Home » Biography » Trip Hawkins
NameWilliam Murray Hawkins III
NicknameTrip Hawkins
BornDecember 28, 1953
Pasadena, California
United States
Game Developer
Known ForFounder of Electronic Arts
Madden NFL series
Founder of 3DO
Years active1982-2012

Trip Hawkins - Biography

Trip Hawkins is a video game developer and entrepreneur who founded Electronic Arts in the early 1980s, created the Madden NFL video game series and founded The 3DO Company.  Hawkins helped transform the video game industry from simple single person creations to complex multi resource-based creations by fostering team-based projects in order to create larger scale games.

Hawkins’ endeavour into the video game industry began at an early age through his passion for strategy and gaming.  He designed, produced and marketed his first game as a teenager however it failed to gain commercial success.  As a fan of the Strat-O-Matic football simulation game, Hawkins was inspired to create a similar based game.  His first business venture began when he borrowed $5,000 from his father to pursue his passion for strategy-based games and to create his own football themed simulation game.   Despite advertising his game in NFL game programs, it did not gain enough interest to sustain the business.

He was not deterred by the failure of his paper-based game and continued to look for ways to improve upon his initial concept.  After receiving his first computer he quickly became interested in creating a digital based football game, feeling that it would provide a much more convenient and user-friendly experience.  By having a computer to handle the complex mathematical calculation of the strategy-based game allowed for a much similar experience and provided the opportunity to gain a much larger audience.

In 1975, Hawkins knew that it would take the home computer market many more years to make game design a viable career and proceeded to create a long-term plan to prepare for the creation of a video game development studio.   The roadmap that he created involved the creation of the first college degree in video games by designing his own undergraduate major at Harvard University in Strategy and Applied Game Theory, moving to Silicon Valley in time for the home computer boom and writing the first national market research study about personal computers.

Hawkins joined Apple in the late 1970s at a time when the company only had 25 employees and had only sold 13 personal computers to businesses.   This gave him the opportunity to work closely with the founders of Apple, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs while leading the company’s planning and execution in the office desktop market.  He spent four years working at Apple, moving up to the position of Director of Strategy and Marketing before departing to create his own video game publishing company, Electronic Arts in 1982.

In February of 1982, Hawkins met with Don Valentine of Sequoia Capital to discuss financing his new venture.  Valentine allowed Hawkins to use Sequoia Capital’s spare office space to start his new company and on May 27, 1982 Trip Hawkins incorporated and established Amazin’ Software with a personal investment of approximately $200,000.  Over the course of the next seven months, Hawkins hired his first employees and with their help revised the company’s business plan.  By November 1982 the company grew to 11 employees outgrowing their temporary office space provided by Sequoia Capital and relocated to an office in San Mateo, CA.

With the business plan finalized and the core staff hired the foundation of the company was in place to begin the process of finding game developers and begin publishing games.  Before establishing their first relationship with a game developer and advertising their business to the public it was decided to change the company’s name.   While Trip Hawkins was fond of the name Amazin’ Software it was universally disliked by all the employees.  During the process of building the company’s business plan Hawkins had developed the idea of treating software as an art form and referring to the developers as software artists.   This concept was liked by all the employees which ultimately led to the company being renamed to Electronic Arts in November 1982.

Electronic Arts began to establish relationships with game developers and began publishing games in 1983.   Hawkins wanted to give credit to the game developers and one of the key characteristics that Electronic Arts implemented was video game packaging in the style of an album cover.  Hawkins believed that a record album style packaging would both save costs and convey an artistic feeling.  The publisher continued to foster the concept of software as an art form by referring to their developers as “artists”, giving them photo credits on their games and featuring them in full page magazine advertisements.  The square album cover style boxes proved to be a popular packaging concept and allowed Electronic Arts to represent their developers as “rock stars”.


Interview with Trip Hawkins

Trip Hawkins showcasing EA published games on the Computer Chronicles in 1984.

After several successful years as a video game publisher, Electronic Arts decided to begin developing their own games, with their first internally developed game release being Skate or Die! In 1987.  Electronic Arts continued to publish games that were developed externally while continuing to experiment with internal development.  This quickly led to Trip Hawkins revisiting is original concept he had for a strategy-based football simulation game.

Inspired by the Strat-O-Matic sports simulation games, Trip Hawkins had waited a very long time for computer advancements and the home computer market to be established enough to revisit and improve upon his original vision to create a football simulation game.  In order to gain interest into the game, Electronic Arts approached Joe Montana and Joe Kapp to endorse the game, however both refused.  Montana was in the process of working with Atari on a rival football game while Kapp proved to be outside of Electronic Arts marketing budget.  Hawkins eventually approached John Madden to endorse the game, who was quite interested in the prospect of the game being used as a teaching tool.

