Two years ago EA was the top player in the smartphone game space. Now it’s starting again in an attempt to recapture that crown.
And EA Mobile boss Frank Gibeau blames the decline on the switch from premium to free-to-play.
"I think we've successfully gotten back into position and we see a lot of opportunity to grow the business going forward,” he told Games Industry. Which appears to be arguing that EA has “successfully” eroded its market position and share in an effort to arrive at the point where it can once again hope to be better than it currently is.
“If you had talked to me about two years ago and tried to speculate there would be a company called Supercell with that much share and that many games, we wouldn't even have come close,” he continued.
"If you look at how Asia operates, premium just doesn't exist as a business model for interactive games, whether it's on PC or mobile devices. With premium games, you just don't get the downloads you do with a free game. It's better to get as many people into your experience and trying it. With premium, given that there are so many free offerings out there, it's very difficult to break through.
"Our challenge frankly is just mastering the freemium live service component of what's happening in mobile. We think we have the right IP. We have the right talent. We've got great production values. Our scores from users are pretty high. It's really about being able to be as good as Supercell, King, Gungho, or some of these other companies at sustained live services for long periods of time."
One free-to-play EA game did hit the headlines recently, of course. But for all the wrong reasons. But while EA CEO Andrew Wilson admitted the company “misjudged the economy” with its free-to-play balancing, Gibeau’s assessment is somewhat more forgiving.
"I don't think we did a particularly good job marketing it or talking to fans about their expectations for what Dungeon Keeper was going to be or ultimately should be,” he argued.
“Brands ultimately have a certain amount of permission that you can make changes to, and I think we might have innovated too much or tried some different things that people just weren't ready for. Or, frankly, were not in tune with what the brand would have allowed us to do.”