The road to XBOX ONE. Follow the journey

Battlefield Europe for EA

Ben Parfitt
Battlefield Europe for EA

A LOOK BACK AT 2009

"For the overall market we were a little bit disappointed. When we were putting our plans together for last year we were expecting growth of around five per cent, but what we saw across Europe was the market decreasing by about 10 per cent.

"At the same time, at EA, we’re actually very happy because in that shrinking sector we increased our share and got back to the position of market leader, which is a nice place to be, and where we used to be. We lost it to Nintendo last year, but we gained it back."

EA Sports Active

"We’ve done particularly well on Wii with a completely new type of game. I know Wii Fit is out now, but when we started development there was nothing like it out there, so that was a nice, innovative piece of work."

The Sims 3


"We launched in June, which can be a quiet time of year. But it actually started selling faster than The Sims 2, which we launched in peak season. That was pleasing and it really starting pushing our market share upwards."

Need For Speed Shift

"We’re really turning the corner in terms of product quality. It’s back on track after years of deterioration and we’re Getting Need For Speed back into the space where it belongs as a renowned driving experience."

FIFA

"We continue to beat the heck out of Pro Evo and across Europe we’re taking 75 per cent of the football space. FIFA was neck and neck with Modern Warfare 2 to be the best-selling game across Europe."

Dragon Age

"We’re very pleased with this straight away but, importantly, there’s a lot of PDLC to come. So, whilst we delivered a rich game in the first place, we will keep it going for a long time with additional content."

A LOOK AHEAD TO 2010

The packaged goods market might decrease a little this year, but after the price reductions, particularly on Xbox and PlayStation, I think more people may have bought hardware at Christmas than we expected, so perhaps we will see a better market than we thought. It might remain stable, or there might be only a very slight decrease, less than last year.

Our aim is to do less games and do them better. I think in the past maybe people have rushed into too many projects at the same time and have probably been spoiled by the overall industry growth, because it meant that if you didn’t have proper portfolio management, the punishment wasn’t particularly harsh.

But in a more mature market (and I don’t just mean older, I mean more professional), portfolio management becomes more important and it’s something we’re working on. And that’s across the whole organisation, not just development. You also have to focus your publishing resources – both people and money. You can achieve much more if you leverage fewer, bigger franchises.

I can’t tell you exactly how many less games we’ll release in 2010, but it will be less.

Another ongoing trend is polarisation, and our plan is to use our strongest IP on all platforms and in all areas.

So, with Playfish, leveraging FIFA, The Sims and Need for Speed will put us into a much stronger space in the social networking area.

It’s too early to say exactly which brands they’ll be using, but the first Playfish product utilising an EA IP should emerge next year. The exact plans are now being finalised.

The new controllers from Sony and Microsoft will allow two things. They will allow new game experiences for existing players. But they will also allow what Nintendo has achieved to some extent, and that is to get new people into gaming – people for whom a traditional controller is not the most natural way to play, for people who are much more comfortable using something more intuitive. I think they will expand the audience even further than Wii and the Wii Remote Controller.

Our studios are working with the first parties to create some interesting games for those controllers. We can expand the audience for an existing game, but it’s also a good time to come up with brand new ideas and way to play.

We’re working on the specifics of our plans, but we will have games available that work with both controllers at launch.

AND BEYOND...

I don’t plan to retire for another 20 years or so and I’m pretty sure boxed product will remain important for that time.

Traditional bricks and mortar stores will continue to have a role to play for a number of reasons. Firstly, because some people just like them. But also, with the increasing amount of data that our games will have, there will also be a benefit to having a physical medium to transport at least the start of a game.

We will, of course, see more and more digital distribution, sometimes for full games, but even more so for additional content. But in many cases I still think a physical product is the start of that journey and that will continue for a very long time.

I even think it will take many years before digital distribution becomes more prominent that physical media.

One of the overarching trends we’re already seeing is segmentation. We are seeing more and more ways to play. It used to be that maybe people had a PlayStation under the television and they played with it for hours. And maybe they had a handheld.

But there are so many different ways and places to play and so many different types of game. People will have consoles, and PCs and handhelds, and phones and there will be blockbusters and there will be bite-sized games. That sort of complexity will continue to increase.

I think in the long term I expect a model similar to the movie/television model. You will still get high tech blockbuster experiences for which people are still happy to pay a decent amount of money. That’s the equivalent of people going to see a big new movie at the cinema, possibly in 3D, which is one of the things the theatres are introducing to keep their edge.

Then people will use that content and watch that content via Pay TV. Then you end up with people seeing it on free TV, funded by advertising.

I suspect we will have a similar type of business. You will have blockbuster games, you will have people that will pay small amounts of money now and again and you will have casual games that are just advertising financed. The industry itself, though, will continue to grow, in terms of consumers and in terms of revenue.

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