December 5, 2023

Video game developer Electronic Arts is opening its second Seattle-area studio in less than a year, in contrast to how Big Tech companies have been scaling back their regional office presence. 

While EA has not announced a specific location for the new studio, called Cliffhanger Games, it named its first project: a third-person, single-player Black Panther game. Cliffhanger will collaborate with Marvel Games on the development. There is no release date available. 

The Black Panther game is one of three Marvel games EA said it would develop. The first game EA announced in October was a single-player, third-person Iron Man title.

EA is the developer of blockbuster games that include The Sims, FIFA, Madden NFL and Battlefield.

Cliffhanger will be a AAA studio, which means it will be a high-budget, top-of-the-line studio. Most of the studio’s founding members are based in the Seattle area, according to Redwood City, Calif.-based EA. 

In September 2022, EA announced the launch of Kirkland-based AAA studio Ridgeline Games, led by Halo franchise co-creator Marcus Lehto. Ridgeline is developing a game set in the universe of EA blockbuster war game Battlefield.

EA leased office space in a 53,000-square-foot building in Kirkland to house Ridgeline Games in August 2022. At the time, EA listed nearly 230 job openings in Seattle, according to a Puget Sound Business Journal article.

Besides Cliffhanger and Ridgeline, EA owns the PopCap Games studio, which makes Plants vs. Zombies, in Belltown, and an EA Digital Platform studio in Seattle.

Hit by slowing demand, remote work and inflation, Seattle-area tech companies, including Salesforce, T-Mobile, Microsoft and Meta, have been shedding office space. According to a report published this month by commercial real estate firm Colliers, office vacancies in Seattle and the Eastside were 24% and 12%, respectively — compared to 10% and 6.7%, respectively, in the first quarter of 2020 before the pandemic hit. 

EA has offices in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Austin, Orlando, Seoul, Shanghai, plus five in Canada, including Vancouver, B.C., and in cities in England, Sweden, Australia, Finland, Germany, India and Romania.

Cliffhanger General Manager Kevin Stephens said in a press release the studio is a rare opportunity to build a new team with shared values of diversity and collaboration. 

“We want our game to enable players to feel what it’s like to be worthy of the Black Panther mantle in unique, story-driven ways,” Stephens said.

Stephens is a Seattle-area video game veteran. He worked at Kirkland-based Monolith Productions for nearly 20 years. According to his LinkedIn profile, he has been working on Cliffhanger since 2021.


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