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The New EA: An Interview With Frank Gibeau
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The New EA: An Interview With Frank Gibeau

August 1, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

The MMO space is really difficult right now. A lot of people are trying to break into it. It's hard to break people out of the set games that they're playing, and it's also hard to draw in the new players because they're perceived as being very hardcore.

FG: I actually play them a lot. As a fan of the category and seeing how it's developed, there's a lot of really interesting things happening there. Not only do you have your traditional MMOs like Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, and Warhammer, but the light MMO space is cool, with stuff like PSWs.

I really like how that is starting to branch out and broaden. What's really encouraging is that something's come out and proven itself to be mass-market in that product design, with World of Warcraft. It's breaking through and bringing in that many new people. It just makes it that much easier for the industry to grow afterwards.

Have you looked at all into the more casual MMO space? Some have been talking recently about how the game industry is getting beaten to the punch by web guys in terms of the casual MMO stuff, like Nickelodeon's offering for instance.

FG: I actually consider them as part of our industry in a way. There's an interesting collision between social networking and entertainment. There's Second Life -- is it a 3D visualized social network, or is it actually a game? I don't really care -- it's fun! I look at PSWs [persistent state worlds] and at what Nickelodeon's done, and there's a whole bunch of really cool activities happening there. I consider that part of what we need to be doing as a company and as an industry. For me, it's really encouraging.

It seems like Pogo was going in that direction with the downloadable games.

FG: You asked if we're looking at it, and we're definitely looking at it. We're doing a lot of study on it, and we've been looking at a lot of opportunities. We're encouraged on multiple fronts, having been in the MMO business before. Frankly, Pogo's a pretty damn cool business. If you look at the behavior patterns of the women playing Pogo -- it's prominently an older female target -- it's the same pattern as a WoW player. They're putting a certain amount of hours and money into their hobby, and the way that they're looking at it is pretty much the same.

You mentioned Spore earlier. How much is it going to affect the company if it's delayed?

FG: It's not affecting it, because we've announced it and set expectations accordingly... It's a Will Wright product, and our aspirations for that product are to the level of what we've achieved for SimCity and The Sims. We will put it out when it's ready. What you want to be able to do inside of a company when I'm excited about my new job is you go in and you sit down with these local teams, and you look at what they're building.

Being able to put together a total picture of how these things orchestrate and help each other from the standpoint of giving time for Spore so that it can be the best that it can be, and also other products inside of our portfolio, is the trick. So when I think about Spore, there'll be other franchises and teams that we will be orchestrating that helps move the company forward, but also allows balances for product quality.

I wonder if investors get a little nervous about moving something that far.

FG: I had dinner with them last night, and I have more meetings with them today. They asked a lot of good questions about Spore, and you'd be surprised about the reaction. The reaction has been patient and understanding. They understand what we've pulled off with SimCity and The Sims, and they say, "If that's in that league, a business that creatively powerful and that global is worth waiting for." It's not like missing a movie date.

I'm not used to investors being in any way savvy. I get the perception of people with money throwing it in certain directions and hoping that something eventually bounces back.

FG: You know, I don't run into those guys too much. The ones I run into are pretty damn smart. They're not inside a company, so they're always at arm's length trying to figure out what they're seeing, because they only get a certain number of metrics that come out. But they wouldn't hold their jobs very long if they were too blind about it.

Do you have to justify EA's push for more original IP right now? Outside of The Sims properties, I don't know how many original IPs will sell as much as a Madden or something like that.

FG: Right now, we're looking at a lot of original IP that we're building. Our hope is that we can get games into the top five and the top ten globally on these new IP beds. We'll look at things like Army of Two, and how we'll bring Battlefield over. Even the stuff that we're doing through the partners' groups with Hellgate and Mercenaries and Rock Band, we have extremely high hopes for those businesses. Need for Speed actually outsells Madden on a global basis.

One of the other things in my job is that I don't necessarily just look at the NPD data. That's not one metric. What I'm also looking at is how to do Spain, and what's the tune of culture like in Germany, and how Need for Speed ties into that. Ultimately, what you find is that games like FIFA and Need for Speed have large global footprints outsell Madden almost two-to-one.

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