EA: Games becoming 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week experiences

COO Peter Moore believes games should be continual activities, says company is already on track to deliver this; explains why Galway customer service center is integral to business.

Last month, Electronic Arts announced it was to add 300 staff to its Galway customer service centre in Ireland. The centre, which was opened in 2011 by Bioware to support the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic, already houses some 400 staff, but the increase aims to offer multilingual support around the clock to EA's customer base. We caught up with Peter Moore, Electronic Arts chief operating officer, to find out more about why the publisher was attracted to Ireland, the closure of PopCap in the region, and why games today are becoming around-the-clock services.

Peter Moore.

The Galway Centre opened in 2011 for Star Wars: The Old Republic--what's the focus on broadening it at this point?

Well, you're exactly right--when we first came in here it was a primarily a single game focus, with Bioware leadership. And as our business evolved and as the industry has evolved in the last 12 months in particular, and games moving more to always-on, 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week, we've also evolved and grown the centre. So I've been over about five weeks ago with the Irish Prime Minister making an announcement about growing this centre and a long term plan to add another 300 jobs in Galway. So much of that is focused on growing our ability to interact with our consumer 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week. As our games, as I say, become services, so does the demand to get instant response for our consumers…and we have to respond to that demand. Otherwise I think we're being disingenuous when we take their money if we're not there for them as we move more and more into this direct-to-consumer world that we as publishers are now embracing.

"As our games, as I say, become services, so does the demand to get instant response for our consumers…and we have to respond to that demand. Otherwise I think we're being disingenuous."

You mentioned the Irish Prime Minister there. What role has the government played in the formation of the customer service centre?

The Irish Prime Minister, the Taoiseach, in Dublin a few weeks ago--he and I sat down at a press conference and announced our commitment to Ireland, which they love. First, they love Electronic Arts being committed to the Irish Republic, bringing a technical element of our jobs, particularly focused on the Western part of Ireland and being able to grow our already pretty sizable footprint here. I also think we act as what they call a cluster in which a lot of other companies look at EA making a commitment to this part of the world and following suit and I think that's important to them. And our commitment, the power of what Electronic Arts brings to a region was sufficient to actually get the Prime Minister to get personally involved in making this happen, as well as the Minister of Enterprise, Richard Bruton, who was also at the press conference. I can take you back to places like Vancouver where we put down stakes many years ago and feel very proud about what Vancouver, British Columbia means to digital entertainment today, so much of that were the roots that EA decided to put down, and I think that they see that and feel that this situation is no different. When companies like ourselves make commitments to regions, other companies follow suit.

"When companies like ourselves make commitments to regions, other companies follow suit."

What are the overall aims for the Galway expansion, and how will you be measuring success?

Well, I think more and more as we start to focus on dealing directly with our consumers, so many of our game experiences now rely upon our ability to respond to challenges that consumers have. And the game experience is less about walking into a retailer and buying a plastic disc and taking it home and waiting for the game to load and then playing. It's more about downloads and achievements and entitlements and downloadable content and micro transactions. And your credit card is out there and we need to protect your security and privacy. And when you download something and it doesn't quite work the way that you expected to, we've had a commercial transaction with you and we need to help you. So from that perspective, we need to build out that competency because that is our industry of the future, that is the way that interactive entertainment is going, and we've got to be prepared to be able to help people--this is no longer an offline experience, this is no longer really a physical media experience going forwards, this is going to be direct to consumer digital. And companies like ourselves--I put us in the same bracket as Apple, Google, Facebook--we're a service, we're online, we're providing entertainment, and boy we better be there for the consumer when some of that breaks down.

What kind of standards does the customer service centre hold? Specifically, do you train the staff there to deal with gamers, who can be fairly contentious and outspoken?

