EA: We're Getting Better at Listening

CEO Andrew Wilson admits, "We haven't always been great listeners," but says the company is improving its dialogue with gamers.

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In a frank new interview with GamesIndustry Interational, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson freely admits that the Battlefield and Mass Effect publisher has come up short in the past of listening to gamers' requests. But going forward, as part of Wilson's new "player-first" objective for the publisher, he says the company is improving its dialogue with gamers everywhere.

Andrew Wilson
Andrew Wilson

Thanks to the rise in digital gaming, EA is better-equipped to make changes on the fly, Wilson said. "One of the things that we're learning as we make the digital transformation is that we don't need to guess what players want any more. For the longest time we had to guess, and the first opportunity to find out whether you got it right or not was when you saw the game on the shelf," he said. "Now, we're getting better at listening. We haven't always been great listeners, but we're getting better, and what that's telling us is that people want choice. They want to be able to choose what's right for them at a given moment in time. There isn't a one-size-fits-all any longer. We've got to build a core platform, game engines, and games that facilitate that."

One of the ways EA is offering choice to consumers is through EA Access, its newly launched subscription program for Xbox One that gives members unlimited--and permanent--access to a "vault" of titles for $5/month or $30/year. The arrival of EA Access doesn't mean EA will stop selling games at retail, as that market still remains the preferred choice for many, he said. However, for the people who do decide to use EA Access, they can expect their $5/month or $30/year to go further and further, just as movie streaming site Netflix has become a more compelling package since its original launch.

"Over time, the value will just get better and better and better, in much the same way that Netflix does," Wilson said. "When I started subscribing to Netflix, there was no House Of Cards, there was no Orange Is The New Black--there is now."

Also in the interview, Wilson says ensuring that gamers feel they receive a fair value for their money--whether it's for a free-to-play game or a $60 boxed product--is important to him going forward. "Back in the day, it was all about delivering $60 of value; now, I want to deliver $1 of value if you want to spend $1, I want to deliver $10 of value if you want to spend $10," he said. "I want to deliver value on your investment and on your investment of time. As you get older you realize that time is the most important resource. We should think about the investment of money, but also the investment of time."

Wilson was named EA CEO in September 2013, replacing longtime top executive John Riccitiello.

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