EA Tiburon is starting to show its age.
The staff at the Maitland video-game studio still consumed three tons of Captain Crunch and other cereal and 5,000 gallons of milk last year (there's a free cereal bar on every floor), there's still a ball pit in the middle of a circular conference table and the company still hands out an annual award for the best office prank.
But the company known for pushing the kind of creative environment made popular by Silicon Valley startups is growing up.
The average age of its Maitland employees is now 34, an increase from the upper-20s.
"A lot people are married and have kids," said Daryl Holt, chief operating officer for the studio.
Could the company, one of Orlando's tech darlings known for its high-wage jobs, innovative employees and games such as Madden NFL and Tiger Woods PGA Tour, be losing its edge?
After all, the past few years were marked by financial losses and layoffs for Redwood City, Calif.-based Electronic Arts, EA Tiburon's parent company, and included job losses in Maitland. Fewer than 600 people work at Tiburon now, Holt said, down from more than 700 in the mid-2000s.The company struggled to continue to demand top dollar for its hottest titles and more customers shifted from traditional game consoles to online and mobile formats.
No worries, though. One of Orlando's best sources of corporate bragging rights is doing just fine in its old(er) age.
Executives in Maitland are moving back into expansion mode and are currently advertising 35 open positions.
EA last year made some significant acquisitions such as Chillingo Ltd., the England-based publisher of mobile-game hits such as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope.
And really exciting, is one former Tiburon executive's launch of a new company, a sign that Orlando's tech economy could continue to pick up steam.
It's all part of the evolution of the sector in Orlando and for EA nationwide.
Today, instead of boxing up the latest title such as Madden NFL 12 and sending employees off on vacation before starting on the next big game, the work cycle is more constant as the company pumps out online features and live support.
"It never ends," said Daryl Holt. "It's kind of like a continual cycle."
It's introduced Facebook games based on some of its most popular franchises, such as Madden NFL Superstars.
And EA recently transferred the production of its NBA game from its studio in Vancouver to Maitland, another opportunity for the Tiburon studio, which EA acquired in 1998, to cement its reputation in the sports game arena.
Some of the new games and opportunity for new platforms such as Apple's iPhone and iPad or Facebook have fostered a new entrepreneurial spirit.
The barrier to entry for mobile and social-media games is so much lower than for traditional console games, which take tens of millions of dollars to develop, that it's much easier for smaller companies to get in on the action.
Philip Holt, EA Tiburon's former general manager and no relation to Daryl Holt, left Tiburon in January just launched Row Sham Bow Inc., a game-maker that will specialize in social media. Holt, who recently landed $3 million in venture capital, currently has 10 employees and plans to hire 50 more over the next few years.
"The games industry is no longer the province of teenagers in basements," he said. "It's a $60 billion global business."
Other gaming companies like ZeeGee Games of Winter Park and N-Space of Orlando are also pushing ahead as the sector grows in Central Florida.
That's a promising sign for the local economy. And EA Tiburon will continue to be a leader even with a few more gray hairs.
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