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EA's Moore comes to grips with the digital transformation
EA's Moore comes to grips with the digital transformation Exclusive
June 19, 2012 | By Colin Campbell

June 19, 2012 | By Colin Campbell
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    8 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



When The Wall Street Journal wanted to talk to Electronic Arts about its E3 plans, the company didn't point towards its stand-out titles like Medal of Honor: Warfighter or Need for Speed: Most Wanted. EA started talking about its plan to spend $250 million over four years to connect its games across multiple devices.

The Journal wrote that EA plans "to develop technology that links multiple versions of a single game played on different hardware." EA is spending real money on making cross-platform play a reality. Why? Because it has no choice.

To some extent, it's a fight or flight response. EA understands that it can't stand still, but nor can it move gracefully from one console generation to another. The world has changed too much.

Peter Moore, COO at EA, tells Gamasutra, "We're picking our way through what 'digital transformation' means. We recognized that we are standing on a burning platform. It's an oil rig in the middle of the sea, and it's exploding. You can stay or you can hold our noses and jump. At least that way, you have a shot."

Anyone who has become obsessed by a game understands the value in a connected games experience, that when you are waiting for a bus, it's pretty neat to tinker with your weapons set or explore your locale or fiddle with your cities' output or do anything useful that connects you with the game you care about.

Moore says, "The company has a vision and a mission, which we don't talk a lot about externally, but you find it a lot when you go to the [EA] office. In broad terms, we talk about uniting through play, bringing people together through play. The mission is to build the world's best digital playground with fun for everyone, anywhere, anytime. We think that the future of gaming is cross-platform play, always having something with you that's a gaming device, but everything you do connects."

He adds, "I have four or five games here that I play on the wireless network and it saves my data, it adds to my achievements or adds to my score and my place on the leader list. We think that is the future, if it's not already the present. We're building infrastructure and data services and all of the stuff you have to do to make all of that work, and we've been doing it for a number of years."

That all sounds fine and dandy. But what does it mean in practice? Take a game like FIFA. How can the cell phone experience be the same as the Facebook experience and the the console version?

"The intention is not to say 'I'm going to play 11 versus 11 on Facebook.' This is what people may be misinterpreting. Already on your iPhone, you can play with your FIFA Ultimate Team and manipulate your starting lineup, and see what's available."

Moore explains, "Eventually you can actually make a player transaction. It saves to the cloud and then when you log in on your PC at work, they're ready to play with a new starting lineup. Whatever the device is, what is that experience you can put on it that adds in aggregate to the whole idea? It's 'horses for courses." (This is a Britishism which means "things go in their appropriate places.")

"It's taken us a long time to build what we need to support that experience from a technical perspective. It has taken a lot of work," he says.

Of course, this concerted effort to "bring people together through play" isn't just for the sake of bringing people together through play. Moore explains that it makes sense for business. While there's a lot of activity going on that doesn't directly translate into revenue, EA has long-since decided that it's not merely in the business of transacting entertainment experiences for cash.

"We like to think that if you're connected to us 24 hours a day then the opportunity to make a buck is greater. People laugh at me, but I play Bejeweled Blitz at every opportunity I get. I love the competitive nature of it, I've probably spent 180 bucks of my own money on things that accelerate my performance. And it's purely about getting up the leaderboard every week. I can spend five dollars right now with three clicks of this [cell phone] device.

"I won't use the accelerators until I've got home to my iPad later on tonight because I'm faster at playing the game on the iPad than the iPhone. We're seeing more and more of that. We're seeing hundreds of thousands of people every hour somehow transacting with us that way."

I mention to Moore that I spent way too much money buying players for my FIFA team. Classic Moore, he replies, "There's no such thing as spending way too much money on FIFA. And imagine if you could do it 24 hours a day!"

We turn to the next generation of consoles, and he points out that the conversation isn't just about Xbox 720 or PlayStation 4. "The complexity is that you have to deliver the games not only on an Xbox 720 or a PS4, but you'd better have a SmartGlass solution, you've got an iPhone and tablet experience and you have to be able to do something on the PC with a special app. And you'd better have something that sits as a community layer like we do with Battlelog in Battlefield or Autolog in Need for Speed, that allows you to interact with fellow players."

