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EA: 'We're making big bets'

Labels boss Frank Gibeau on Battlefield, Respawn and new IP...

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So our investors, shareholders and board are really excited about the trajectory of the company right now.

Of course the most exciting thing about EA's immediate future is the big clash between Battlefield and Call of Duty this Christmas - and the advertising is already everywhere. How important is ownership of the first-person shooter genre to EA?

We don't take things lightly. If we're going to go after a category, we intend to lead. We have a very big competitor there but they're going to get some competition this Christmas for the first time in a long time.

We're excited about and we're really proud of Battlefield 3. It's coming together very well and the quality and technology is something that you can just see on screen. The DICE guys have the pedigree of building some spectacular games. This Christmas we're definitely going to take market share in the FPS category from those guys.

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Battlefield's going to be hard to dodge this Christmas

You've always had massive FPS brands. What's prevented you from ruling the roost in that area up until now?

There was a period of time when we did, and then we lost it. Now we're coming back to it. It just takes time and iteration to be able to build a business of that quality and scale. Last year we entered in with Bad Company 2, which is now past nine million unit sales and still selling very well, and Medal of Honor did quite nicely for us last year. Every year we're going to continue to build the business and grow it and do better as we look at our performance and going forward.

Those are stellar numbers and EA seems to be on the cusp of nailing the next mega-franchise - a Guitar Hero or World of Warcraft. How close do you think your are?

Well you know I think this year we're making some big bets. I would argue that nine million units is a pretty big franchise. FIFA does about 12 million and The Sims has done about 150 million... this Christmas is going to be a big Christmas for us with Star Wars, with Battlefield 3, FIFA 12 shipping in a couple of weeks, Need for Speed: The Run is going to be a great game for us... We feel like we're on the verge of breaking out with a couple of hits right there.

Of course EA hasn't been shy in its determination to come out top dog in the FPS battle. Is it realistic to expect Battlefield 3 to outsell the competition across three platforms?

We're all in. We're going for it. How you measure victory, I don't know. What I'm curious about is how the game is going to finish from a quality standpoint - I think it's going to be great. We're going to take share from them and I think we're going to grow the business significantly. We're going to give them competition for the first time that they haven't had.

We like to think that we've got a pretty powerful game offer with the technology base that is brand new, next generation and should set new standards for what happens in FPS. Customers like competition, they like these kind of heavyweight fights so we're going for it.

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Dead Space 2 has sold over 2 million copies

There's been talk in the past about not burning out the Battlefield and Medal of Honor franchises with annual cycles, yet - dual brands aside - you seem to have adopted the same alternating studio model as your competitors. How is EA's approach to development and innovation different?

We're not doing it just in shooters - we also had Criterion build Need for Speed last year and we have Black Box doing The Run. I like to alternate studios because it keeps them sharp, keeps them fresh and it doesn't burn teams out because you can have guys who have to roll right under the game and only have ten months to make the next one.

So by alternating the studios it allows you to keep the teams fresh, focus on the technology and innovation as well as driving quality. We're taking a slightly different tack to what they are in terms of alternating the brand names - because we also think that Medal of Honor and Battlefield can stay fresh by offering something slightly different every year like that - and that's the different approach that we take.

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