At a UK press event last week to officially unveil EA Sports' FIFA 10 title, GamesIndustry.biz sat down with president Peter Moore to catch up on the label's progress since we last spoke at E3 last year.
Among the hot topics in this first part of a two-part piece, Moore talks about FIFA 10 and the challenge of satisfying consumer expectation, the ongoing annual franchise vs patch debate, and why the onus is on publishers to work out a solution to the increasing problem of pre-owned videogame sales.
You're always pleased but you're never satisfied - we heard Dave [Rutter] in his presentation say that, okay, it's a great game now, but let's put that to one side. What can we do next?
Because no game is perfect, and a game as complex as we deliver always has things you look and feel you can do better. One of the things Dave talked a lot about was the feedback we get from our community, the "love this, love this, love this, boy - I wish we could do this".
It's that last part we listen to, and the team takes a lot of feedback. Football's a great game, but it's very fluid and there's a lot of physics we have to put in there. So you're going to see at least a dozen things you'll be able to point to in FIFA 10 and say it's a huge improvement on FIFA 09. That's important - we've got to give everybody a reason to buy the new game. That's the challenge we face every year as a label with our portfolio, our franchises - I've absolutely got to make you buy them every single year.
You need reasons for that, and the FIFA team is very good at doing that - they're very self-deprecating in that while it's an award-winning game, they're never satisfied. The moment you're satisfied, that's then the trouble starts.
Well, we're starting to look at different types of downloadable content which enhances the games. We've actually done a few things, three instances in the last few months where we've delivered exactly that, not updates, but actually full game experiences.
Most recently there was an NCAA Basketball update on Xbox Live - I don't think it was available in Europe - but that delivered a full game for USD 15, with 64 teams, with the bracket structure in place for March Madness.
We delivered a full game which was NHL 3 vs 3 Arcade which people loved - that never appeared on a disc.
And then recently FIFA Ultimate Team for FIFA fans, which has been a runaway success and allows us to bring a whole new gameplay mechanic to FIFA at a time when maybe interest in the game starts to tail off a little bit - whoosh, you bring it back in again.
So we have different business models, ways to bring in consumers who just aren't going to pay USD 60 for a disc - the Asian market has taught us an important lesson, because the physical media business just doesn't really resonate there, so we've got what we call mid-session games.
I'll give you a free experience - I'm not even going to charge you GBP 20 - I'm going to give it to you free and hope I can upsell you to new revenue opportunities. There's a business model that says the majority of people won't buy anything and play for free, but if you do your job right and do some things that are interesting and compulsive, and people will buy micro-transactions.
Then you get to a different model that's an ARPU model - average revenue per user - that's nothing to do with buying a disc at a store.
So to answer your question, we're looking at all of these things. Right now we have no plans to change our core business model, but like any company does you maintain your core and then start figuring out what the consumer wants.
Some things work well, and some things don't work as well for us. We've had some disappointments this year, but at the same time we're really learning a lot about online, and it's uncharted territory for everybody out there.
The one thing you don't want to do... for example, if I adopted your model and if I didn't buy FIFA 09, I'd have to go out and buy it [as a starting point], and retail would have to keep it stocked for a long time because how could I get my update for FIFA 10? It's not as easy as it sounds, and the downloads are not patches - these things are full gigabytes, with the amount of new data we put into games... "Patch" is an interesting word, these are not patches.
Bottom line is that we're constantly getting feedback from consumers, what's working online, how can we deliver games in a new and innovative way? And we'll continue to do that.