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EA: A year is too late to innovate

Empower the player, because the "entertainment landscape is littered with carcasses" of those that have tried to resist consumer demands

In the new digital entertainment markets, a year is too long to innovate, according to EA Sports VP Andrew Wilson, who encouraged developers to put the player at the centre of their business above all else.

In the opening Evolve keynote at the Develop Conference in Brighton today, Peter Moore's right-hand man warned that the games business must learn from the transitions that have forced success or failure in the digital music and movie businesses.

"Don't wait to innovate. A year is a full epoch, a full era in the new generation of interactive entertainment," said Wilson.

"If you wait a full year to do something great, two things will happen. Your consumer will have passed you by or some crazy start-up from the Bay Area, or Brighton or Islamabad will have come along and developed something that usurps your position in the market and delivers something to the consumer that they want."

Our ability to stay employed as game developers is directly proportionate to our ability to understand and adapt to change every single day

Andrew Wilson, EA Sports

"The transition was yesterday, the transition is today and the transition is tomorrow. And every other day for the foreseeable future because the rule of creative destruction is now driving our industry as it has almost every industry before it. Our ability to stay employed as game developers is directly proportionate to our ability to understand, to have the attitude and ability to adapt to change every single day."

Empowering the consumer was central to Wilson's message - delivering content on every available platform, offering games at every price point and allowing them to share and use it however they want.

"We've seen what happens when an organisation or an entity or a medium resists that consumer driven change. The corporate graveyard and the entertainment landscape is now littered with shells and carcasses of those that have tried to resist where the consumer wanted to go," said Wilson of companies such as Blockbuster.

"The reality is the success or failure that we as an industry see over the coming years is going to be directly proportionate to our ability to learn the lessons from the music business and the movie business before us."

Referencing economist Joseph Schumpeter, Wilson said that "every business model that anyone in this room can dream up, implement and deliver to a consumer will almost certainly be destroyed by that same consumer or the marketplace that consumer operates in."

Developers shouldn't wait for format holders to create new technology, or to even think of themselves as the centre of the business, urged Wilson.

"The transition is today. The radical transformation in our industry right now means that no longer are transitions every 5-6 years. No longer can we plan for them. No longer can we sit down with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo where they tell us two years down [the line] they've got a new platform coming."

"Recognise that consumers want to have control, recognise that given the opportunity they will bring their friends and you will get growth in your business as a result. Even if on the balance sheet when you look at it in advance it feels like you're going to lose money.

"Get away from having yourselves, or your company or the platform holders at the centre of your creative or business vision and put the consumer as the centre. The reality is they are going to put themselves at the centre, regardless."

No late fees at Netflix and Kindle from Amazon are examples of big business empowering the consumer, offered Wilson, and it's essential that even businesses that have found a successful model should try to remain ahead of the curve by thinking of their next evolution.

"Those that embrace and drive change and are always thinking, even if they have a successful business, are already thinking about what next change they are going to institute, what next change they are going to drive, how are they going to empower the consumer to drive even further change. They are the companies that are going to do well."

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Latest comments (16)

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus5 years ago
What a load of bullshit. I don't want to hear about "empowering the consumer" from a company that created Project Ten Dollar, and has a free to play MMO model on full priced $60 games that need to be re-purchased within a year. This is marketing drivel.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 5 years ago
EA might not be able to do what it wants on consoles, but neither can the crazy start-up from Islamabad. Or does he really think the console space is just about to be overrun by a new, closer to the customer, competition. Onlive? 3DOČ? Apple Gamingtosh?
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On face value, lets just take the message that, in the current market, game development cycles are shorter and shorter depending on its target audience. And that the fight to garner marketshare from core games is growing day by day. Thus is the challenge for the top ten publisher-developers.

