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EA Sports' Andrew Wilson

How do you evolve the biggest sports franchise in the video game business? You're bringing established brands into these new areas and finding ways to keep people playing, but it's not a given that the average FIFA player wants an actual football game on their phone or on Facebook. How did you define the ways to extend the franchise?
Andrew Wilson

The short answer is consumer feedback. The level of data we're getting from the close to 70 or 80 per cent of console gamers that are connected, and the 100 per cent of PC, mobile and social gamers drives the course that we're on. We put something out, and if there's take up we know we're going in the right direction, if there's not we go a different direction. The cycle of change and the clock-speed at which we operate has fundamentally shifted, and that helps us stay ahead of the curve and make sure these experiences make sense on their platform. The consistent user identity across all platforms must be a helpful leg-up in getting consumers to warm to new ideas.
Andrew Wilson

Absolutely. We look at Facebook at its very core, and a lot of people use Facebook as the answer to social games. I don't think Facebook is the answer to social games, but I do think it has taught us something inherently clever, and that is the notion of a single ID. Imagine logging on to your PC and uploading data to Facebook, but when you want to look at that on your mobile phone you have to upload it again. It's just foreign.

Most people that have entered the industry in the Facebook era would see the notion that you have separate identities across separate platforms as absurd. We take that and we say, if it's absurd for your Facebook profile it's absurd for your gaming profile, and so how do we build around that?

There will come a time where the consumer is simply not prepared to pay $60 up-front for a game

Andrew Wilson, EA Sports FIFA seems to be the focal point of this new strategy. I assume it doesn't end there.
Andrew Wilson

Absolutely not. FIFA is our biggest, so we invest heavily there. It's our most global, so we have the most diverse user-base. So often it leads from the front, but not always. There are things we did with Fight Night Champion's story mode, things we've done with NCAA Football with online franchise and dynasty sim. FIFA's not always first, but in this connected instance it's leading from the front, and you're definitely going to see this across the entire portfolio. Does that go beyond EA Sports? Any game with a competitive element could support this kind of service - Battlefield, for instance.
Andrew Wilson

Every game has some level of competition. It's generally you against the CPU or other people, so absolutely it's a company-wide strategy. In your talk you stressed that a year is "an epoch" in the current industry, yet your sports franchises are still driven by annual, disc-based updates. With this digital strategy in mind, and the services you'll be rolling out this autumn, at what point do annual updates start to feel like a contradiction to that?
Andrew Wilson

I think the consumer is going to tell us that. I think the most convenient way for the consumer to get 7GB worth of FIFA these days is still to buy it on a disc. That will change. I think that Football Club this year is turning the FIFA you buy on a disc into a live service that changes every day and every week that you play. Over time, based on consumer feedback, those chunks that we deliver on that day-to-day, week-to-week basis are going to get bigger, and the releases that we do on an annual basis are going to get smaller, and ultimately you end up in a place where we are delivering a true, consumer-driven live digital service. We're building architecture and infrastructure to facilitate a time when the pipes into consumer homes are big enough to move that kind of data around. Are the only things preventing this shift from happening now outside of EA's purview?
Andrew Wilson

I think there are two things at play. The first is the business model. There will come a time where the consumer is simply not prepared to pay $60 up-front for a game anymore, the same way they have said that for movies and music and television. That's one thing. And then I think, you're right, it's the global infrastructure that facilitates the shift. As soon as technology provides a viable alternative to a disc, then that process will change. How rapid is that change going to be? Based on the last few years, the pace of progress can increase exponentially.
Andrew Wilson

That's definitely the case. I live in the Bay Area, in Silicon Valley, so maybe I'm not the best test case, but the speeds I have coming into my house now are pretty astronomical. I would digitally download games today. I don't think the planet is quite at that stage, but there are pockets that will drive that transformation.

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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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