Considering that the exercise franchise has been the best -- well, I call it a franchise even though it's only one so far, but --
PM: Platform, we like to call it!
Platform, there we go -- has been the most successful Wii launch for EA. How far do you foresee that going?
PM: Obviously we're going to continue to drive it until the consumer gets tired of exercising, ultimately. It's something we look at, that Wii Fit has started and we intend to take to the next level and continue to drive it. We announced the expansion pack. And you know darn well that come 2010 we'll be looking in how we continue to get more variety, more challenges, different looks about how you can get fitter, and we're going to keep driving this until the consumer gets bored, I guess.
It seems like that's kind of a different strategy than EA Sports may take in general because usually it's, "Okay, we have a new version each year." Whereas with exercise, obviously, Wii Fit, it's valuable because it's Wii Fit and you just buy Wii Fit and that's it. So this may need to have a longer shelf life.
PM: Yeah, think of it more like Rock Band, updating software. You've got stuff, you've got a core pack. Once you've got your resistance strap and your leg strap and your resistance band, then what innovative new exercises can I provide you?
Are there new peripherals that might be cool, that we could do? All that stuff. The team's thinking all of that through. We're excited right now that we've got a three-year plan that will take us through this, so we're good to go.
And Natal seems like one of the possibly best fits for that sort of experience.
PM: Yeah, I think when you think of Natal...
Although it doesn't have the feedback you get from having a device.
PM: The challenge with gesture control is, yeah, "Do you need something?" That's always the thing, we've looked at these things for many years; do you actually need something to counter-balance your movement -- as we all do, typically in a golf game? You need a club or a racket or a baseball bat. Do you need that?
And we're constantly evaluating that and I think what you've got to do, for Natal in particular, is come up with unique experiences that feel natural without something being held or something on your body. And that's going to be the key for making successful software for that.
We have easy ways of getting demographic reports and playtesting and things like that for traditional sports games, because really understand that. But for exercise without weights and machines there isn't as much of that experience inherent in most people's minds. Has that been at all challenging? Wii Fit kind of opened the door a bit but...
PM: No, I think we saw a huge opportunity. We built a very innovative program around having the remote control attached to your body, the nunchuk in the pouch. We did a lot of user testing, out of Vancouver. Made sure we had people who wanted to exercise come in. Tweaked and tweaked and tweaked. Got the strap right, got the personalization levels right, built the journal.
And then we're seeing tremendous usability reports from -- I just go to Amazon.com and I click on EA Sports Active and then it's a very powerful feedback tool in there, if you've ever used Amazon. I'll just sit there -- I haven't been on this morning but it was still cranking out at 9.4 out of 10, 200-300 reviews deep and that's a pretty darn good score. That's a 94% rated, from a user point of view.
But I love reading what they like and what they don't like. We're learning a lot from that. It's not the normal place we go to find out about our game, we're not going to Kotaku or Operation Sports on this one. We're going to Amazon.
It's a very different space in many ways, the Wii because you can't rely on consumer-oriented game publications, you've got to go to Ladies' Home Journal, or something like that.
PM: The thing is with the Wii, it seems to be, for the gaming sites, it's the last platform they review. It takes time to get an actual review score. I would pretty much guarantee that just about every Wii game ships without a Metacritic rating because they haven't got around to it or they're not interested in reviewing it.
And there's some multi million unit Wii games selling that are low 70s in review, right? So what truly is the value of a review on a Wii game? Now yes, you still want to get the best possible review score you can get but I think it's less critical to the success of a game on the Wii than it maybe is on Xbox 360 or PS3.
And maybe simply the review doesn't come from the traditional source. You know on the Apple App Store, reader reviews and the number of stars is probably more important.
PM: I absolutely guarantee you, the thing we're watching most closely now is things like Amazon. I'll go look at women's magazines that have powerful websites. And we look at what we call "mommy bloggers", that's where those people go for their information. They are not going to Metacritic. They don't know Metacritic exists.