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EA Executive Talks DLC, Indie Games, and Developer Recruitment

GameSpot interviewed Peter Moore, the chief operating officer of Electronic Arts (EA), at Gamescom and discussed downloadable content for games, indie titles, and developer recruitment.

When asked to comment on the paradox between consumers’ negative attitudes towards DLC and developers’ insistence on its importance, Moore said, “Well a lot of that resistance comes from the erroneous belief that somehow companies will ship a game incomplete, and then try to sell you stuff they have already made and held back. Nonsense. You come and stand where I am, next to Visceral’s studio, and you see the work that is being done right now. And it’s not just DLC, this is free updates and ongoing balance changes… What people are confused about is they think DLC is secretly on the disc, and that it’s somehow unlocked when we say.”

The executive noted that during his eight-year tenure at EA, the publisher has gone from releasing 70 games a year to perhaps twelve in 2015. This effort is presumably being redirected at extra content. Moore said, “Today we’ve got what used to be the size of a whole game development team, of about 40 or 50 people, working solely on the extra content.”

Regarding Unravel, an upcoming game from indie developer Coldwood Interactive being published by EA, the executive remarked that publishing it “was less about strategy; I’d like to think about it more a [sic] commitment to do something that is good for gamers. We wanted to help a very small studio, that needed resources, that needed a home, that needed technology… If it makes us some money, great, if it doesn’t, great, we will have still brought a game to market that a lot of people are going to thoroughly enjoy.”

On investing in future indie console games, Moore said, “We’re always looking at opportunities for games that are worth our time and effort. But the truth is that there are far fewer of them than you think there are. Console games are not cheap to manufacture, so if you’re self-funded [it’s difficult].”

Referring to the risk associated with publishing indie games, the executive stated that in EA, “like any well-run company, we know what our people are doing, and they know what they are doing. I can look at fiscal 17/18 and off the top of my head tell you what EA’s games look like in two Christmas holidays from now, and that’s important for our own discipline. But, for things like Unravel, we’re always on the lookout.”

Moore also discussed new talent for EA. The publisher recently hired Jade Raymond, who is well-known for her production of Assassin’s Creed games and Watch Dogs for Ubisoft. EA recruited Raymond to start its new Motive Studios in Montréal.

On Raymond, Moore said, “There is some pressure, yes, but the company isn’t going to live and die by what Jade does. EA is a great place for where Jade’s career is at right now; she has a great vision for what she believes the future of IP is. She is great at bringing the best out of development teams. She manages classic, high quality, triple-A projects with big budgets, and brings them in on time and on quality.”

He went on to say that “bringing in female talent is very important to the company. Jade and Amy [Hennig, formerly Naughty Dog; now EA] are a year, or two, out from their project deadlines right now. It’s a great pipeline of games, and a testament to the way EA thinks about hiring women into senior development and management positions.”

GameSpot also mentioned the possibility of EA hiring Hideo Kojima of Konami. But Moore said, “From my experience, and I’ve spent a lot of time working in Japan, I think that Konami and Kojima will figure it out. Those kinds of business relationships [in Japan] are typically for life, and Kojima is such an important part in what has gone on there. Clearly, they’re at a rocky stage in their marriage. But you could take what is said about [Kojima Productions], about a game not adhering to budgets, about a game not being ready, and you could apply that to a lot of people.”

Commenting on the notion that EA could simply have a “baseline FIFA game” that gets updated with new content annually, instead of a new game every year, the executive said, “Well that has always been nirvana, especially for sports games, and maybe one day that will happen. But I think there is still a thirst for a great, brand-new boxed game.”

On single-player in Star Wars Battlefront, Moore admitted that single-player triple-A titles are perhaps more profitable than multiplayer ones, but said, “Very few people actually play the single-player on these kinds of games. That’s what the data points to.”

He was similarly nonchalant about EA Access, a service that lets gamers access a library of games for $5 a month. Xbox One offers EA Access, but Sony declined, saying it didn’t have “good value to the PlayStation gamer.” Moore said it “doesn’t matter” whether he wanted EA Access for PlayStation 4, stating, “We have analytics on everything these days, and subscriber satisfaction rates [for EA Access on Xbox One] are through the roof. EA Access customers get to play more, because of the Vault, they get to play early, ahead of general release date, and they get to pay less because of the discounts it offers.”

Follow Rob Shimshock (@Xylyntial) on Twitter.

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