EA going social with sports

Develop 2011: Wilson reveals plans for a single persistent online profile across platforms and EA sports franchises with a single purchase.

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Who Was There: Andrew Wilson is senior vice president and head of development at EA. He's well known for his work on the FIFA franchise, helping it surpass rival PES both critically and in sales. Wilson is currently spearheading EA's expansion into new platforms, such as social media and mobile.

Wilson believes the future of gaming lies in downloads, mobile, and social gaming.
Wilson believes the future of gaming lies in downloads, mobile, and social gaming.

What He Talked About: Given his current role in expanding EA's social and mobile portfolio, Wilson's speech focused on how EA is doing just that with its sports franchises. The expansion is beginning with FIFA, specifically with the EA Sports Football Club service that made its debut at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. It promises to let fans interact with FIFA across a variety of platforms such as Facebook, mobile, PC, and console.

Wilson revealed the service isn't going to be limited to FIFA, with EA planning to connect all its sports franchises to persistent online profiles, including big hitters such as Tiger Woods, Madden, and NHL. While the new cross-platform features will initially be limited to play within a single title, EA's ultimate aim is to have multiple titles interact with each other, letting you work towards building up a single profile regardless of what sport you're playing.

In a video that was shown, gamers were challenging friends to matches on phones and tablets, managing their team statistics online, and interacting socially via Facebook for FIFA, Tiger Woods, and Madden. Wilson explained that the idea behind Amazon's Kindle--which lets people consume content on any device they want with just a single purchase--was the basis for the service.

While details of pricing weren't revealed, the premise of persistence and presence across platforms with a single purchase cost is something EA is planning to move toward with its sports franchises. While this could initially seem like a bad idea from a monetary standpoint, it would ultimately make more money for EA over time, explained Wilson, with word of mouth and microtransactions generating huge amounts of revenue.

Quote: "You can pretty much buy an elephant on Amazon if you wanted to," said Wilson, on Amazon's successful expansion from books to downloads.

Takeaway: While Wilson used EA's own sports properties as examples of how to move to new platforms, he issued a warning to other publishers who might not be convinced that mobile, social, and digital are the future, telling them that the days of long development cycles and ending work on a game when it's shipped are over. Games sold on disc will still be a viable proposition for the foreseeable future, he said, but consumers want to play games their way, across multiple platforms and at their convenience, not at that of the developer or publisher.

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