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Interviews

Exclusive: A Frank chat with EA's Gibeau

The publisher's Labels president looks to the future...

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EA has a lot of sequels planned for this year. Is it deemed too risky to put out a new IP at this stage of the console cycle?One of the things I hear a lot about from the boards is 'there's not enough new IP coming' etc. If you're running a studio organization, the moment you stop creating new IP, your creative organization dies. Because you have to constantly innovate and try new ideas and people inside the organization want to do new things.

At the same time you do have a lot of brands with big hits that you can innovate within that can be very cool and very different in a year over year basis. So it's really about getting the right blend and getting the timing right for when you launch new IPs.

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Medal of Honor: Warfighter

Back a few years ago when we were putting together the new EA Games label and EA was trying to reset a lot of its products, we tried a lot of new IPs; Dead Space, Dante's Inferno, Mirror's Edge, we completely rethought and rebooted Battlefield... that was the right time to do that and we built some of those franchises out.

The introduction of new hardware from the big three is going to allow us to reembark on a bunch of new IPs, because it's the better time to do it, because you can really explore new ideas and do different things.

In a market this massive, launching new IPs is very risky and it's a big investment to make these games. So it's a natural thing to see in this point in the cycle a little bit more emphasis on the knowns - the big properties and franchises - but in the new cycle you're going to see a lot of new IP from Electronic Arts.

You still seem to enjoy testing a risk every now and then with titles like SSX and Syndicate...

We tried a few of those this year and some of them were very successful. The other place that we try a lot of new IP introduction is in our social and free to play businesses. We'll experiment a fair bit with new IPs there, see if they take hold, learn and prototype things that can maybe make the leap to consoles.

Consoles is just one part of our total portfolio. We have a lot of businesses on social, mobile and desktop free to play like Battlefield Heroes and Need for Speed World. So we try and look at all the platforms and time that IP introduction.

Does the unusually long length of this console cycle make your job easier or harder?

It's an entertainment business. You have to surprise people and you have to take risks. If you don't, you die. So constantly trying to stay fresh from an entertainment standpoint is a difficult challenge. But it's something we try to do at EA and I think we have a better track record than most in being able to innovate and build franchises over time and introduce new ideas.

Like I said before, I'm a big believer in new IPs - it's the lifeblood of what we do. It's just a matter of being able to pick the right time and spot to bring them in and to make sure that when they do come in they're extremely high quality so they can really reach the widest possible audience.

EA's current hierarchy isn't afraid to point out how the company's changed since the old days of being branded 'evil EA' by some consumers. Those fears seem to have resurfaced following your move to focus on sequels this year. Can you reassure fans you're not returning to old ways?

It's certainly not at all how I'm approaching the job. I can tell you right now there's between three and five new IPs that we're working on that we're thinking about for the next-gen. Some of them might come to market, some of them might not.

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FIFA 13

It's really one of those things where I'm consciously looking at introducing new IPs into the portfolio over the next several years as the new hardware comes into the marketplace that we can refresh.

Right now if I was coming out with a brand new IP that nobody had ever heard of, it would be very difficult to get the mindshare of gamers. You might get really good press for introducing a new IP, but to sell a couple of million units to break even on it at this point in the cycle... discretion's the better part of valour, to hold it a little bit so you get a whole new market refresh and reset.

I care deeply about making sure that the games that we make are very high quality and yeah, it is a bit awkward sometimes when you say, 'I've got a bunch of sequels this year'. We do, but there's a lot of innovation inside of them. The way that you're playing Need for Speed this year has never been done before; that open world, fully connected, drop in, drop out gameplay has never been seen in a racing game before.

Medal of Honor is taking the Frostbite 2 tech a doing some really innovative things with gameplay like destruction and how you break through doors... that's all new. FIFA would drop away and die and PES would come back if we didn't innovate and change things.

The care might look the same but it drives differently and it's faster. That's what's the hardest part of the business sometimes; keeping the most dedicated customers out there that want you to constantly do new stuff in existing worlds, and at the same time introducing new worlds like we did a few years ago with Dead Space and Mirror's Edge.

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