It’s no secret that, when the current generation arrived, EA went through a tough transition. But here at E3 I think we’ve shown how we’ve emerged from that challenge, stronger than ever.
Back in the 1990s, we nailed the launch of PlayStation 1. A few years later, we came through the next generation even stronger. We made a lot of the right decisions and we leveraged the things that make this company great, like our publishing strength, the quality of our IP and a focus on R&D.
But we didn’t do as well through the last transition. We thought that we would grow through the transition; that we could innovate. We didn’t and we were disappointed by some of the calls that were made, at the time.
I should say that I would have made the same calls. And plenty of people also got things wrong. But our strength has been demonstrated in getting back to where we want to be.
When I came back to EA, fifteen months ago, I felt that we needed an orientation towards giving control back to the creator. That doesn’t mean everyone gets a free ride but it does mean that we invest heavily in the teams and encourage them to be as innovative and creative as they possibly can.
Here’s something I believe. In our business, you never make money just by trying to make money. You try to make great games and great games are profitable. There is no other way. You have to husband your resources to make great games.
On my return to Electronic Arts I realized that at the scale EA had reached, a $3 billion company, it was just too much for one single collection of managers to provide oversight, to provide inspiration, to allocate resources, to champion the careers of young creators.
We divided the organization into four labels – Sports, Sims, Core Games and Casual – and we’ve been lucky enough to have great leaders taking care of each – Peter Moore, Nancy Smith, Kathy Vrabeck and Frank Gibeau.
Pretty soon, we started to see the results. I don’t want to suggest that Metacritic is our sole focus, but we did begin to see a sharp upswing in our average review scores.
That was just the beginning. Now we are introducing a large number of new products that are unlike anything in the history of this company. And certainly unlike anything being produced elsewhere in the business.
This is directly the outcome of the creative process; the focus, attention, love and care of the people who work at EA.
I believe there is no company in the industry that’s got a product plan that is as good as Electronic Arts’ today.
Our sports franchises have taken a leap forward in innovation. I’d say that Madden 09 is the freshest football game we’ve seen for over a decade, and that’s just one example. Another example is Spore, which we have held back in order to get it right, and to make it more than just a PC game. Also, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is doing things that have never been tried before.
And we’re introducing way more new IP than any other publisher. You can go to most of EA’s principle competitors and name one or two new IPs that might be interesting to you. I would defy you to find somebody who could name three. At EA you could probably come up with ten that we’re involved in including Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge, Spore, Dragon Age Origins, Left 4 Dead and Rage. That’s very unusual, and it’s something I feel very good about.
I don’t want to take the credit for all this. Some of these games are so bold that I had serious misgivings. Take Mirror’s Edge. It’s an FPS in which you can play right through without firing a shot. It’s all in primary colors. I told them this idea wouldn’t work. They said I was wrong. We had the fight and, in the end, I just accepted that they would try and prove me wrong, and they’ve done just that.
I encourage Edge readers to take a look at the games we have on offer. I hope I don’t sound arrogant here, but I’m going to predict that every one of the new IP games we introduce in the next year will be a hit. Whether there’s enough of an idea behind each of them and enough consumer audience behind each of them to create sequels and long running series, I don’t know yet. But they will all be hits and they will all sell millions of units, depending on their target audience.
When I look at the games we’re offering here at E3, I couldn’t be prouder. If you look at the games, you’ll have a very tough job finding a gap in the quality. That is why this is a pretty special time to be part of Electronic Arts.