EA rebrands Frostbite with a cuddly new hand as it says its studios are now ‘free to develop on any engine they choose’

Publisher Electronic Arts has rebranded its Frostbite engine, with the aim of better reflecting the tech as a “platform for collaborative innovation”.

In an announcement on the publisher’s website, EA introduced a new brand direction for the engine, saying the it “signals not just a visual shift for Frostbite, but a philosophical one, with a renewed focus on partnership with our teams and collaborators.” As part of this, it has created a new logo for Frostbite, which is still a handprint, but is softer and more contiguous than previous iterations.

There’s a detailed explanation about why the logo looks like this which we’ll get into, but most important point in the announcement is that “EA game teams are free to develop on any engine they choose.”

This seems like a big departure from EA’s strategy over the last ten years, which saw the company keen to seed Frostbite into as many games as possible. The engine was originally developed by DICE in 2008 for the console shooter Battlefield: Bad Company. It remained exclusive to Battlefield until around 2013, when it was announced that the next Mass Effect and Dragon Age would use Frostbite as their technical basis.

But this apparently caused no end of problems for BioWare. In 2019, former BioWare GM Aaryn Flynn described Frostbite as “very delicate and hard to manage”, saying “it was getting harder and harder to make the content that people wanted.” Later, during the fallout from Anthem’s miserable failure, numerous BioWare employees dinged Frostbite, saying that the engine was “poorly documented, hacked together” and “full of razor blades”.

Flynn has stated elsewhere that BioWare was never forced to use the Frostbite engine, explaining to Kotaku “It was our decision.” And there are certainly other EA studios that don’t use Frostbite, like Respawn Entertainment, which used Unreal 5 for Jedi Survivor, and a heavily modified Source engine for Apex Legends. Nonetheless, EA openly stating that its studios can use whatever tech they want seems like a noticeable shift.

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

“Over the years, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with game teams across EA to understand their development and technology needs better, prioritizing changes that create more flexibility for innovation and a positive user experience for developers,” the announcement says. “It’s up to us to make Frostbite the best choice for our games.”

This emphasis on collaboration, EA says, is baked into Frostbite’s logo redesign. “The last two versions of the Frostbite handprint showed the hand in a fractured or broken state. This made sense when we were emphasizing our destructible environments in Battlefield, but with today’s rebrand, we wanted to tell a different story – one about the collaborative relationships transforming Frostbite from within.” The new logo uses contoured layers, and is clearly designed to more closely resemble a human handprint.

Positive semantics are all well and good, but if EA really wants to change Frostbite’s image, the best course of action would be to release some games where the tech doesn’t feel like a hindrance. I suppose we’ll find out how that goes when Dragon Age: Dreadwolf eventually launches, although the game isn’t even being properly revealed until summer next year.

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