I've been wondering just what is the boundary of the definition of "sport" for EA Sports. Because I mean you can extend it to personal fitness, certainly.
PM: As we've already done.
Right. How far can you go?
PM: You always look at how elastic your brand is. The problem is you're going to stretch it and if you stop pulling it at the edge it's going to break, right? You're going to do something that's going to damage your brand.
We really look to fitness -- which was a major departure for us in what we'd ever done in the past decade and a half -- but felt the EA Sports brand played very well there. And we'll continue to look at other places where we think we can add value but not to the extent where we're going to jeopardize the value of our brand. So, it's what you call "elasticity". How far it will go before you have to let go and get it back again.
Like the sort of fantasy-footballesque modes coming up in new Madden and Football Managers and these sorts of things. Those wind up almost being a sports RPG.
PM: That's exactly what they are. Because your role is general manager and it's a little bit of a departure from twitch-based games where you're simply playing as the individual players of the team. More popular, as you know, in Europe than over here. Things like Champ Manager and what have you.
We do have a Football Manager game in Europe that sells well, that's managed out of Germany. And it just plays into the types of games those folks want over there. Americans, for whatever reason, [are] less interested in the management and want to play.
Though they do like fantasy football specifically.
PM: Sure. Fantasy football's relatively light. I mean you pick your team, you do some trading. There's a real commitment to a full management game.
But having said that, online franchise mode is exactly that. For Madden you've got to go get your team, take care of your team, do all of the management of that. And the reaction to our announcement has been phenomenal.
The reason I was talking about cricket or maybe something like rugby, is it seems like, in terms of EA wanting to make new sports fans, there are some sports out there that are just bizarrely interesting. Like sepak takraw down in Southeast Asia. It's basically volleyball but you can only kick. And they've a rattan ball and everyone's doing bicycle kicks to spike and stuff. It's just nuts and it looks amazing. Is there a point when some kind of sports oddities make sense for you?
PM: You look at, I call them compendium game, where you throw six or eight games in there, different sports that maybe don't quite justify their own stand-alone... It's like concert festivals, right? There's the big stadium bands that can carry it on their own and then there's the "we've got to get eight bands together for people to show up". I guess you could say things like Carnival Games worked last year, which are even wider than that.
But still, to get it on an EA Sports level of quality there's still a multimillion dollar cost of even doing [it]. You know, I've been asked this question a couple of times. "Do you even think of packaging together six or so second tier sports?" Lacrosse, field hockey. Things like that that are popular sports regionally that couldn't justify the development cost, the marketing cost of a stand-alone game -- but if you package them all in, and you got some license around them, is there a stick-based compendium of games?
Yeah, I mean we're always looking at that, but it's got to make fiscal sense. The thing you always have to remember, Brandon, is I got to pull a team away from doing something to do that. It's not easy. It's an opportunity cost. "Okay, we're not going to do NHL to the level we need it to because we're going to do Lacrosse." Probably not too smart.
How much regional specialization actually makes sense? I'm thinking of -- obviously for different markets you have a different guy on the cover. But other than that, is there more that you can or want to do for specific markets?
PM: Not within the code. I mean we do obviously localize the games. And we certainly localize our marketing, particularly for -- the more passionate the game the more localized you have to be marketing. FIFA has 16 different cover combinations.
You know, you're not going to sell very well if you put a French guy on the cover in the UK. You're not going to sell well in Holland if you put a German guy on the cover. So you've got to figure out for what local markets, who are our best players here.
We started to do the same in NCAA Football now where different players, trying to regionalize, even in the US. Here's a ACC, here's a player from the SEC, and allowing retailers to have different cover options. So, yeah, -- but at some point there is a law of diminishing returns with that stuff. It costs you more money than the upswing in sales. So you just have to be careful how you do that.
I heard a talk at GDC Europe from, I guess he was the head of localization for all of EA's operations in Europe, and he was talking about the hundreds of hours of voice that you have to redo, and finding specific commentators for the proper region.
PM: FIFA is a great example. The number of different commentators we have to get in to localize the game into a myriad of different languages, all of whom have to lay down voice tracks and then have that localized. Our localization efforts out of Madrid, where our operation center is, is monstrous.