For indies and developers in between, the choice is tough and diversification or multiple revenue streams can be bewildering and considerable. Digital is the current tsunami wave of inevitability.
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Show all comments (16)
Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game5 years ago
@Christopher Bowen. Couldn't agree more. Read the lines about empowering customers, thought back to the Tiger Woods 2011 controversy, and really struggled to reconsile the two.
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Richard Groves Technical Director, NoodlFroot5 years ago
"delivering content on every available platform" - does that include Steam then?
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Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software5 years ago
Listening to EA about "innovating for the customer" is like listening to Casey Anthony for solid parenting advice. Seriously.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 5 years ago
I keep looking back at this article and I'm left speechless each and every time.

Bit of hypocrisy?
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David Aaron Hobgood Studying Master of Science and Game Production, Full Sail University5 years ago
@ Chris and Andrew, remember one thing guys, customers are fickle, when they think you've stopped listening, they move on to those who will listen (for exaple: Blockbuster vs. Netflicks vs. Red Box). In todays markets, creativity in businesses come from both the designer and the user.
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Daniel Vardy Studying HND IT, De Montfort University5 years ago
This guy must be on drugs, its been many many years since EA did innovation. Its this kind of thinking which has caused a huge decline in the number of decent games out there. If you do however want innovation and a decent game, go play on the PC and disregard 'games' from EA.
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Brian Lewis Operations Manager, PlayNext5 years ago
Some of you may have missed the point... because you have not fully perceived the situation. At this time, by EA's measurements, they are engaged in a series of drastic changes, being made at a breakneck pace....

The key to this is 'EA's measurement'. You have to look at this from their point of view. They believe that because they are doing things such as; 'F2P', 'Digital Download', 'Social Gaming' that they are on the cutting edge of the new wave of gaming. They don't see things in the same way as most of us, so to them this is HUGE changes, and 'seat of the pants' decision making.

So, I have to say that EA is right... you do need to do these things. You also need to do them quickly. However, this just means that they are not attempting to buy out a franchise (NFL Football anyone) or exclude a format (online content is now available online... and not just in stores). This is how they 'innovate'.
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 5 years ago
EA is innovative (or at least risky/edgy) as a business. There's definitely some hypocrisy here but I see what he means. Thinking about technology, where it's at today and where it'll be tomorrow (read: somewhere very different than today) is a necessary headache for a developer. Caramack was just talking about this in regards to Rage's life cycle the other day. I think Rockstar nailed it with Grand Theft Auto by building the engine and using iterated versions of it for its subsequent games.
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Rajat Ojha5 years ago
Are you fine Mr Andrew?
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 5 years ago
Never try to second guess your audience.

The best creators create things that *they* want to see made - and then trust that the audience will appear.

That's how Spielberg did it.
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Mary Hilton Community Manager, Reclaim Your Game5 years ago
EA doesn't know what it wants to do right now. They're dabbling with this, that and everything else, trying to be the big kids on the block again.
In doing that, they're losing time, money and customers. They're desperate to find the hits they're missing out on, grabbing everything they 'think' will appeal to customers. Problem is, they don't really have a clue in hell about what their audience wants.
Funny that they never ask the customers what THEY want-only what EA wants, which is not the same thing.
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Paul Gheran Scrum Master 5 years ago
Innovation speeches from the company that brought you:

NHL Hockey
NHLPA Hockey '93
NHL 94
NHL 95
NHL 96
NHL 97
NHL 98
NHL 99
NHL 2000
NHL 2001
NHL 2002
NHL 2003
NHL 2004
NHL 2005
NHL 06
NHL 07
NHL 08
NHL 09
NHL 10
NHL Slapshot (no fighting! Now THAT'S innovation)
NHL 11
and finally, coming soon, the one you've all been waiting for, the most innovative of them all, taking the product in a whole different direction, just as the customer asked:
NHL 12, now with pointless quests, pointless goalie hitting, and pointless goalie fighting!

No matter how many additional leagues are added, this does not constitute innovation in the slightest.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Gheran on 20th July 2011 6:12pm

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Brent Post Xbox Quality Manager, arvato systems GmbH5 years ago
Not every title has to innovate. There are certain things you need to keep pushing out there in order to earn the money to take invest in risks with a hope of innovation. I thought this was obvious.
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