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Peter Moore - Part Two

The EA Sports president on Nucleus, the All-Play range and the future of digital distribution

Last week in part one of this interview, EA Sports president Peter Moore talked about his tenure so far, and the challenges associated with annual iterations of flagship titles.

Here in part two he tells about the learning behind the All-Play Wii range, what Nucleus will bring to gamers and how the company is fully behind digital distribution of games. Sony's aim is to turn all of the existing PlayStation 2 owners into PlayStation 3 owners, without worrying too much about the kinds of new audiences that Nintendo have gathered in -
Peter Moore

What did Howard [Stringer] say? That it's an expensive niche? Indeed, but while Sony doesn't feel the need to cater to the whole gamete of gamers, EA needs to...
Peter Moore

You just have to be more nimble, so I think what we showed on-stage [at the EA press conference] was a microcosm of what we need to, exactly to your point - you saw a feature that was built for the hardcore in Dynamic DNA that is a really nuanced feature that people who play the game every day want to see.

And then you saw me just swinging the Wii remote and having fun playing a par three course in Nevada - on the continuum of game experiences they couldn't have been any further apart, and yet that's what we have to do. And the biggest challenge for us is the Wii, but it's an opportunity, not a risk - it's something we haven't done well yet, self-admittedly, because we tried to re-interpret simulated sports on the Wii and we hit the reset button twelve months ago and said we had to build these things again from the ground up. And that's what you're now seeing.

Family Play last year was really us just getting our feet wet, and I didn't really like the name Family Play, because it's really All-Play. The ability for Natalie [Gulbis] and I to get on the stage and have fun together - if All-Play wasn't there there's no way she wants to dumb it down to my level, and I can't compete at her level. But of course, I won, and that's all that really matters… Nucleus looks like an interesting cross-platform, cross-title application, but with Sony's proprietary log-in technology, and Microsoft's gamer tags, and Nintendo's Miis…isn't there a danger that users will just become saturated with log-ins and identity platforms?
Peter Moore

For better or worse our industry has always been built on proprietary platforms - the consumer asks why there isn't just one console, but I think it's great that there are multiple companies throwing billions of dollars and giving us great game experiences. If there was just one console we wouldn't get that diversity, we wouldn't get that investment, and we wouldn't get that competition.

At the same time, to be fair to Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, they spent billions of dollars just getting going, getting us to where we are today - which is three platforms which are actually flourishing. There are all kinds of arguments about who's winning, who's losing - I'd argue that they're all doing okay. Maybe Nintendo is doing better than okay.

But with that comes proprietary systems - I want my Xbox achievement points, my gamer tag on Xbox Live, and that's going to be different to my avatar in PlayStation Home, and it's certainly different than my Mii on the Wii.

You're right, it fragments it, but that's the nature of the beast. I don't see a détente between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, because they're different experiences. When I'm playing Xbox 360 and I'm on Xbox Live, playing Gears of War, and I'm chainsawing somebody - that doesn't feel like I should be a Mii. And when I'm on Home talking to my friends with that avatar, I'm probably going to be pretty well dressed, or whatever I'd be.

So I just think it's whatever experience you want for that platform. And what does Nucleus add to that?
Peter Moore

Well, we're still working out way through that, but it allows people to see where everybody is, regardless of what they're doing, what game they're on - we're not saying it's EA, it's not EA-specific, and if I want to find out what you're playing right now, maybe Resistance 2 on the PlayStation Network, and I'm playing Halo 3 on Xbox Live…and aggregating all of that data, it's very cool.

For me personally, who knows? But I think there are millions of people that will love that stuff. You see things like Xfire that came in, and MTV bought it for a lot of money. And the idea of social networking regardless of platform that allows people to see and interact with each other - we think that's something worth pursuing. How has EA benefited from the hardware manufacturers' commitment to online play?
Peter Moore

You're talking to a company here that truly believes that every consumer will ultimately go online, whether it's five years from now. You're talking to a company that ultimately believes that physical media goes away, that how we get our media - whether it's games, we're already doing it through music, or if it's TV shows - it's going to go through Internet Protocols more than it is through cable or satellite.

Whatever you want to think about the future, there's no doubt that the Internet and connected experiences will be a bigger part of our lives than they ever have been. I'm always fond of saying that we'll tell our grandchildren that we drove to the store to buy a physical disc. In tomorrow's world we'll have half a terabyte of storage at home, everything will be in there, and we as an industry need to make sure we don't become another music industry.

And EA will lead the charge - by that I mean that we don't get marginalised because we continue to deliver physical discs. We have a cost there that's a drain on the industry, it's expensive, and we have every intention over a period of time - whether it's three years, or five years - of moving this company to be one that is totally digitally-focused, that sees a tremendous opportunity in interacting with our consumer twenty-four-seven.

To be fair to Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, they're now doing it. I have a better insight than most, because when we launched the Dreamcast, people forget that we were getting an online experience through a 56.6k modem, and playing sports games, masking latency, talking to each other.

I said it then, in 1999, that a game will be primitive in five years' time if it's still offline. And this is the way it's going. It's tough to name a game now that's totally offline, that doesn't have some connected state in some way.

And that's going to get deeper and more important to our consumer who expects it. And less intimidating - I think people are still a little intimidated to go and play multiplayer against strangers around the world, but millions of people have said "I don't care."

So as a result this company needs to embrace that, and the industry needs to make sure we're not the next music industry. What impact does that have on retail, because that's a huge part of their business?
Peter Moore

I think retail can play a great part in that - you're seeing retailers figuring out music, doing their own music sites - I think the progressive retailers either embrace what's going on, or the consumer just doesn't go there any more.

So you see Wal-Mart and Best Buy embracing that and finding ways to engage with their consumers online. Whether retail likes it or not, it's going to happen - so they either embrace it and find a business model that makes sense, or they become in the end monolithic.

My belief is that the progressive retailers around the world right now are all figuring out how to make a business model out of it.

Peter Moore is the president of EA Sports. Part one is available here. Interview by Phil Elliott.

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