Build an online ecosystem first, make money from it later, says EA chief

EA Sports: Monetising online is the next step

An executive at EA Sports says that monetising online play is “the next piece of the puzzle” for the company.

Andrew Wilson, the senior vice president of worldwide development at EA Sports, said the online space is being driven by each player’s own desire to rise above.

“I think the old adage ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ has withstood the test of time for a reason,” he told Develop.

“There are always going to be [players] in any online space that are ahead of the competition because of their time spent or money invested, and what we’re doing now is about [other players’] desire to keep up,” he said.

“How we [at EA] monetise that is the next piece of the puzzle,” he said.

EA Sports is investing huge sums of money into making each of its games online-native. FIFA 11, for example, allows up to 22 players to play at the same time as part of a 11-vs-11 online match.

FIFA also includes Ultimate Team – a RPG-like squad-building game. Players can earn points, or pay cash, to collect virtual cards that upgrade teams and add football stars.

The service, when introduced in FIFA 09, made EA some $15 million. The next year’s edition made more than double, at around $32 million. EA has projected that the 2011 edition of Ultimate Team will make $64 million.

Wilson was not directly stating that EA Sports would charge for any further online features, though that is an option for the firm.

“You have connection, you have identity, you have status, and next you’ll have a rich economy by which people can better their position as they work with each other and compare with each other,” he said.

EA Sports is one of EA’s most consistently successful divisions, having released blockbuster FIFA and NFL products on an annual basis since the nineties.

“We’ve been doing research across our sports franchises for over a decade,” Wilson said.

“Every study that we do shows that social interaction highly placed in the pecking order of consumer wishes – usually in the top four. All we’re doing is facilitating social that is meaningful today.”

Wilson’s definition of ‘social gaming’ is, broadly speaking, online interaction in any form.

“Before, [social gaming] was people around the couch, today in our time-starved world, social is now asynchronous.”

To read Wilson’s full interview with Develop, go here

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