Schappert - "Don't let the cynics get you down"

EA's COO offers five pieces of advice for surviving the next three years

Electronic Arts chief operating officer John Schappert has issued some words of encouragement to attendees on the final day of this year's DICE Summit, urging the industry not to become disillusioned by "cynics" and negative headlines about the state of the industry in the press.

As part of this talk offering business leaders five pieces of advice for working through the next three years Schappert reminded the audience that the industry was in a strong position - and while NPDs alone might not paint a pretty picture, there was a lot of data that wasn't being incorporated, such as online and digital revenues, as well as international data.

"The roof is not caving in," he said. "Every generation has ushered in a larger, more resilient industry than the one before.

"We have more consumers and more new gamers than we ever had before," he added, referencing the 450 million people using Facebook that aren't standard console consumers.

Among his other tips was an explanation of how EA has changed its strategy regarding marketing, from a democratised approach giving every title published a slice of cash, versus the new approach which assigns larger amounts to pillar products.

"All too often we see great games that don't get the marketing they deserve," he said, but pointed out that "great marketing can't make a bad game good - it might have happened a decade ago, but no longer."

Specifically the recent Superbowl commercial for Dante's Inferno meant driving awareness of the Visceral game to up to 115 million viewers of the "most-watched game in history - those are examples where we're proud of our marketing support."

Schappert also urged a focus on quality, as well as an investment in online properties: "The days of ship-it-and-forget-it are gone - as game makers we need to plan for a long term relationship with our consumers," he said.

"People are buying fewer games now than before, but people want to play those games for longer - so it's a big opportunity for the connected consoles that we have"

But while online was a business for the future, he was firm in his belief that packaged goods would be around for a long time yet - and cautioned against switching to online exclusively at the expense of boxed product.

"Before you give up making shiny disc-based games and jump for this hot new space, we need to take a bit of caution - there will be consolidation, and we're probably in a bubble," he said.

"Don't abandon your consumer base - specifically those shiny discs. We often forget about how important the disc is - I don't think in the near term, medium term or the long term we're going to lose that disc."

John Schappert was talking in one of his first conference appearances since he made the switch from Microsoft last year. More coverage of the DICE Summit 2010 is available on our special event page.

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Latest comments (7)

Chris Karpyszyn Programmer, King Beaver Software8 years ago
Holding a physical release is part of the experience ingrained in gamers. It might be deferent for a younger generation who have grown up with the internet wirelessly abundant in their living rooms but a great deal of consumers still require something physical in return for the money they pay.

I think a physical release is even more important for establishing long standing IP's. Especially some of the nicer pre-order special editions. For a game to have that lasting power that exists over years and sequels you have to create more than a game. A universe has to be created and an experience that goes above just playing the game. Special editions, comics, novels, online communities, and DLC are all very important in creating that experience and maintaining a long term relationship with the gamer.

For me, Mass Effect was a good example of this. I played the first game, loved it, but my experience did not end at the credit sequence. Two novels were created that I devoured in no time which added to the "game universe". When the second game was released I was more than excited to get out to my store, buy a physical copy and throw it into my DVD player.
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Benjamin Dixon Studying Computer Games Design and Programming, Staffordshire University8 years ago
I guess I could be one of the younger generation you mention above, but to me, I have always been skeptical about digital distribution in terms of games especially. Music I am fine with downloading the occasional track through iTunes but I much prefer a hard copy of anything and the way the internet infrastructure is at the moment within the UK along with storage capabilities, there just isn't the space to download 25-50GB blu ray based games.
I also don't like the way in which some companies within the industry appear to be holding back features of a game to release it as DLC a month after the game has launched. I guess we will just have to see where and how things progress

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Benjamin Dixon on 22nd February 2010 12:41am

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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
What he says is very much true!

Despite the difficult situation and the sad closure of some amazing studios which probably was necessary for reasons we are not entitled to know, as a result many new studios with fresh management and great ideas will come out of this.

Today, it is even easier to get into game development than ever, in a huge multitude of platforms, and budgets, and a vast audience that has increased beyond expectation.

All you need, is honesty, open mind, hard work and above all, a great idea that people will enjoy playing.

"The roof is not caving in" indeed. Just the lid is blown off and sky is the limit!
Enjoy the ride ;)

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Show all comments (7)
Very true.

There seems to be much more shift than in the recent decade. Packaged vs. Digital - that is a difficult step to go. But as i personally enjoy to have something physical aka "Disk", i don't see why the digital way can't be a success. It won't be like the step from 3.5" to CD .. it's much bigger and more or less depends on a lot of factors (availability of fast connections f.ex.).

Looking forward, what s going to happen ;-)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christoph Edelmann on 22nd February 2010 10:48am

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Robert Walter 3D artist 8 years ago
Very interesting (and even encouraging) stuff. But when he says,

"... there will be consolidation, and we're probably in a bubble,"

I wonder if he elaborated. Hearing "the B word" like that would have raised my eyebrows in the middle of an otherwise upbeat talk.
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Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts8 years ago
I second the desire for a physical copy of a game. Like i've said before, it's much more fun to be able to show off my vast collection of games to my friends than to just tell them how many games i have. Only physical copies let me really do that effectively.

On the other hand, I'm still concerned about the direction of the industry. I think that far too much faith is being put into rather untested markets and that the results could either be glorious or catastrophic. EA is practically hinging their entire company on their mobile division, and if that doesn't pan out the way they expect it very well may end the company as we know it.

Still, the industry is far from doomed.
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
How does EA hinge their entire company on their mobile division?
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