Florida headquarters in Maitland to the developing Creative Village in downtown Orlando, becoming a neighbor to the UCF Downtown campus and its graduate video game design school and expanding opportunities for university graduates to enter the industry.
“EA’s presence here creates an immediate pipeline with our educational partners in and around the Creative Village,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer at the announcement Wednesday during his annual State of Downtown address. “Their presence here also serves as a magnet to attract companies and investment into the Creative Village, accelerating our industry cluster in digital media.”
The company has been the biggest video game creator in Central Florida since purchasing a small studio, Tiburon, about 20 years ago. The plan now is to move to a five-story complex in the new Creative Village, which has been home to UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy since 2004 and where UCF Downtown opened for classes this fall.
One of the drivers for UCF to open the downtown campus was for students to be close to internships and job opportunities.
“This is a major win for Orlando becoming a digital media hub,” says Ben Noel, executive director of FIEA and former EA employee. “Fifteen years ago, EA Tiburon had roughly 150 employees with only a few UCF graduates employed and was 45 minutes away from the main campus in east Orlando. Now, one in seven EA Tiburon employees are graduates of UCF’s graduate video game program and EA will only be a two-minute walk to UCF Downtown and our integrated Nicholson School of Communication and Media.”
The California-based EA — which currently develops and publishes Madden NFL, NBA Live, The Sims, Medal of Honor and other game franchises — expects to move its Maitland office to the village as soon as 2021.
Dyer said EA is the “perfect partner” to join UCF Downtown as the $1.5 billion Creative Village boosts the city’s drive to become a digital media hub.
Creating an Educational Pipeline for Careers
The move will not be the first time a partnership between EA and UCF has benefited students, but it will bolster the cradle-to-career pipeline the downtown campus was built to create.
FIEA — whose video game graduate program ranks No. 5 in the world — was founded in 2004 through a partnership between UCF, the State of Florida, the City of Orlando and Electronic Arts when the Florida Legislature provided $4.2 million in funding. EA helped develop the initial program and curriculum to help FIEA prepare artists, programmers and producers develop the tools and skills necessary to succeed in the gaming industry. EA executives also mentor and provide feedback to students, and the company has used FIEA’s motion capture studio and sound stage — one of the largest on the east coast — to produce video games. As a result of this collaboration, more than 100 UCF graduates and 13 UCF interns currently work in EA Tiburon’s office and dozens more FIEA graduates at other EA studios around the world.
FIEA also boasts 675 graduates working at more than 200 entities in 38 states and countries, including Disney, Marvel, Cartoon Network, Microsoft, Sony, Lockheed Martin, Iron Galaxy Orlando, and others.
This career funnel will only expand with the relocation of EA and the recent addition of UCF programs to the downtown core. As part of the move earlier this summer, UCF established the Games and Interactive Media department, offering classes for both its undergraduate and graduate digital media programs in the same building as FIEA. The undergraduate game design program, which currently has 773 students enrolled, is ranked No. 13 in the world, according to The Princeton Review and PC Gamer magazine.
“The fact that our games and interactive media students and faculty will be able to work and grow beside EA is, quite literally, game-changing” said Jeff Moore, dean of the UCF College of Arts and Humanities.
“It will ensure that our students are being trained to meet and exceed the growing needs of the industry, via access to internships, jobs and networking, and it poises UCF to be the leader in graduate and undergraduate interactive media education.”