EA CEO John Riccitiello has admitted that the company "blew it" with companies like Bullfrog, Origin Systems and Westwood post-acquisition.
"We at EA blew it," he told an audience at the DICE Summit. "To a degree I was involved in these things, so I can say I blew it."
The problem was that EA believed in a "one size fits all" approach that buried and stifled creativity under bureaucracy, he said.
Riccitiello believes that EA Canada and Maxis are good examples of EA doing things the right way, preserving company culture despite acquisition.
And he hopes Bioware/Pandemic will turn out the same. "It seems to be working," he said of that deal. "I think we are on a good track."
With development teams now demanding staff "in the 200 range" for major releases, EA's current ideal is developers as "city states". "When we are doing it right, we are not synchronised swimmers," he explained.
"We are more like the NFL with a collection of teams, each with its own culture, each with an independent drive, each individually seeking to win the Super Bowl," he said.
For more from Riccitiello's speech, "Game Industry Economics 101", check out our sister site GamesIndustry.biz' report.
Will you support Eurogamer?
We want to make Eurogamer better, and that means better for our readers - not for algorithms. You can help! Become a supporter of Eurogamer and you can view the site completely ad-free, as well as gaining exclusive access to articles, podcasts and conversations that will bring you closer to the team, the stories, and the games we all love. Subscriptions start at £3.99 / $4.99 per month.