New markets are more critical than ever for EA Sports, says label president Peter Moore, and kicking off the Edinburgh Interactive Festival in a Gamasutra-attended lecture, he discussed his efforts to "re-build" EA Sports as an important global gaming brand.
Peter Moore joined EA Sports as President in 2007, at a time when the company’s market was 60 percent U.S-based with the other 40 percent almost entirely led by FIFA. Now, the label's efforts in the online space has led to its multiplayer-dedicated servers seeing 2.2 million sessions per day.
At the time of his joining, "all of EA Sports’ investment was going into making games more realistic,"said Moore. "Growth was driven by graphical advancements. This was fine in the 80s but this model was slowly beginning to erode. We needed to storm the battlements of where new business models are created."
The challenge was clear. In a time when the rest of the industry was growing, EA Sports business was flat and heading into decline. "Then the Wii came along," said Moore. "Play was now as important as graphics. Play time was shortened. Wii Sports challenged everything that EA Sports produced."
That meant serious change was needed to keep the company going. "Great companies have to constantly re-invent themselves," said Moore. "We needed to look at how sports video games were going to evolve and cope with the way technology was going."
It wasn’t just the Wii that was asking questions of EA Sports. The arrival of the App Store and even EA’s own Rock Band phenomenon has had knock-on effects for the giant sports brand.
"We were asking, 'how do we get the family involved? How do we get women involved?' We had nothing that would do that," admitted Moore. The answers lay in their attitude toward sports gaming. "We remembered our tag line, 'It’s in the game'. We deliver a personal access to the emotions of sports. That is the one thing that we deliver. We put players inside of the game."
EA Sports had to expand its abilities to deliver their particular brand of sports experience to the new audiences that have become a major growth area for the industry. Moore identified several pillars for that growth at EA Sports, beginning with new directions for expansion.
One is the "EA Sports virtual playbook" on ESPN. "It allows presenters to interact with players, bringing the 3D game engines into the home and providing new ways to experience the emotion of sport."
"We also needed to globalize," he continued. "In 2007, 60% of our market was in the US. FIFA accounted for most of the 40% outside the US. We needed to move toward new models In Asia; we use FIFA Online 2 and NBA Street Online to access new audiences that don’t have home computers or consoles.” Of browser-based, free-to-play games, Moore spotlighted in particular NBA Online’s success in China and the upcoming release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online in the region.
While EA Sports Active reaches out to new consumers on the Wii, Moore spoke of their continued commitment to “core” gamers, promising to “deliver more than just an annual iteration.”
"[Across a year] games became stale or predictable, as they didn’t into consideration form, trades, and injuries," he said. "So in partnership with Synergy we introduced Dynamic DNA to the NBA franchise. Synergy collects data from every real-world game and produces a dynamic daily update. Form changes as teams change. Nothing is more likely to change than chemistry. Now our games are ‘made fresh daily’."
Connectivity is indeed of huge importance to EA Sports since Moore’s stewardship. The 2.2 million sessions per day are "equivalent to 35 years of sport, 300 English Premiership games or 15 NFL seasons all in one day,” he said.
It’s something that Moore sees as a great hope for the future. “With the latest generation of our sports titles we are hoping to reach 1 billion sessions per day in 2010,” but he concluded that there was more to the future of EA Sports.
“We are looking at ways to attack barriers to entry,” he said. “We are working on multiple entry points - less discs, more experiences (sometimes free with micro-transactions)and developing our franchises for the iPhone.”