So are you still using that stuff, or are those guys just mostly a dev house now?
What made you guys take up the Unreal engine? What happened with Renderware?
WG: Renderware didn't get the next-gen parts that we needed. We actually underestimated Epic early on. They told us, "We're going to do this, this, and this," and we thought, "Eh, it's going to be kind of hard." We also overestimated our team, then we looked up three months, six months, and nine months later and said, "Whoops, we underestimated Epic. Again. And overestimated our own team." We had a couple of teams that were waiting on Renderware. We probably stuck with it too long.
WG: Mostly a dev house.
A long time ago, it was mentioned that EA could possibly buy Ubisoft. Is that still something that is possible?
WG: I think everybody is for sale. I think in general, successful intellectual properties in all media are undervalued, especially in our media. There's been a lot of acquisitions, but the thing about acquisitions is that the only time it works is if you've got an intellectual property that can succeed without the people, or if the people have a ten-year career path that they're interested in at EA.
We acquired Distinctive Software, and the principals there ended up running EA Studio for a decade. If you acquire someone who really wants to stop working or take the money and run, it doesn't work out. On the other hand, when we acquired Maxis, they never mentioned The Sims. They had decided that it was never going to come to market, and they shut it down. We thought that at the time that Sim City was interesting enough that we could put a new development team on it and make it work. But you can never prove that in games.
So with Ubisoft it would probably be a semi-hostile takeover, so it probably wouldn't be a good idea?
WG: If you do an acquisition, you have to think about whether the intellectual property can succeed without the people, or if the important people want to get promoted in a big organization.
How's it going in Asia? It seems like a really tough market for a Western company.
WG: We did a FIFA game that was doing really well. I'm excited about that. We're having some minor new successes, and our insourcing in Shanghai is better than any outsourcing competitor. We've got some successes, which is good, because in the previous ten or fifteen years of trying to do Electronic Arts in Japan, we only had two products that had a glimmer of success. One was Ultima Online, and the other was the first World Cup game. We never did any good in Japan. We just did this partial acquisition of one company in Korea called Neowiz. We announced that we were going to publish online versions of some of our Western games over there.
The long running MMORPG Ultima Online
The dev studio in Japan just closed down. You're still just doing localization, right?
WG: We've got a little bit going, but we've failed a few times. I've been at EA long enough that it's really exciting when some of our skills and properties and processes can translate over in a market that we have a low share in. I remember when it seemed unlike we'd ever get into the video game business. Sometimes we buy our way in, and sometimes we invest our way in. So we'll see [how it goes] in Asia, but our market share there is low and the market is booming.
You mentioned recently that your favorite game is World of Warcraft. Why is that?
WG: There's a couple of reasons. For one, it's the best delivery of fantasy. The second is that I'm in a guild with my favorite people from work and I see them every night. It's the same way that my daughters talk to their worldwide friends on Facebook every night.
What got me into the business in the first place was that I once had a teacher ask, "If you could do anything and money was not an object, what would you do?" I said, "I'd like to try being an actor off-Broadway." I like that experience of being a protagonist of a really good story, but having a computer control the rest, because working with the other actors in stage is a total pain.
The next thing is that I did stand-up poetry readings in college. One was about sitting in a room in front of a piece of glass, and I could look into the glass and travel anywhere, including through time. To me, that's what online gaming does. It's a protagonist in a cool story in a virtual world delivered through a piece of glass. I have three characters that are 60+ priests, because I like buffing and healing people. I've got others, but I stick with the priests. I tell parents that being an officer of a successful guild is the best possible new media management experience that you can have.