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EA's next steps toward the next-gen

EA's next steps toward the next-gen

March 29, 2013 | By Chris Morris

March 29, 2013 | By Chris Morris
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, GDC

Hope you liked what you saw of Frostbite 3 in this week's reveal of Battlefield 4, because you're going to be seeing a lot more of it in the next couple of years.

Frank Gibeau, president of EA's Games Labels division, says the updated version of the proprietary graphics engine will be one of the centerpieces of the company's push into the next generation of console games.

"Frostbite 3 is a true next generation tech base that will power a lot of experiences that EA will offer in the future," he says.

And make no mistake -- despite the launch of the Wii U last year, EA doesn't really see the next generation getting underway until the PlayStation 4 and next Xbox hit shelves.

"Next gen consoles are an investment for us," he says. "We've never been more ready. ... [And] HD consoles are where it's at."

EA has released a few games for the Wii U, and Gibeau says the company continues to consider Nintendo's console for new releases, but at present has no announced titles for it.

That will likely change in June, of course, when the company's slate of annual franchises -- like Madden, FIFA and Need for Speed roll out again -- but it's noteworthy that the Wii U isn't on the list for top tier franchises, particularly Battlefield 4.

Gibeau makes no attempt to hide his love for HD systems.

"HD consoles have been steady eddies," he says. "They've gone on longer than anyone expected. There have been more games built on these systems than anyone thought possible. I think there's lot of pent up demand among consumers for something new in that space."

While there were some who grumbled about EA's unveiling of the game, which was heavy on cinematic presentation and buzz words, but light on actual details like launch date or supported systems, Gibeau is excited about the game, and thinks it's a good way for the company to kick off its next generation efforts.

Of course, the Battlefield coming out party was also an attempt for EA to move on from the bad news that has plagued it over the past month. First there was the disastrous launch of Sim City. ("We had a rough 72 hours out of the chute," says Gibeau. "We did not do a good job of anticipating demand.")

Then came the sudden announcement of CEO John Riccitiello's imminent departure from the company. (Gibeau is considered by many as a possible candidate for the role, something he declined to discuss.)

There was also the tempest in a teapot over comments by CFO Blake Jorgensen about the increased presence of microtransactions in EA Games. The company has backed off of those and attempted to clarify them, but Gibeau is still a fan of the model -- and notes it can be a lucrative revenue source when done right.

One possible definition of right, in this case, is not making something soley available via microtransactions, but allowing players who wish to advance more quickly in games to pay to unlock certain weapons and features early (rather than unlocking them in the natural course of the game).

"In the 'freemium' business model, microtransactions are how you monetize the experience," says Gibeau. "You design the game so people who have more time than money can grind away, but for folks who want to jump ahead, they can go ahead and pay to do so. ... We think it fits as well to epic experiences and for people who are passionate about those games."

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