Colin Campbell writes for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @colincampbellx.


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Comments


Douglass Perry
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Peter Moore and EA get it, and they have for a while. Moore has changed his metaphor a little since he first started saying such stuff. At the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business conference in 2009 in a panel I moderated, he said essentially the same thing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOr4zowW9X4): consoles are a burning platform. It's always entertaining to hear this erudite rabble rouser talk business.

Matt Ployhar
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It's refreshing to see him actually reinforce the point. He wasn't always this way... at least not when I was in Msft Game Studios & he was working for Xbox at the time. I'm glad to see him now back over at EA - which affords him to take a more holistic view of Gaming. Locking one's Games/IP to just a few 'burning platforms' isn't the answer. The quicker EA moves towards "multi-screen' Gaming experiences - I'm hoping that we'll all be better off as gamers.

Bob Johnson
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Maybe the kids love it, but personally I don't want to nor do I need to be connected to my games 24/7. I don't need a 2nd career.

I see all that sht as a waste of resources. Resources that could be going towards making the main game better which would sell more copies enhance their reputation which in turn sells more copies down the road with the next game.

Instead EA is doing what it has done best the decade. Milk the golden goose until it is dead.

Great. EA is giving consumers the opportunity to waste their money on a bunch of virtual goods to get us high up on the leaderboards.

wes bogdan
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Perhaps multi-plat titles can finally be played from competing systems...imagine a ps4 vs 720 vs wii u where dead space players can go @ horde mode all from different boxes or a COD team deathmatch where team xbox went against team playstation.

While they're talking about keeping everyone jacked in i wonder if it would become part of the expierence as online has or optional distraction with no real significance.

I'd still love to see cross plat play pc/mac vs consoles etc.

wes bogdan
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Perhaps within madden would be a fantasy football on ios to go anywhere or a betting pink slips in a racing game again on ios and you could even send friend requests/challenges with a play time. Even a necronamicon style design arcive of necromorphs of dead space on ios.

This could also be applied to vita though the trouble is sony's custom cards cost too much and you'd burn through it unless included as part of the vita game itself.

John Flush
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"We recognized that we are standing on a burning platform." At first I thought he was referring to Origin with this comment too bad he was referring to consoles. Still doesn't get it I guess.

And I second Bob's take on the matter. The more you absorb your customer base into one or two experiences that require all their free time the less games they are going to play. They might play a whole bunch of one or two, but very little of everything else. That sounds a lot worse to me in terms of the industry. Slowly the games will be monopolized - we have already seen it with Baseball, basketball, and football games. Then the innovation dies and people move on to a different form of entertainment.

Joe McGinn
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TO be honest, as a gamer I do not understand this obsession with connecting games on different platforms. I couldn't care less to be honest. It's not like I'm going to pick up my iPad on the bus and pick up playing Need for Speed where I left it on the console. If it was the same game, then yeah, give me cloud saves and we're good. Short of that I couldn't care less about it ... it's highly unlikely I'll even own a game on more than one paltform.

Matt Ployhar
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I believe what Peter is alluding to isn't so much allowing for game-play between different Consoles & Devices, but rather breaking down some of the barriers of those things that are proprietary to some platforms (e.g. Achievements, etc).

Example: WoW Armory for iPhone & other devices, helps gamers share, or stay connected, in some fashion. It'd be foolish if for example one could only view one's acheivemens or Xbox points on say a Windows Smartphone only.

Consoles are no longer really Consoles. They look more like PC's all the time. PC's are also spinning into several other directions (e.g. All in One's, Macbook Airs, TabletPCs, etc). So yeah... the more proprietary it is... the more limited one's options are. If some new cool whiz-bang form factor or platform comes along (e.g. like the iPhone or iPad did) it could be extremely disruptive to one's biz-model. It's great to make a game & fine tune it for (1) platform.... but that's also like betting the farm in the hope's that it doesn't hail.


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