(Laughs) Yeah, you don't get to talk to a gamer for three weeks I think is the training. We don't let you out in the wild for three weeks. I've had the fascinating privilege listening to calls and watching our agents help people get through--they've lost their passwords, they know they've downloaded something--they can't figure out where it went, they've got some micro transactions they thought they paid for--they can't figure out where they are in a game situation. All of those things have to be resolved, and we owe it to the consumer to resolve those things. We also have to be careful--we have 20 million contacts a year right now, either via telephone or live chat or email or web based support, and not everyone in a 20 million contact sampling is up to any good and we just have to be careful with what's going on. Obviously when you're dealing online and you're dealing with somebody's credit card information, we also have security and privacy and that is paramount in what what we do here.

"And companies like ourselves--I put us in the same bracket as Apple, Google, Facebook--we're a service, we're online, we're providing entertainment, and boy we better be there for the consumer when some of that breaks down."

Can you go into depth on the total headcount over there now, and how the 300 new jobs are broken down?

I don't know about breaking down, but since we made the announcement of 300 jobs, in the first week we received 1,500 resumes and CVs, so clearly great demand. A very fascinating industry for people to want to work in here, and so we're sifting through those now. We've got job [requisitions] on the website. When we look at our overall global number we're about six hundred employees full-time and part-time at Electronic Arts that deal exclusively in handling our customer challenges, plus partners around the world that we outsource some of our capacity to as well, so it's a growing part of our business; it's an important part of our business, and then there's no time limit on the 300 here in Galway. We're sifting through resumes, making the hires weekly, obviously looking at quality people rather than hiring in quantity and that is also important to us.

Is there still a dedicated Old Republic division within the centre, or has that been assimilated into the wider group?

It's part, but it's no different from FIFA, it's no different from Battlefield; It's an MMO so it is a large part of this centre here that takes care of folks and as you know we're moving to a hybrid model going forward here with both subscription and free-to-play and that is relatively imminent, so from our perspective we need to be geared up for that, so it's a big part of what we do here, but so is FIFA and Battlefield and as of today Medal of Honor and as of next week Need for Speed.

Zenimax also has staff in Galway. What's the attraction of the area? Why is it so enticing?

First of all, it's a beautiful place to work and it's a relatively young place. When I say that, from a demographic perspective, there's a tremendous amount of technical students here at the local colleges and university that gives us a pipeline for well-educated technical folks coming right out of school, what we call "campus hires" that would allow us to bring them back in. And at the same time, we get great support as we alluded to from the Irish government, in making sure that we're developing programmes through the Irish Development Agency in making this an important part of what they do here in Western Ireland, and like any government, they take job creation very seriously and invest accordingly and we're delighted to work with them. I had the pleasure of meeting them when I was in Dublin, and I'm going to see them again today, and we have a very close relationship and we'll continue to compare notes of how we can help build this part of the world and continue to invest in it. And when we think about the two places in the world now that are important to us for our customer experience, it's Austin, Texas and Galway, Ireland.

In terms of measuring customer satisfaction long-term, how does EA go about that?

We measure it daily--so much of what we do will be surveys with the customer that brings back we we call CSAT scores: customer satisfaction scores. Typically, and you know this because you're a consumer is that survey, the post-transactional surveys, if you talk to us we'll ask you permission to ask you about experience and ask you to rank what happened so we're getting 24-hour-a-day feedback on what we can do better. And then we ask you, quite frankly, to be able to rank us and that's how you get customer satisfaction scores because we can think we're doing well, but if the consumer doesn't think we're doing well, then nothing really matters because it's got to be their reaction to us, and then that builds into a score database that we look at internally every single day.

" I think the idea is to make games bigger, make them 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week experiences."

The expansion in Galway has come at a similar time to the reduction at PopCap in Dublin. What was the primary decision in terms of the closure?

