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Frank Gibeau

The EA Games president talks business in 2009 and why the company is better prepared for this Holiday

Electronic Arts is gearing up for a busy run-in to the year, and following the economic troubles and new IP that faced an uphill battle last year, EA Games president Frank Gibeau will be keen to see lessons learned from that experience.

Here he unpacks his thoughts about this year's line-up, why the company is better prepared overall, and why he thinks this generation of consoles is set to run through 2013, possibly beyond. It's been a turbulent 12 months for the industry - how is business for EA Games, and how do you feel about your position ramping up for a busy end of year?
Frank Gibeau

I feel really good, very bullish about where we're at. The line-up that we have is spectacular - it starts off at Christmas with Dragon Age, Brutal Legend and Need for Speed: Shift.

I really like what the team's done this year with Need for Speed, really trying to reset the quality and go in a new direction with the brand. And Brutal Legend was a nice add to the line-up - every year we want to try and release one or two new IPs, this year it's Dante's Inferno and Brutal Legend.

The industry really needs those fresh ideas coming in to rejuvenate things - it's always risky to do, and sometimes I wish I had more sequels, perennials, but we've got those too with Need for Speed and Mass Effect.

With those three at Christmas I feel really good at the start, and then Q4 we've got a spectacular line-up with Army of Two, Dante's Inferno, Mass Effect 2, Command & Conquer 4... then Battlefield: Bad Company is a killer.

I don't know if you've had chance to play the 1943 download game on Xbox Live? It's doing very well for us, it's a direct-to-consumer play, sold about a million units so far, and it's a perfect set-up for the next Bad Company.

So right now we feel like we went through a lot of pain, but we're coming out stronger, with very focused teams. The people that are with us are focused on the games, they really want to be there, they really believe in the company, in the brands they're building, the IPs they're building.

Actually I feel really good. I'm excited about this week [at Gamescom] because we get to see what 200,000 rabid fans think of our games - that's always kind of nerve-wracking at the same time as exciting, but overall I feel good. Brutal Legend is a bit of a rarity these day in a very serious games industry - a title which looks genuinely funny...
Frank Gibeau

That's why, when we first saw the project, we believed in it. Tim Schafer, with the history of all the games he's built, is spectacular, so when he added heavy metal and Jack Black to a very intricate game design I was sold from the minute I saw it - and very supportive of what Double Fine are trying to do.

One of the things you learn in this business is that the big hits don't look like anything else did before it - you get into these genre-breakers, like open worlds and Grand Theft Auto. I'm not saying it's going to be as big as that, but my view is that it injects humour, levity and a totally fresh take on the action category.

Everybody's got the heavy metal vibe, there's Lemmy, Ozzie Osbourne, all the bands in there - it's a unique combination of things that frankly the industry has been applauding. People really like it, and it plays great. It's been well-documented that bringing the game to market hasn't been straightforward, following the Activision legal wrangling - but it's important for the team to get it out there now?
Frank Gibeau

Without question, it's nice to have all the baggage behind us. Double Fine and EA have been committed partners with each other through the process and it's nice to see yourselves through that process and out the other side in really good shape.

There's nothing left to do now except finish polishing the game and get the marketing campaign nailed. We've been doing a good job of that so far on both fronts, and these last few weeks will be critical for us. We feel really good about what we're doing.

But you're right, it does feel really good that all that's behind us now, and we can just worry about the game.

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