Since John Madden seen the game as a potential teaching tool for football, he had one sticking point with the game that was being developed, it had to have teams made up of 11 players each.  Due to technical limitations Electronic Arts proposed that the game have teams made up of six or seven players each however Madden refused to endorse a game that did not have an 11-player roster.  Due to this requirement the development of the game was delayed while the development team worked through the technical limitations, resulting in the game taking three years to develop.

Signing John Madden as the company’s spokesman and consultant for the development of Trip Hawkins’ football simulation game would prove to be invaluable as it would lead to the immensely popular Madden NFL series of video games which have been releasing annually for over 30 years.  John Madden Football released for the PC in 1988 and up to that point Electronic Arts was a computer software company that hadn’t yet explored the concept of developing games for video game consoles.

Wanting to expand their customer base Electronic Arts’ next logical step was to look at the feasibility of developing games for home consoles.   Hawkins did not agree with Nintendo’s strict licensing policies and felt that there was a better opportunity for Electronic Arts to work with Sega.  Sega entered the 4th generation of home video game consoles in 1989 with the release of their 16-bit console the Genesis.  Releasing two years prior to the Super Nintendo, Sega wanted to get a head start in the 4th gen and build a large market share prior to Nintendo’s release of their 16-bit system.  In order to compete with Nintendo, Sega was more willing to work with game developers and publishers however still had a tightly controlled approval process for third-party games with hefty licensing and cartridge manufacturing fees.

Electronic Arts approached Sega to negotiate a better licensing deal but were met with resistance from Sega.  Trip Hawkins was not willing to accept the status quo and instead of paying Sega’s high licensing fees he assigned a team of resources to reverse engineer their console so that they could make their own unlicensed games for the Genesis.  After the team was able to successfully bypass Sega’s lockout mechanism Hawkins confronted the President of Sega, Hayao Nakayama the day before the 1990 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) informing him of their intent to manufacture their own games for the Genesis.  Hawkins told Nakayama that if Sega was unwilling to negotiate their licensing fees then Electronic Arts were going to proceed with releasing games for the Genesis without their assistance.  Needing to form relationships with third party developers and publishers in order to gain ground on Nintendo Nakayama decided to proceed with negotiations with Electronic Arts.

In June 1990, Electronic Arts signed a very reasonable licenses agreement with Sega which allowed them to approve their own titles, release as many titles as they wanted and a much more reasonable royalty rate.  Electronic Arts began releasing titles for the Genesis and quickly became a major third-party publisher for the system.

In 1991, Hawkins stepped down as CEO of Electronic Arts to pursue other interest.  He led Electronic Arts for more than a decade as the company evolved from a small computer software publisher to a major developer and publisher in the video game console market.  While Hawkins remained as the chair of the board for Electronic Arts, he stepped away from the day to day operations of the company to form 3DO, a new company that would focus on video game console hardware.

Hawkins wanted to get involved in the video game console hardware market as the software market was at an all time high due to a rapidly growing consumer base.  He wanted to create a powerful next generation console which could be manufactured by various partner companies and licensees.  The 3DO Company would then collect royalties on every console sold as well as on each game manufactured.

The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer console released in October 1993 for a staggering $700 USD, more than double the price of previous released video game consoles that the market was accustom too.  Despite being the most advance and power video game console on the market when it launched the system failed to appeal to large audience due to it exorbitant price and weak selection of high-quality games.  The system was plagued with games that featured full motion video sequences at the expense of gameplay.   While full motion video was state-of-the-art at the time, video game developers were not implementing it into games to enhance gameplay but instead to show off the capability of the system leaving a shallow experience.

In July of 1994, Hawkins resigned from the board of directors at Electronic Arts to continue his focus on the 3DO Company.  The 3DO business model was to attract game developers and publishers by offering a much lower software royalty rate than Nintendo and Sega however publishers quickly lost interest in the system due to is small market share.   The 3DO was unable to secure a large enough install base for publishers to take advantage of the lower royalty rate and were able to make more money by paying larger royalties while selling more units to a larger customer base.

Interest in the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer further diminished as new consoles released that were more advance and power but at a lower price point.   When the PlayStation launched in December 1994 any remaining interest in the 3DO was lost and the company had to change direction.  In 1996, the 3DO Company stopped developing hardware and transitioned their business model to focus solely on software development.  They began development games for the PlayStation, PC and other consoles for the next several years before going bankrupt in May 2003.

In late 2003, Hawkins, founded “Digital Chocolate”, a video game development company that focused on developing games for the emerging mobile phone market.  Hawkins led the company for close to a decade before stepping down as CEO to continue to pursue other interest.