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EA's Wilson on games as services: "Don't force anything"

Before he was appointed CEO, Andrew Wilson already played an instrumental part in evolving EA's games as services strategy

Andrew Wilson is new to the CEO role at Electronic Arts, but he's been thinking for a long time about how to improve EA's future. When he was still executive vice president of EA Sports, the [a]list daily caught up with him at E3 to get his thoughts on the challenges of developing sports games designed to be played all year around on multiple devices. Wilson's answers reveal something of his thinking about the importance of value, comprehensive services, and consistent excellence that will remain important for EA going forward.

The FIFA team under Wilson's leadership showed great success by creating a broad array of products and services. "They achieved the balance of the provision of quality experiences and the choice of the consumer in how they want to partake in those experiences," Wilson said. "That's what it really comes down to: You build great content, you build great game experiences, you build great service, and then you give every gamer the ability to participate and partake in that service in a way that makes sense for them. You don't force anything, you don't drive anything, you just provide it. Through great quality, appropriate value, and excellent service, you achieve a balance that's very positive to every gamer that interacts with it regardless of the amount they transact."

This strategy requires a different organization, Wilson acknowledged. "What happens now in the studios is you have rotating teams, so there's one team who's building the game now, another team who's building the game for the future, because the the level of innovation that's put into features now can't be done inside of a 12-month period," Wilson pointed out. "Then you have a third team that's always thinking live service, and managing that live service regardless of which product that live service is attached to. You don't get the kind of peaks and valleys that you once had. We see record online multiplayer game play days six months post launch. This was unheard of."

"You don't force anything, you don't drive anything, you just provide it"

Andrew Wilson

Shipping a product is just the beginning, and you have to make sure it's a great product or the rest of your efforts won't matter. "In a world where social media provides an amplifier for positive or negative sentiment, the absence of a quality experience is known by more people more quickly than it ever has been before," Wilson said. All of the free-to-play options out there mean it's hard to get players to stay, and ultimately great game play and great value are key. "The nuance of free-to-play is that while you have an opportunity to play thousands of games for free, those games also give you an opportunity to spend thousands of dollars playing any one of them. So you compare that to the $60 you would otherwise pay for FIFA on Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 or Xbox One... Again, you get back to a value proposition."

Wilson sees a world where gamers have more options as increasing the need for EA to provide an exceptional experience. "There's absolutely more choice. The barrier to exit and the barrier to entry have changed," Wilson explained. "The barrier to exit is lower, the barrier to entry is high if you think you can go and try a bunch of other stuff for free. However, I think we have been successful because we didn't focus on the transaction, we didn't focus on the business model, we focused on making great games. In a world where social media is the amplifier, the positive sentiment has been our friend by virtue of providing great value for money and great value over time. This is more true now in our industry than it ever has been before."

Read more about Wilson's thoughts on products, services and next-gen games on our sister site, the [a]list daily.

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Steve Peterson avatar
Steve Peterson: Steve Peterson has been in the game business for 30 years now as a designer (co-designer of the Champions RPG among others), a marketer (for various software companies) and a lecturer. Follow him on Twitter @20thLevel.
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