Unrelated--they're both in Ireland, that's the only linkage between the two. The other one was more of a development studio but PopCap had grown enormously and they were just doing some resizing in their business. I think the good news is that we were able in a lot of instances to offer other EA opportunities to PopCap folks. I know that, having spoken to, and got some reports back, that many of them are already gainfully employed elsewhere so we're hopeful that that hasn't been too negative an impact on those particular folks, and my thoughts are always with the employees and their families and hopefully they get employment again quickly which I think is going to be the case in most instances.

What are the big challenges for EA going into 2013?

Well, I think we're still going through this transformation as an industry and I think we're handling it as well as anybody, if not better. We've got big franchises but less of them, and I think the idea is to make games bigger, make them 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week experiences and we talked about a few of them already--Battlefield 3 in particular. We're still seeing peak concurrent users grow and gosh, we're nearly 11, 12 months since we launched that game and that's great for the industry. FIFA is a phenomenon on its own, and FIFA Ultimate Team--the way that people interact with that game now, I think, is industry-leading. And then [Star Wars: The Old Republic] is still a powerful part of, you know, certainly what we look at as the future of massively multiplayer games with great IP layered on, and we're going to be fascinated in the not-too-distant future to see how this kind of free-to-play and subscription hybrid model works. And we're geared up and ready to go with that. I think that we've, as a company, made all the necessary investments both in infrastructure at the back end and customer service that is somewhat invisible I think. But when you grow to [become] a company that literally interacts with hundreds of millions of people a month through all of our game experiences, you better have the infrastructure, the plumbing if you will, that works every day, otherwise it all falls down pretty quickly, and I'm confident we've got that.

FIFA's been a huge success, especially in the UK. What about NBA Live, what can you tell us about that franchise? Will it be going free-to-play?

"But when you grow to [become] a company that literally interacts with hundreds of millions of people a month through all of our game experiences, you better have the infrastructure…otherwise it all falls down pretty quickly."

No, there's nothing to announce on that, you saw the announcement that we're not shipping NBA Live this year and it'll be "standby, stay tuned for further info on that."

We're not sure if you saw Tim Schafer talking about the cultural effects of disbanding teams at the end of projects, but do you have any opinions on that at all?

You know, look, I saw the headline--I got on the plane from San Francisco two nights ago and saw the headline. I didn't read down but I think I can probably guess his drift. You know, the idea of roll-off for teams being disbanded--I don't know, it's difficult for me to respond to that until I've read the story. I've been in the industry long enough to know that we're constantly re-mixing staff and studios to make sure that we're reacting to consumer needs. And boy, this industry right now, you think about what's going on with social, what's going on with mobile--where do you deploy your resources so that everybody is succeeding? The employee, the company, the gamer--it's quite a challenge. Knowing Tim, he's pretty outspoken and he's a very talented and creative chap, so I'd have to read it before I can react to it, but I can pretty much imagine what the point is and all I can tell you is that from our perspective is that the continued changing and swirling seas of our industry requires us to be able to redeploy resources to wherever consumers want to play their games. Five years ago, nobody had ever heard of an iPad and smart phones didn't exist, Xbox Live wasn't the powerhouse that it was today, nor was PlayStation Network, and from that perspective we've had to change the way we create games and then link in games and nothing has been a more disruptive force than the Internet over the last decade. And so all of that comes together where you just can't have the status quo of a studio doing the same thing year in, year out and you've got to look at studios and retrain and redeploy your resources accordingly.

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Discussion

73 comments
Jack64054
Jack64054

How do I contact the Galway support center? I keep on having to call up  the US every time I have an issue (about every 20 mins)

brynhyfryd
brynhyfryd

Quotes from EA.

 

1.As our games, as I say, become services

2.games moving more to always-on, 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week

3.When companies like ourselves make commitments to regions, other companies follow suit.

4.And companies like ourselves--I put us in the same bracket as Apple, Google, Facebook--we're a service, we're online, we're providing entertainment, and boy we better be there for the consumer when some of that breaks down.

 

EA, Who the fuck do you think you are. You can keep your 24 hour 7 day DRM games service and shove it up your pie hole. 

