EA CEO talks Dead Space 3, NFL Deal, Battlefield 3

John Riccitiello says next installment in sci-fi horror series may join 5 million-seller club, confirms extension of pro football contract, discusses annualized military shooters.

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Yesterday, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello presented at the 2011 Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. Among the various subjects touched upon was Dead Space 2, the sci-fi horror sequel that sold-in--or shipped--2 million units as of the first of the month.

EA's CEO is already thinking about Dead Space 3.
EA's CEO is already thinking about Dead Space 3.

Ironically, Riccitiello said that number wasn't the most accurate measurement of the game's success. He said, "To be honest with you, sell-in numbers can be a little misleading because they can overstate or understate the case. I think the best measure is what the sell-through has been and Dead Space 2 compared to Dead Space 1 in a like number of weeks, has been about double, a little more than 100 percent growth. It's an example of how we can take a key intellectual property, put it in the marketplace, and then build on it. Games with 2s, 3s, and 4s behind them almost always sell better than the original launch edition."

Later on, Riccitiello listed EA's "strong, growing franchises" as being "Madden, FIFA, Need for Speed, Medal of Honor, Battlefield…Mass Effect…Dragon Age, and the one that's not proven coming later in our fiscal year is Star Wars[: The Old Republic]." He continued, "Now that excludes Dead Space because I think it will probably take Dead Space 3 before we get into the 5 million-unit cadence versus, say 3, 4 [million]." (Emphasis added.)

Riccitiello also touched on the report earlier this week that the EA-NFL exclusivity deal has been extended to 2013. He explained, "What was reported in the press was a bit more that I wanted to get out there at this point in time about our relationship with the NFL, and that they have granted us relief…against our licensed royalties in the event that there is a lockout this year. And what was reported in the press...it is fair to say is largely true."

He continued, "We did negotiate our P&L in the event of a lockout so we don't get hurt as much as we otherwise would. Second, we did extend [the deal], which was great. The one thing that was a little hard to interpret that was out that sort of implied that we pay more later for the [National Football] League [rights] than in the present, and that's not correct. So we have extended the relationship, but there's no quid pro quo in 2011 or fiscal 2012 for a larger amount at any given point in the future."

The executive also addressed his high hopes for Battlefield 3, due out on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 later in the year. "I've made no excuse that I want market leadership in the first-person shooter business," said Riccitiello. "In many ways, I feel like we created the first mass-market first-person shooter with Medal of Honor. Unfortunately, during the transition to the PS3 era, we lost that. We're after it now."

He continued, "There's a great thing about an annual franchise, whether it's us or our competition. When you've got that annual franchise, it's a meal ticket. You can generate a great deal of income. One of the problems with an annual franchise is you don't take the time to reengineer the underlying code base, so it is, if you will, as next generation as it can be. So we think there's a window of opportunity here. We've been investing for three years to build this next Battlefield 3 game, [and] I think it will stand up as the best product in the industry this year. And we're going to get at 'em."

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