This is the earliest you’ve revealed FIFA. Why do this at an early stage?
There were a couple of things we wanted to tell people about. One of them is the fact we are doing such a great job refining the game, so there’s been lots and lots of polish, and spending lots of time on the forums talking to the fans and making sure we’re doing as much for them as we can.
The other part of it is that the innovations we’ve put in, I think, are so cool, that we wanted to let people have a go, and it’s very useful for me on getting some feedback. That way we can evaluate what we’ve got and make any changes.
Do you see a time where FIFA Online could perhaps converge with the main FIFA series?
Quite possibly. I’m focused on fixing the gameplay and sorting out problems in the management mode and so forth. FIFA Online is a great game, I’m not involved in it and I’ve not been asked to make that for consoles. All I’m being told to do in my meetings is to hit [a Metacritic rating of] 90, which is pretty hard.
That is quite a high target…
It is. Our Metacritic is actually 87, and that extra three per cent is a really hard three per cent to get. There’s nothing in FIFA that was broken so badly last year that needs fixing, there’s a lot of small, important things to sort out and balance. But it’s not a case of showing off an entirely new shooting system.
A couple of people have said ‘do you think you’re doing enough,’ which surprises me as we are doing a heck of a lot – some stuff I can’t divulge at this time. I can’t even describe how much effort it takes to increase the realism of management mode, such as making sure the transfers are authentic and making sure players don’t become superstar heroes when they’re playing for Aldershot. This is really hard to do. So we’re doing things that really matter to gamers.
It does worry me that what matters to gamers isn’t necessarily what matters to reviewers. But I’m confident that when the game comes out and play it, it will be exactly what the gamer wants.
On the last FIFA you said that you wouldn’t rest until you get a goalkeeper in the 10 Vs 10 mode. Any update on that?
I haven’t rested. I can’t really talk about it. There’s a long way to go.
Can FIFA 2009 match the success of the last game?
The critical and commercial success of FIFA 2008 has put a lot of pressure on us for this new game, but I am fortunate that I work in an environment that lives and breathes on pressure. Everyday when I come into work everyone knows what is expected of them in terms of games quality.
It is going to be very, very hard, especially on our partners and families, but I am extremely proud and privileged to be doing this job. It does upset me that I used to be one of the people that bad mouths EA. But the fact that I am allowed to spend so much money on making good gameplay, without having to do anything gimmicky, to me speaks volumes of the work Peter [Moore] is doing and other people in the organisation. And that is doing what matters most to the fans, refining the game, innovating and putting in game modes that people want.
How important is the rivalry with Konami?
Very important. There is pressure to get good review scores, pressure to sell a lot of games and, for me, the pressure is to make a brilliant game. I am a competitive person, as are many of our staff, and we want to be the best. Konami are a very talented, very clever and very good group of developers, and it is good to have that there so we can keep improving, innovating and get as far ahead of our rivals as we can.
Peter Moore said that there are two billion football fans and 10 million FIFA players. How are you looking to close that gap?
There’s ten or so million people that buy FIFA, but there’s many more that don’t. There’s a lot of people that buy competitors games, and we want to appeal to those guys. And as for the many that don’t buy either, there are several ways we are looking to reach them. But I feel the best way is to make a brilliant game, and let people play it so they can tell other people that it is a brilliant game.
We have a number of different ways people can play FIFA now: you can play as individual players, the whole team, online and even play as the manager. And I want to see more ways people can play – maybe as a goalkeeper. The key component to getting new customers in is to make a game that’s so brilliant that people want to play it.