EA Sports' Peter Moore
Tucked safely within the refuge EA's business centre at GamesCom, I'm pleased to find myself sitting down with EA Sports president Peter Moore. Formerly an executive at Sega and Microsoft, Moore has for a long-time worked in the United States, despite being of British origins. The executive is known for not mincing his words and is an ardent Liverpool FC supporter, while his colourful conference appearances have enlivened many an expo. We sat down to the shoot the breeze with this games industry luminary.
PS3 price change. Are you pleased?
Yes, I think the whole industry is pleased. I think history has told us that when you get a substantial price drop you bring in new segment of the audience that is ready to buy. I think it's even more important in today's tough economic times where that is something of a disposable purchase of a videogame console when you're trying to balance between petrol for the car and rent for the house. I think that having a price drop is bringing it back to the levels the whole industries have been looking for a while. I think it's great for the industry.
Do you think it's enough?
I don't know. Certainly having been that side of the aisle before and doing a lot of work, doing what's known as elasticity studies where you very quietly talk to potential customers to ask "if the price is this would you buy?". And then you actually do data analysis and figure out where the price should be. It's not something that three people sit around in a room and guess. They do a lot of what's known as blind studies, so they typically wouldn't identify themselves as Sony or PlayStation. That's exactly how we did it at Microsoft and you do the analytics because you've got to get it right. If it's not enough then you don't achieve what you're supposed to do and all you're doing then is losing a lot of money out of your P&L [profit and loss] but you're not moving the units.
You've had a lot of success with EA Sports Active, can you see more products launching on the Wii of a similar kind?
I think certainly that the platform that we have for EA Sport Active we're going to grow. More Workouts is a great example if you think of it as a kind of expansion pack for existing consumers. You're going to continue to see more and more. I think not only for the Wii, but we're excited about the new stuff from Project Natal from Microsoft and Sony's motion controller. You can imagine that the health, wellness and fitness [titles] are going to be an important part of what their lineup is going to be, and it's going to help promote gaming. If you've got legs and arms then you can become a gamer, you don't have to push buttons - I think that's going to become important. The industry creating products that are good for people is a strong PR message. We feel good about the positive results, that's what I said yesterday [at the EA conference], users are having, and I think it's great that we can bring what is a very, very democratic platform that we have now on the Wii that has Mums using it, Dads using it, kids are using it and bring it to life as a wellness platform. I think this is a very strong message because as an industry we get criticised for lots, and this is a nice balance to that.
Do you think that beyond fitness titles your traditional sports titles have a place using motion controllers such as Natal and the PS3's motion controller?
Yeah, but what we need to do is to be very careful we don't just try and port something over and go 'Look, here is our Natal version of FIFA' and try and kick the ball or head the ball. I think the Wii has proved that with things like Wii Sports, is that you need to create experiences from the ground up for the technology rather than convert the game or a francise over to the technology. I can see a sports training game that would be a big deal, imagine golf or tennis where the motion is tracked so that you can actually go out and do things properly in real life. I think there is great play there. Maybe at first there could be games with a Natal mode? Perhaps in FIFA where there is a penalty in the game you have to step up and take the penalty.
Do you think the system is accurate enough?
I don't know. We've got dev kits. Like with any technology it'll go through evolutions. I think in a simple world of a penalty imagine the experience in front of you and it somehow identifies where the ball is, and you have to step up and it will identify the speed and angle of your foot in the ball and then make some interpretations of where the ball will go then.... I guess.
Going back to EA Sports as an organisation, are you happy with where the brand is now positioned?
Yeah, the brand is in a number of places. I mean [EA Sports] Active is a great example where when we were developing it we looked at 'Can the EA Sports brand play here?'. A lot of conversations - do we develop a new brand, we are talking to a different consumer, it's not really a classic EA Sports game. It's not even a game! But we felt that the brand was elastic enough to stretch to that area and nobody's given it a second thought. We are taking our brand in this particular instance, as you reported last week at my Edinburgh thing, to girls and women. It's something we have to learn about. It's a completely different style of communication, different vehicles. how to communicate using a very different voice than we've typically done with our traditional games. I'm delighted with what the team has done, and obviously the results prove it out.
The brand is a great brand, it's arguably the only real brand in gaming per-say. You have the publisher 'Electronic Arts' and that's a brand but it's a company, an Activision, a Ubisoft or a THQ. Then you have products which are brands - Halo, or Gears of War, or LittleBigPlanet. There is really only one brand that has an umbrella that all games in that genre fit into, and that's EA Sports. We're learning where we can take it and where we need to focus and make it better, and stretch it out.
Can EA Sports go beyond games?
Absolutely, and we already are. We're doing a lot in the US right now with our partner ESPN and utilising our game engines as in-studio broadcast tools. It's called virtual playbook, and we do it with American Football. It's a green-screen technology, used in a studio with cameras and then the broadcast guy, the equivalent of Martyn Tylor [a sports presenter] is stood there and on the screen he is surrounded by players. He can walk around, point at the players, and then the game goes in motion. It's not easy to do with American Football, but it's easier with soccer which is spread out over a bigger area. That is an important part of what we're doing which is EA Sports becoming a sports entertainment brand, not just a videogame brand that makes sports games. We're doing a lot of stuff with IMG, who is our branded licensor, that allows us to go into sports training stuff - things where we think the brand is relevant.
You've spoken in the past about the difficulty of releasing games on the PC platform - because of piracy for instance.
A lot of issues, yeah.
How is your changed position progressing?
Well, our position is our position. We think the future of the PC is online. We think it's service based games, we think it's games that are always on. We're doing an interesting experiment, you should go try Tiger [Woods] Online. We think that the ability for you to play anytime, anywhere, like right now if I had five minutes I could play Tiger right now with no disc. It would save my game, and I'd go back in and it has low barriers to entry in terms of cost. It may be a subscription where it would be five bucks a month and I'd give you all the gold courses you want or it could be that new Nike clubs come up... one dollar please. Those are the business models we're seeing now and have seen in Asia for a number of years, but ultimately of the models we've seen, the future we think is that more and more stuff goes up in the cloud, less on a physical disk, more and more always on, 24 hours a day. Updated all the time, particularly in sport where everything is topical every single week. So last week in Tiger it was the PGA championship, and we would have had a whole week leading up to that on the service itself. That's the key with sports games.
Look at this week, as the Premier League starts. Is Chelsea going to do it? Is Liverpool going to do it, is Manchester United going to do it? Tough to do that from the physical disk, plus more and more we're seeing issues with the health of PC gaming in the physical disk and the monstrous growth of World of Warcraft. So our position hasn't changed.
Part two of our interview with Peter Moore will be live very soon.