You wanna be like apple and google with their app stores!!! Good luck with that.

 

Ohh and in other news

 

EA posts $381 million loss

Kjranu
Kjranu

Moore is a snake. He destroyed the Dreamcast and then moved on to Microsoft. Now he's sitting all lofty at EA. How nice for him. 

nagarond
nagarond

This guys are too eager for the age of "always online" and microtransactions but when hackers catch up to this and people's wallets start getting robbed all hell will break loose.

 

Also he just avoided the question regarding Tim Schafer entirely! Schafer knows what he's talking about, else he wouldn't resort to kickstarter to make games. On a different note, Schafer makes awesome games.

 

Sgthombre
Sgthombre

Sleep? Bah! You don't need that! You need to play the newest Need For Speed over... and over.. and over...

DantheMan9856
DantheMan9856

24 hours 7 days a week? f*ck that....I'd be getting a job...

Grimkillah
Grimkillah

Just train your staff first please? I need to explain to some idiot the finer difference between paid DLC and promotional items for 5 minutes.

Jeromeface420
Jeromeface420

Im sure the US could have used 300 more jobs... but way to outsource EA

 

TrueProphecy22
TrueProphecy22

That third section is a depressing state of the industry.

NoelXYeul
NoelXYeul

Everyday I think about video games...well, every day I play them, except for Sunday. And Friday because that's Degrassi day.

bloody-hell
bloody-hell

You know, EA, if your games ...

- wouldn't be the same all the time

- wouldn't have an online requirement

- wouldn't be released as bug filled, untested products

- wouldn't be bloated with 3rd party DRM crap

... but instead ...

- would be quality tested, bug free

- would be "ours" to own after we bought it to reinstall and enjoy whenever we like

- would be DRM free and playable offline

- would offer mod support to increase longevity

- would allow us to host our own servers (and allow direct connection instead of lobbies)

... then ...

- you wouldn't require huge customer support centers

- you wouldn't require large server farms

- you wouldn't require lots of bandwidth

- ...

 

... and people (your customers) would even be happy to pay money for your products.

 

Then again, you can't argue with stubborn executives which only sniff on their investors asses.

Too bad though for all the development studios they bought up, because I'm not getting any of their games because of the "EA" fact.

 

It doesn't hurt the industry much though, if they do what they think is right, then they can watch their customer satisfaction and customer amount graphs drop for all I care and then slowly disappear into nothingness while I continue to throw my money at indie game developers and studios without any connection to EA, UbiSoft and Activision.

 

I am the customer, it's my choice and you don't win me back with stupid news announcements like that.

tsunami2311
tsunami2311

EA can go stuff it, with there ideas, They ruining Swtor, much like they been games in general. Cant remeber the last time I bought EA game or for that mater and went this is really good game. And Swtor was bought sololy for the fact it closest thing we gona get to a Kotor3, And Swtor has been plagued with game engine issues since launch and each patch seem to be making it worse

foxrock66
foxrock66

This man, and others, make me fear for our future

farcorners
farcorners

how much is spin? Are they gonna release more broken games that need to be fixed with a patch, after purchase? Is that what they will need call centre response for? I have lost a lot of faith in E.A. They were originally founded as a publisher for "software artists." That was long ago.

Scorpion1813
Scorpion1813

This guy keeps changing his idea of what the future of gaming will be all about. Not only that but it's usually things that aren't that popular.

 

I see it as him trying to convince people to like these ideas, and hoping people will jump on the bandwagon. Too bad his ideas suck and he works at EA.

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

Wow what a guy LOL or not. EA rule the world.

