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Virtual Reality

Andrew Wilson's vision for EA Sports will bring its games closer to the reality of sport than ever before

The location for our meeting with Andrew Wilson is Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club, but despite Wilson being a longstanding Chelsea fan, he isn't here to take in a game. Instead, he's giving a talk to a room full of representatives from the world of real sports about what they can learn from the world of videogames.

In this interview, EA Sports' executive vice president - and since the promotion of Peter Moore, de facto leader - discusses the increasingly blurred lines between real and virtual sports, what that means for a franchise like FIFA, and how to keep innovating when critics and consumers have offered their full approval.

GamesIndustry.bizLast time we talked Peter Moore was still head of EA Sports. A formidable figure.
Andrew Wilson

Yes, he's quite a character.

GamesIndustry.bizEA Sports made great progress during Moore's tenure. How do you view his legacy? What did he bring to the label?
Andrew Wilson

Peter put sports as a genre back on the map. I've been at the company a long time, and when the label structure was first put into place something had happened in the industry. When I started playing games as a kid, that's what I played - I played sports games.

But little by little, sports games got the reputation of being poor quality, iterative, just roster updates, and what Peter was able to do was shine a light back on sports. He helped people understand that it isn't just iteration for the sake of iteration.

Peter Moore gave us a pride to build sports games again. I think that maybe we'd lost a little of that

Andrew Wilson, EA Sports

He put the brand back on the map internally in the company and in the industry in general, and he gave us something to rally around, he gave us a pride to build sports games again. I think that maybe we'd lost a little of that.

GamesIndustry.bizIt is difficult, because the iterative nature of sports games is a necessary evil to a degree. The real sports run to an annual cycle, so it makes sense that the virtual versions should do the same. Is the real battle finding ways to make the consumer see that tight regularity as a positive thing?
Andrew Wilson

I look at FIFA. Right now that's a 91 or 92 rated game depending on the platform; it was, I think, 89 last year, and 91 the year before. The industry, the media and the consumer are recognising that there's a lot going on in sports games beyond just a roster update.

Now, in defence of the industry, I don't think we were always putting in the level of energy and commitment that we do today, which is necessary to deliver these games. So the feeling five years ago that we weren't doing everything we should be wasn't necessarily misplaced.

GamesIndustry.bizIs that change all about extra effort? The boom in online over the last five years, particularly on consoles, has given you the tools to make a live experience, which can incorporate more aspects of the real sport.
Andrew Wilson

That has been a big shift for us, but we're really only now starting to see the results of that. We launched EA Sports Football Club with FIFA 12, which is really a 365 days-a-year service. The game you buy today is going to be very different to the game you buy six months from now, based on what's happened in the real world, based on the challenges we provide that you've taken up, based on who you play with, what your club is.

That has certainly added to the feeling that sports games are really innovating, and that's really what drives year-round purchases. Right now, I think sports is a leader in the industry in terms of delivering a live service that actually changes day-to-day.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar

Matthew Handrahan

Editor-in-Chief

Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.

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