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The many faces of EA: Laura Miele, EA Games

Christopher Dring
The many faces of EA: Laura Miele, EA Games

­In the third of our four EA interviews, EA Games marketing boss Laura Miele discusses Dead Space, Need for Speed, Medal of Honor and Battlefield 3

How was E3 for EA Games?
We did something interesting this year in that we waited until E3 to  announce Dead Space 3, Need for Speed and Battlefield 3 Premium. Usually, we’ll announce in the spring but we wanted to have a big impact, so we held on. What we’ve evaluated in our analytics is that E3 is one of the biggest beats in a campaign. Even though it’s a trade show, consumers galvanise around the announcements.

Medal of Honor is back this year. The last game didn't achieve the critical reaction EA has been known for recently. Is it vital you remedy that this year?
Medal of Honor is definitely going to benefit from Battlefield and the Frostbite engine and frankly just the leadership of Patrick Soderland, who is now running our label and he created DICE, so his influence over Medal of Honor is significant.

I’m bullish not only about the quality of Medal of Honor, I also feel good about our position. We’re in a different position than we were with Battlefield last year as we’re the only authentic modern military game coming out. You’ve got Halo, which is sci-fi, and Call of Duty is doing something a little different, so I feel very pure about our messaging and I know than when we’ve gone out with clear consumer positioning, we are always rewarded for that.

Is the aim to get Medal of Honor up to the quality and sales level that Battlefield has achieved?
I don’t look at them as individual brands. EA set its sights on gaining share of the shooter category a while ago. With Battlefield, we have large scale battles, vehicles and massive multiplayer. Medal of Honor is that authentic soldier story and in February we’re coming out with Crysis, a sci-fi shooter. I look at it as a whole shooter strategy against the marketplace in order for us to grow our competitive share quicker.

One of my responsibilities about a 18 months ago was to build our play-for-free marketing organisation. It was a pretty wild assignment. There was a bit of chaos but through that chaos came a tremendous amount of learning for the hi-def business.
We have built this listening engine which means we can not only keep our ear close to the ground, but we know how to navigate our consumers not only from [free-to play game] Battlefield Heroes to Battlefield 3 but we’re understanding consumer needs more than ever to help build a better bridge into Medal of Honor.

We’re looking at it in a cold way but a lot of it is because of performance-based marketing, understanding gameplay patterns, and knowing how to react with that information.

EA's Laura Miele is working on the launch of Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Need for Speed: Most Wanted this Christmas

With Premium, Battlefield 3 has moved from a $50 to a $100 game. Is that going to be the stategy moving forward?
Monetisation is certainly something that the industry talks a lot about. I look at it, and our development teams look at it, from a creative perspective. For us to launch a game like Battlefield 3 and not give people anything else until we release the next one isn’t the way for us to develop the best relationship with the consumer.

Do you have a subscriber target in mind with Battlefield Premium?
We’re a corperation, so we certainly look at the financial metrics. But I am looking at this as a great learning experience, and finding out about the transition to digital as well as having a direct connection to the consumers. We had these expansions planned anyway and we wanted something that made consumers feel as part of a club, something that is going to enhance their association to this brand. So we’ll see how it does.

What’s the secret to promoting digital content like Battlefield 3 Premium. How do you help consumers find your content?
I am passionate about this. We’re building an infrastructure within EA so we can track users – not in a Big Brother way – but so we don’t act as if we’re meeting for the first time every time they come to our websites.

We have people that play hundreds of hours of Battlefield 3 and if every time they come to our website we’re talking to them as if they’ve never been there, they’re not going to feel great about the relationship they have with us.

Online and digital is far more personal and effective than previous marketing methods. Things like out of home and TV are very impersonal.

Just to give you an example, when we launched Bad Company 2, 80 per cent of our media dollars was spent on TV. Fast-forward to Battlefield 3, we spent 53 per cent of our dollars on TV. That’s a radical swing. And your online dollars go much further, it costs less to buy something on the internet than it does to buy something on NBC or ITV. We’re changing how we reach out.
I was recently sitting behind the glass on a research group and one guy said he was on a retail site with great service where he spoke to someone through the site. He said it’s more personal today shopping online than it is walking into a store. Ten years ago everyone was afraid about how impersonal online was going to be – no-one was going to leave their homes – and I think that we’ve come to a place where it’s  more personal online than walking into a store with a flustered sales clerk who doesn’t know the product.

Need for Speed was a big E3 reveal. Last year’s The Run wasn’t well received by critics. How did you view that game internally?
The Run was a great concept. Coast-to-coast racing, cannonball run, we were all very excited. It delivered at a quality level that was different from what we wanted, for sure. But we learned a lot. Being a learning organisation with incredibly high expectations is something that we don’t take lightly. We are committed to having more consumer input and even things like journalists coming in and giving us reads on what they think of the quality of the game. We can then inform the developers.

All that said, we have probably the best developers in the world working on Most Wanted in Criterion. They are one of our more exceptional studios when it relates to giving consumers what they want. We had awards all over the door at E3.

How do you reconcile what the marketing team think consumers want and what the creative team want? Is it a collaborative thing?
I mentioned a listening engine. The premise of a listening engine is meant to provide transparency to the creative process for our teams.

We have amazing developers. Steve Papoutsis from Visceral is a great example. He is incredibly open to understanding the consumer needs, versus marketing saying ‘here’s your checklist of features. You need to get these in or we can’t market your game’. We don’t act that way. We talk about the gaming occasions and what the consumers are looking for from an emotional point-of-view.

What we’ve done is unleash them to be even more creative and more innovative than they were before. They have the confidence so they know what they’re trying to accomplish with the consumer. We just wanted to embrace the creative and provide them transparency and insight so they could go further.

It’s a different approach to the marketing and development partnership but it’s something I feel passionately about. I consider myself a part of that process. I would feel terrible to be so prohibitive to say: ‘if you don’t do this checklist, this is never going to work’. You’d just hold them back

Is the fact that Dead Space 3 is more action-orientated and co-op-based than its predecessors part of that process?
Yes it is. We were doing research coming out of Dead Space 1 and 2 and we’re really proud of those products. We received feedback to understand how we can take the game out to even more consumers.

We were hearing feedback that they love the thriller game, but it was pretty scary, and the obvious next step was that they wanted to play with someone. So we introduced co-op into the game. The horror of Dead Space is still all there. It’s still true to its roots and no less scary, but people felt far more comfortable playing it with someone else than they did doing it on their own.
Personally, I would rather go to scary movie with my husband rather than sit at home with the lights out watching one on my own.

We’re looking for that to reach out to consumers that perhaps were not open to Dead Space 1 and 2.

 

For more on EA. Read our interview with EA Sports boss Andrew Wilson here and EA Origin chief David Demartini here.

 

Tomorrow we will post an exclusive chat with EA Interactive's VP Nick Earl.

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Tags: Electronic Arts , ea , battlefield 3 , battlefield , ea games , dead space 3 , Need for Speed: Most Wanted , Medal of Honor: Warfighter , Laura Miele

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