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EA's Riccitiello: Traditional Console Dev Cycle Is 'Gone Forever'

EA's Riccitiello: Traditional Console Dev Cycle Is 'Gone Forever'

July 26, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi

The traditional 4-to-5-year console cycle that gave game developers ample time to prepare for technology changes is "gone forever," says EA CEO John Riccitiello, whose company has been reinventing itself for the digital age.

"The industry has radically changed and the pace of change has accelerated dramatically," he said in a Gamasutra-attended conference call. "Gone forever is the 4-to-5 year console cadence that gave developers ample time to invest and retool for the next big wave."

"Consider that just 18 months ago there was no iPad, Google was experimenting with Android, and most big games were limited to a single revenue opportunity at launch. Consider that each of the major consoles now has a controller that encourages users to get off the couch and get into the action," he said, adding that the top paid apps across tablets and smartphones are consistently games.

"While the game industry has fundamentally changed, games are reaching a far larger audience base than ever before," he said, before explaining his company's three key strategies for the immediate future.

First, EA says it is building on the strength of its most important IPs, which will be maintained at "about a dozen" substantial franchises.

"Each of these will be transformed into year-round businesses with major packaged goods launches, social launches, mobile launches, downloadable content and micro-transactions," he said.

Second, said Riccitiello, is establishing Electronic Arts as a platform, rather than a mere third-party publisher, while at the same time maintaining relationships with its established retail partners, both physical and digital.

Its Origin digital distribution system and storefront launched this year is of course key to this strategy, but Riccitiello says its partners are just as important, pointing out that GameStop's 11.5 million registered digital users is "proving to be one of our best partners in digital."

Finally, Riccitiello says the company is investing further in talent, saying that its creative teams have more interesting and rewarding jobs now that they are managing content across a full spectrum of channels.

"We recognize that creative and engineering talent is at the core of what we do, and we are making sure that EA is the best place to work for these industry leaders."

Its new Austin studio that will open up 300 new jobs is "a great example of our commitment to this strategy," he said.

Its PopCap acquisition seems to follow this strategy as well: at the time, Riccitiello praised that company's management staff, saying that he would not be surprised to "see them take on additional roles in the company over time."

EA reported revenue and profit growth for its previous fiscal quarter, partially driven by strong digital revenue growth.

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