Support round the clock is a nice idea if it works

phudabulah
phudabulah

Written like an advertisement... the true mark of a bought news service!

rodier3
rodier3

And he is saying about 24/7/365 service? Tell this to gamers that bought EA game  barely 2 years old and multiplayer is already not working cause they shut down servers.  CoD from Activision have still working servers on CoD1/2.  So where is BF1942?

rodier3
rodier3

omg, srsly? why gamespot write articles about this?  This guy is most hated person on this world.  He is talking bullshits. with everything. EA is not able to success in game types where competition is needed, so  at least he talks bullshit.  Like with swtor. Like with "new ip on console now is bad".. and then dishonored and xcome poup.  He is just fkin moron.  And no, BF3 is not from EA, its from DICE. 

toddx77
toddx77

Games have always been a 24 hour experience because yuo can play them when ever you want.  I hate to see the day games become a service because basically that means we will be paying out the ass for DLC and micro transactions plus games will be streamed so EA could just cancel that "service" whenever.   

JulyAeon
JulyAeon

having pointed out that all their games will be multi player this says nothing new, nothing innovating just lazy games being developed with over the top prices, no hope of improvement, yawn

GH05T-666
GH05T-666

lol when haven't games been 7 days a week, 24 hours a day for gamers?

Trickymaster
Trickymaster

Peter Moore kinda looks like Anton Szandor LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan. Church of Satan, EA,... same thang.

PStrife
PStrife

EA just found this out recently?  You have people literally dying near their PCs in Asia due to days long gaming sessions for years now.  They couldn't have just received that memo early this year.

Setzera
Setzera

Welcome to the 90's EA, people have been playing around the clock for well over a decade without your help.

yellosnolvr
yellosnolvr

what's the going rate on ragu nowadays?

PrpleTrtleBuBum
PrpleTrtleBuBum

He's of course talking about Facebook, iOS etc. games. Well MMOs are active about 24/7 too.

 

So nothing that'd interest me. If EA abandons consoles and PC to move over to mobile it wouldn't be a bad day.

okassar
okassar

The only game I ever played 24/7 was Morrowind.  Sometimes I would play it all day, then, in my dreams, I was the Nerevarine.

mogqwai
mogqwai

I wonder if it is a 24/7 thing for them to avoid realizing they make people upset.

By reading all the comments here, it's kind of obvious to me..

 I sure am not into 24 hours of DLC and micro-transactions.. they make me wanna retch! I avoid games that are heavy on that and also games that require me to jump through their hoops to prove I bought them. (IE: Diablows 3, and always online)

 I hate them and their total lack of "hearing" what their past and  would be customers have to say, nevermind one of the worst customer services in the business.

 They should just stick with pogo and forget everything else.

  I have never seen anything so oblivious to the rest of the world than EA.

Side note: What is with this place always acting like anything EA says is relevant?

Lost-to-Apathy
Lost-to-Apathy

EA, you suck. You may still have a couple of studios that are capable of making great games, but your hunger for money and your methods of exploitation pretty much make me not want to play any of your games.

Kerrizma
Kerrizma

i swear that the scariest possible halloween costume is dressing up as a EA representative.  These people just ooze creepiness.

Pyrosa
Pyrosa

 @rodier3 He's REALLY saying "Yeah, you can take that '365' quite LITERALLY -- I mean, we're going to start shutting those servers down exactly a year after launch.  So you'd better be playing around the clock in order to get any value."

Tha_Rnar
Tha_Rnar

EA owns the franchise, so DICE got nothing to say.

chronocommander
chronocommander

 @Venatorcruiser  @toddx77 What would happen when you want to play the streamed game when that one becomes retro then? The market should just kill streamed games before it takes off irreversibly or force offline backups. Always online has caused more problems than it has solved.

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

@bennie12 @Lost-to-Apathy Origins, buying companies out to destroy them a few months later... Voted worst company, then basicly said, "hey, at least we don't give you cancer like big tobacco companies."

bennie12
bennie12

 @Lost-to-Apathy  Oops.

What I was going to say, is in what way do they suck and in what way do the exploit?  I am just wondering because I hear it alot but I don't really hear the examples.

psx_warrior
psx_warrior

@---Cipher--- You just perfectly described Microsoft.