Running Electronic Arts' key EA Sports division, home to Madden, FIFA, Tiger Woods and a host of other titles, has to be one of the higher pressure jobs in the industry -- not least as issues like motion control begin to come to the fore. After all, what's more mainstream than sports?
It's no surprise, then, that Sega and Microsoft veteran and high-profile game industry figure Peter Moore, who joined EA in 2007 as the president of the EA Sports label, has plenty to say about this -- and other major issues.
As the head of the division relied upon to deliver profits year-in and year-out, Moore understands both pressure and caution. Here you'll find a discussion of what sports are relevant, how those decisions are made and the necessity of localization in marketing and game content.
Most importantly, you'll also discover how the division hopes to expand its audience reach through user-created content and new offshoots, like EA Sports Active, the exercise game which has been EA Sports' most successful Wii launch yet.
I was thinking about how there are some more physical offerings now in the video game space; what do you think is appealing about sports electronically vs. physically for people -- versus actually going and doing it?
Peter Moore: I think they are very complementary. One of the things that we typically have always prided ourselves upon in the last decade and a half of EA Sports brand is creating sports fans. Creating interest early on, when in some instances people are really too young to go out and play the game.
You look at how many people will credit their love of football, both out there and playing it as well as the love of it as a fan, to Madden. To actually having picked up Madden in their younger days. When you took to gamers who have been around for a while and have been playing EA Sports games for a decade, you know that there is a very strong linkage between playing the virtual game and playing the real game. And I think that just one complements the other.
EA Sports' Madden NFL 10
What do you think about Project Natal, or the new PlayStation 3 motion controller? How are these going to affect EA Sports?
PM: I think they are going to impact us very positively. Anything that uses motion and movement -- obviously sports is incredibly a part of that. We have seen both Natal and the motion controller from Sony several months ago, so we're already, in both instances, looking at opportunities to bring our licensed product [and] our fitness product, to these new controller mechanisms. I can't think about anybody better positioned than us to do that.
If you think about everything everybody's always wanted to do with a sports video game, so much of the feedback you get is, "I just wish I could" -- as we're starting to do -- "punch and something reacts." So you think of Fight Night: Round 4, for example, if it were in a first-person mode it would be very very cool. So those are the things we're starting to look at. Huge opportunity for us.
I would assume that EA is going to take a closer look at which properties will fit that experience now -- because perhaps Madden wasn't as suited to the Wii in that implementation as it could have been, whereas Fight Night for Natal is probably quite a good fit.
PM: Yeah, something like Fight Night. You think of MMA coming up, of course, and what we'd be able to do there. You think of both tennis and golf, as two sports where you're swinging, in some respect, and what we could do there that would be fun and unique. Like I say, anything that requires motion -- just about all of our games do, obviously. I think there's an opportunity.
I was thinking about how fanatical sports fans can be and they all obviously have their own ideas what these famous players are actually like and what they can do. How do you reconcile statistics against perception and feeling of how a player should be?
PM: We try -- whether it's player ratings, the attributes we put in the players -- we try and get it as close to real life. Now, both the players and their fans have different views of what player ratings should be. Just to take Madden [with] speed, you look at some of the quarterback ratings.
But there's so much data that we use, real data, that goes into actually creating the player ratings. We usually release our ratings in around the draft time, as they drafted players this year we put the ratings in there. It's focal. Every year we got calls from a player that says "I'm faster than that!" or "I've got better hands than that!" It's just the nature of the beast.
We take the data and our teams figure out what the ratings are and we try and make it as objective as we can. We try to eliminate a lot of the subjectivity. Otherwise you'd see some of the favorite teams from the development team, looking a lot better than teams they don't support. So, we keep a close eye on that.
Yeah, it seems like it's got to be quite difficult to remove yourself from your personal interests.
PM: Well, you have to. Like I say, the teams have access to a lot of data that provides the input that they can [use to] do the ratings.
It's actually one of the only real instances in games where I can think of possibly developer preference potentially coming into conflict with anything.
PM: There's enough Philadelphia Eagles fans, and what have you, on the team that you just keep a very close eye on what they're doing. But no, I don't think we've ever seen any bias that is a personal bias in there. It's very objective, as I say.