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Think Big. Move Fast.

Gametap reports that EA has a stealth division to build social games:

Electronic Arts is putting some of its biggest brains behind what could turn out to be some of its smallest games.

The brains include former Electronic Arts Los Angeles general manager Neil Young and that studio’s director of artist and repertoire for Electronic Arts Alan Yu.

The two execs are leading a small team in what the company calls EA Blueprint, a new division that will ally with small-sized developers, assisting them with strategic funding and project management…

The products out of EA Blueprint will be both brand extensions of existing EA games as well as original IP. What differentiates Blueprint from any existing business model at EA is where Blueprint games are destined to end up–across various platforms, but with an emphasis on burgeoning social networks such as Facebook, for example.

EA is currently testing the waters with such a game–Facebook Smarty Pants, a repurposed version of last year’s Wii-exclusive trivia title Smarty Pants…

Sources say talent agency Creative Artists Agency is also participating in the efforts of Blueprint, contributing its substantial resources of talent as well as its connections with funding sources to ramp up the division’s output.

I’m impressed with the speed with which EA has reacted to the burgeoning social games opportunity. I’m also skeptical about how well they will be able to prosecute this opportunity. Social games are not regular games with some “viral marketing” bolted on. The best social games have viral mechanisms built into the game design directly. While EA well understands the gaming side, we’ll have to see how well they understand the social side.

I’m puzzled by the reports of CAA’s involvement. If this indicates that the social games will be built around celebrity power and franchise movie properties (as many EA games have been in the past, ranging from the Tony Hawk games to the James Bond games) then this might suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of how social games spread. Virality is driven by friend’s invitations and activities, not by big names.