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Experiments and Innovations: The EA Approach
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Experiments and Innovations: The EA Approach

March 4, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

Shifting gears a little bit -- this relates to Criterion -- but something that I thought was pretty amazing is the year of Burnout Paradise updates, which is pretty unprecedented, I think, and I don't think it gets as much attention as maybe it deserves.

PS: It deserves a lot of attention, and what the team, Fiona Sperry and Alex Ward, and the team out there in Guildford have done this year, is industry-leading, is setting new standards, and I think that from an EA perspective, we have learned so much from doing that this year.

And I think people don't understand how valuable it is for us as a company, and for the studios, to get the data. We can see everything that every single player does; we know.

Just to gather that data and to look at that and say, "Okay, they prefer pink cars instead of this; what conclusions can we draw from this? Okay, this game mode that we shipped? No one cares about it -- why? Here's why, and there's a lot of data that backs this up."

And so, therefore, making new versions of the game, we'll know a lot more now, based on player behavior and that kind of stuff, because previously we didn't even know; we just had to guess, right? So, it's all anonymous to us, but we still get a whole bunch of data which we can analyze, which is pretty damned cool.

I'm actually pretty surprised that the primary thing that you called out -- I mean, I'm not surprised that you're calling this out as a valuable thing, but I would have thought that sort-of the primary concept behind it was avoiding used game sales.

PS: That's been one of the things, absolutely. To keep people interested in the game, and yeah, without a doubt, we've seen used sales affect all of our products, and I think that instead of trying to find a legal way around that, we as game makers can say, "How can we make sure that people keep the games that they bought? How do we make sure that they keep playing them?"

And the way that we can keep doing that is to engage them in the world that we actually sold them from the first time.

That's why I think that something like Heroes, or even something like Burnout Paradise, is compelling to that extent, and we want that to transfer into shift as well, and to many other games. If you look at the Battlefield series, the community is such a big part of that franchise, and it will continue to be that.

Where did the idea to do year-long DLC come from? Did that come from Criterion?

PS: Yes. Came out of them.

Sort-of similar, I imagine, to the Battlefield Heroes, in the sense that it's an idea that came from within the studio, and then was executed on...

PS: Yes. The Battlefield Heroes idea came from... Well, I knew that we wanted to make a free-to-play game, but then Ben Cousins was the guy that created Heroes, and he was the guy who came up with Heroes as a concept, and what Heroes became; it was his idea.

With Criterion, it's an interesting idea; I mean, at some point, there has to be some number crunching, though, on a year of free DLC. Is there someone sitting there with a slide rule, saying, "OK, it costs X amount of money having this live team doing these updates, versus how much we think we're saving on..."

PS: Yes. I mean, of course there are financial implications to any business, right? And in the case of Burnout, I think that what Fiona and Alex and the team over there have done is that they've managed to actually create revenue out of a game that shipped a year ago. They managed to sustain revenue going into the company -- and obviously spending money against it, too...

Being a big company like EA, I'm glad that we're allowed to conduct -- let's not call them "experiments", but for lack of a better word -- experiments like that. Because we'll learn so much, as a company, and as long as we're good about sharing that, sharing the learning from that, and being evangelists inside the company so that we make sure that all the other 10,000 people get understanding for what worked, what didn't work, and what to avoid, and what to actually do in the future.

I think it's worth the money. Even though it's probably hard to look at that specific game and say, "Yes, we made X amount of money on this thing," in the future it's going to be worthwhile for us, I think.

Another interesting thing about Paradise that I think there has not been much reporting on is that it got onto PSN as a full game download, at a bargain price. Has there been a tangible benefit to that that you have seen?

PS: Yes. Yes, we've done well with that, actually. And that's been good for us, it's been good for Sony, and it's been good for all parts, I think; that was a smart move. Yeah.

Again, is that a test case?

PS: Yes. Absolutely. We have to test and see, right? What do people prefer; is this a tangible way to get the product out, post-launch, to get the product out to a different audience, or is it more like a casual buyer will buy it because it's there? That's been an interesting test for us. But that has been successful for us. Without a doubt.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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