EA on '08: We just didn't make hits

COO John Pleasants tells investors the publisher failed to execute last year, but is upbeat about his company's lean-and-mean '09 slate.


Earlier this month, Electronic Arts painted a rather dismal picture with its recap of the crucial holiday-sales quarter. The publisher lowered its outlook for the current year, raised its expected layoffs total to 11 percent of the company, and delayed a handful of its most anticipated games, such as The Sims 3 and Dragon Age: Origins.

EA says it has learned from its experience with FaceBreaker.
EA says it has learned from its experience with FaceBreaker.

Speaking at this week's Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Electronic Arts COO John Pleasants acknowledged the publisher's problems. Although a slumping economy and increasing investments in digital distribution and Wii development have hurt the bottom line of late, Pleasants said that the biggest reason for EA's lower financial results was that "We just didn't make hits."

"Now more than ever in this recessionary time, we see the consumer's flight to highly discounted product or very, very top, top 10 products," Pleasants said. "And our products that we thought were going to get into those slots didn't get in there. And that's execution, and we take full responsibility for that."

As for how EA will improve its lot in the coming year, Pleasants said that the company is making some changes. For one thing, it's going to concentrate its efforts on fewer products, with the total number of EA products released being trimmed 20 percent year-over-year.

Reflecting the publisher's restated commitment to Nintendo's console, Pleasants said that EA has 20-25 games in development for the Wii, "none of them ports." (Although brands such as Need for Speed and Dead Space will have Wii installments, they will be developed from the ground up specifically for the system.) He added that the company has been revamping many of those games as they go along to incorporate lessons learned from previous Wii efforts such as FaceBreaker K.O. Party and the EA Sports All-Play line.

"We're pouring the proverbial gasoline on that to make sure we drive that innovation," Pleasants said.

EA is even rethinking the way that it promotes its games. Pleasants said that the publisher has been waiting too long to get the word out on games, and will start promoting games much further out from their release dates, and with a steady stream of new assets (screenshots, trailers) to support them.

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