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EA showcases 2012 lineup at New York showing

EA showcases 2012 lineup at New York showing

February 7, 2012 | By Leigh Alexander

Electronic Arts held a spring showcase in New York City to present its current lineup of titles, and EA COO Peter Moore led the presentation, highlighting the growth the company has seen in 2011 on both traditional platforms as well as iOS, claiming the number one position in each arena.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, Battlefield 3 and FIFA 2012 received special attention as primary drivers of that growth, as Moore highlighted the business' transition to software-as-service models over the long term.

The company saw an 11 percent year-on-year increase in marketshare in the FPS space thanks to Battlefield 3: "This continues our strategy of being a strong competitor in the FPS genre, which we think will continue to grow our industry in the coming years," he said.

The Origin platform has driven over $100 million dollars in sales, during what Moore called a "crawl, walk, run" phase of building a holistic digital experience.

When it comes to PopCap, Moore says EA is "incredibly proud" to call the casual giant's brands its own now since the acquisition: "the ceiling is probably indefendible, from the perspective of where we can take this brand as well as the franchises embedded within it," he said.

"Anytime, anywhere on any platform, you're going to find our IP and we're very proud," he enthused.

38 Studios founder and chairman, and former Major League pitcher Curt Schilling then took the stage. Moore claims Schilling is prouder of EA-published Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning than he is of his considerable baseball career. He says he first spoke to Schilling around the time of the Xbox 360 launch, and ended up having an insightful conversation on the trajectory of social MMOs and being impressed by the man's vision and dedication to gaming.

"This is kind of opening day on career 2.0, and I can't begin to explain to you the depths of fondness and pride I have in my team after watching for five years the dedication, the effort, the blood, sweat and tears put into doing what we do," Schilling said, acknowledging that he decided to begin his career in games with perhaps the most ambitious and challenging possible undertaking he could -- and affirming that he was more nervous for the launch of his company's first game than he had been before even infamous Game 7 against the Yankees and Roger Clemens in 2004. His genuine, immense pride in the work of the 38 Studios development team -- and the fact that the online game has received a perfect score from Joystiq -- was evident.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour executive producer Brent Nielsen next stepped up to discuss the 2013 installment of EA Sports' popular golf franchise, which claims the role of first sports simulation to launch on Kinect, which enables "the most dramatic overhaul of our swing system in over a decade," in Nielsen's words.

The team has intently aimed to add authentic details, right down to a focus on new evolutions in the swing of Woods himself as he retunes his golf game. It's also added a "Legacy Challenge" mode, beginning with Woods as a child golf prodigy leading through seven actual eras in the professional's life and career.

Moore introduced SSX creative director Todd Batty by praising the bravery of Batty's vision to revive the aged franchise in the modern era and "making it feel like an SSX game without damaging the legacy... all of that is down to Todd and his team." Although it took some effort to mount an argument to revive the brand, it's turned out to have been well worth it, Moore believes.

Batty emphasized the game's brand-new physics engine, modern look and feel and Google Earth-inspired interface, and reports that fans of the brand who get to see the revival will attest to its authenticity. The title ships next month.

"If you look at the landscape today, social communication is happening more and more on our own schedule; we've evolved from instant messaging to writing on people's Facebook walls... everything today is being driven by convenience," he says. "But until now, online gaming... has not yet made that same leap."

Inspired by Need for Speed's AutoLog, the various online modes in SSX have been designed with a focus toward bridging that gap, eliminating lobbies and waits for matches and adding drop-in, drop-out anytime experiences with friends to multiplayer.

"Where the real growth is coming in our business now... is that social and casual end that's bringing in tens of hundreds of millions of people who are now calling themselves gamers," Moore said, turning to PopCap's strength in that space. "We just had to have them... the acquisition of PopCap and the integration as part of the EA family has been fabulous for us."

PopCap marketing manager Scott Willougby introduced the newest PopCap title Solitaire Blitz, which aims to create of the classic card game a "social treasure-hunt experience." It employs PopCap's popular time-based Blitz mechanic, as employed with Bejeweled and Zuma, and it has also created a "golf" variant to eliminate the click-and-dragging of cards. Finally, it focuses on social competition, cooperation and collectibles.

With painterly, classic art and an original score by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the company hoped to go "above and beyond" incarnations of Solitaire previously seen in the computer gaming space. Currently in limited beta, Solitaire Blitz expects to go wide next month.

"Only PopCap could get the Seattle Symphony Orchestra to score a Solitaire game," enthused Moore.

He completed the presentation with Mass Effect 3, calling the game an "incredible part" of EA's platform success story, suggesting it's the ultimate realization of the brand -- and of BioWare's vision as a whole. Lead writer Mac Walters of BioWare Edmonton took the stage to promise the franchise's "absolute peak," elaborating on deeper RPG elements and a higher-stakes story.

"You're going to be witnessing the beginning, the middle and... conclusion of an all-out galactic war," Walters says. Through four-player co-op, players will be able to fight the war on multiple fronts, and through the companion Datapad app, players can use iPhones and iPads to keep updated on the story, receive messages from characters and deploy troops through a minigame.

Mass Effect: Infiltrator is a stand-alone third-person shooter for iOS that lets players earn rewards and rescue prisoners, suggesting that play in this game can ultimately impact the experience. The single-player and multiplayer demos of Mass Effect 3 release February 14.

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