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CVG
Interviews

EA's Keith Ramsdale

The megapublisher's UK boss talks digital, DLC - and daring decisions...

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It's also about what can be a narrower audience: We want to bring creative entertainment experiences to everyone. We're not neglecting people that like things that aren't mass market - whether we sell fewer volumes or bigger volumes. We'll look at games that have a smaller potential audience because they're good, interesting titles.

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They might not have the audience that a FIFA might have, but that doesn't make them any less credible as us for an entertainment content creator.

Would you say you take more risks with new IP than some of your competitors, who it could be said 'play it safe' to keep the shareholders unworried?
We will continue to take risk on new IP - and we'll never stop doing so. But there is always calculated risk. When you're delivering new IP, you can't guarantee a release will work out as well as a sequel would. The flip of that is that you can't keep releasing sequels to a franchise if it's not an evolutionary - or even revolutionary - improvement on the prior version.

That's proved out with FIFA. For years it was successful, we hit a bit of a downturn - and we woke up to it. Now, extraordinarily, FIFA World Cup - an event title which you wouldn't expect to set Metacritic on fire - is being incredibly well received by the press, with many people telling us it's the greatest football game of all time.

How can you afford to be brave with new IP at a company that ultimately answers to its shareholders?
If you're trying to launch too much new IP in any given year, your risk burden is too high. However, as long as you're able to bring out a relatively small number, in our position, you can afford to take this risk, because you're supported by the rest of your portfolio. We have the ability - possibly uniquely in this space - to bring new IP to the market every year, and afford to be able do so.

There's been some controversy surrounding your new Online Pass system - which means DLC for a boxed game can only be downloaded on one system via a code. You say it's benefits the consumer - but how?
Quite simply, it allows us to bring better and richer online content to them going forward. We have to put resource to make this online content work. What's clear to us is that consumers want online content and multi-play after they've bought the packaged goods. It's a significant resource to go and make that happen. So we're rewarding people with an element of that content free when they purchase the game.

If they then pass that onto their friends, or a second user acquires it, they will then have to pay a bit of money to get to the extra content. That's only out of the home, though - if you're signing in with a different account on the same console, you won't be charged again. If we can resource this content up as we see we need to, we can deliver richer experiences in future and everybody wins.

How do you respond to those who feel they're being 'taxed twice' on Xbox - with a payment for the Xbox Gold account and then the Online Pass on top?
In each case, someone needs to have an internet-ready machine to get access to any DLC - and that's their relationship with the manufacturer they bought it from. What we're saying is that for the person that's bought the game, the access is free - there is no charge. But if you obtain the game and you didn't purchase it, there is a charge.

But this is great content, and the extra resource from the Online Pass will allow us to keep creating that long into the future. It goes back to something I said earlier - you can't hoodwink people into paying for something when the value isn't there, because they'll rebel. We're very mindful of that - and we'll make sure they only pay for really top notch content.

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