Q&A: Moore debuts at EA's GameShow
GameSpot finds out how the 360's onetime biggest backer is settling into his new gig as the head of the world's biggest multiplatform label.
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REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--"That's what I call a s***-eating grin."
That was just one of the throwaway lines Peter Moore threw out today in his first public appearance as president of EA Sports at Electronic Arts' Studio Showcase, as he poked fun at a stock photo of himself. However, the line perfectly encapsulated the executive's attitude as he starts afresh in a senior executive slot at yet another gaming powerhouse.
Moore's new gig comes after four years of helping promote Microsoft's gaming efforts on the PC, Xbox, and Xbox 360. Just days before he resigned from Microsoft, he emceed its press briefing at the E3 Media & Business Summit. An entire section of Microsoft's event was dedicated to EA Sports titles, with Moore loudly touting the fact that EA Sports' Madden NFL 08 ran at 60 fps on the 360, while only 30 fps on the PlayStation 3.
However, less than two months later, there Moore was--onstage, touting games made for "my new favorite console," the PS3. Shortly after he committed heresy in many Microsoft loyalists' eyes by holding a Sixaxis controller aloft proudly, he did it again, wielding the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. "And now here's my other favorite console," he said, to boisterous laughter from the audience.
The only sore point in Moore's presentation was a jarring audio-mix glitch during a demo of EA GameShow, a forthcoming sports trivia game being developed by EA Tiburon. Set for release this fall, GameShow will be a free PC download that will allow players to pit their sports knowledge against others nationwide for prizes. Questions will be posed via text, video clips, and a live DJ operating from EA's Tiburon studios.
Indeed, Moore himself was a walking, talking sports trivia jukebox. Even though he reminded the crowd of his love for what the rest of the world calls football--soccer--many of his comments were designed to display his vast knowledge of American football. While promoting the arcade-style pigskin game NFL Tour, he made reference to the so-called "Madden curse."
"Athletes love to be on the cover of our game, despite what you think of the curse," he said, before joking, "Well, it doesn't stop them from cashing the checks, does it?"
Moore's humor belied the fact that he seemed completely at ease promoting the products of his former rivals. Though it was a position he was in at Microsoft, having worked at Sega during the tail end of the Genesis era, the rancor of the current three-way conflict would be difficult for many to leave behind. But when speaking with GameSpot this week, Moore appeared as relaxed and unflappable as ever.
GameSpot: I'm sure you've been asked this question before, and you'll probably be asked it again. After being a passionate advocate for the Xbox for so long, now you find yourself in the position of working with your former rivals. How does that feel?
Peter Moore: In the new role that I'm in, you can take a very different perspective on the values and the attributes of each platform. And I can see, with both the Wii and the PS3, areas that we can take advantage of that the Xbox 360 doesn't have. It's the same with the power of the Xbox 360, particularly when I think of Xbox Live and the great work together that EA and Microsoft have done in the past.
But, no, I know exactly what my job is, and I intend to completely execute against those job responsibilities. And that's going to mean working very aggressively with all three console holders, and also looking at all the other platforms, whether it's the PC or the portables, and what have you. So, no, don't worry about me.
GS: So, now that you no longer work at Microsoft, I can ask this question: What's your personal take on the console wars?
PM: Well, I think it's still early days. We're heading to an incredibly interesting holiday. And I'll stand by my statement that [EA Sports] has got the greatest lineup of games the industry has coming into this holiday. It began with the shipping of NCAA Football and it's continued more recently with Madden and Tiger.
As for console wars--I think we're still in the console skirmishes. We're in the single-digit millions, and in the case of 360, maybe in the 10 millions. But in a platform cycle that I think everybody's expectations is in the hundreds of millions, it's still early.
GS: Now, you mentioned Madden. There was a bit of controversy recently surrounding how it ran at 60 FPS on the 360 and at 30 fps on the PlayStation 3...
PM: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
GS: The official explanation was that the EA Sports developers hadn't had enough time with the PS3 dev kit. Do you foresee this problem going away with Madden 09?
PM: Well, I see it going away with NBA Live 08. I think that we had a little bit of a mea culpa, but we're getting up to speed on the platform. But that's in the past. And beginning with NBA, we're going to see PS3 titles from EA Sports running at 60 frames a second. So all of that'll be forgotten by the holiday.
GS: Do you think this is an example of the pitfalls of multiplatform development; how is EA Sports kind of overcoming that?
PM: You'll see it running at 60 frames on PS3. Once the consumer gets that in their hands, the Madden issue will become ancient history. I think you look at any development cycle, and when you've had the hardware as long as the studios have for 360 in relation to what they had for PS3, you've got this normal chronology of getting your hands on the hardware a year later. It's a little bit of a hangover from that. But that's behind us now. By the time we get to November and NBA Live ships--all gone.
GS: Now, speaking of NBA Live, I know Madden on the Wii was one of the best-reviewed non-Nintendo sports games for the Wii because it was built from the ground up for the platform. Are you taking a similar approach with NBA?
PM: I don't know if you've had the opportunity yet to utilize Family Play and Madden, but it's looking at that consumer, maybe in a slightly different way in which you can utilize the Wii controller. You can disconnect the Nunchuk for easier play for older people. That two-handed thing is not as easy as it may seem to a lot of people, myself included.
So Family Play is simply focusing on the Wii Remote and letting the CPU do a lot of the work for you. We're looking at Wii consumers in a different way than we would the Xbox 360 and the PS3 consumers, and tailoring the experience to them. At the same time, they can have a much fuller experience by simply having both the Nunchuk and the remote in their hand.
GS: One trend a lot of analysts are talking about is how first-party games from companies such as your former employer and Nintendo are selling better than third-party titles. How is EA in general and EA Sports in particular working to buck that trend?
PM: Well, I think BioShock is about to change what you just said. I'll be correcting you pretty quickly when we see the August NPD numbers. Still, I think [third parties] have a challenge. I think all of the platform holders look at balancing out what they need to do to drive innovation at a first-party level, and that's always been the role of the platform holder--to go places that maybe a third party doesn't want to do.
In our case, I see ourselves as the first-party sports brand on all three platforms. I know we compete with Wii Sports, and Sony has first-party sports games. Microsoft doesn't. But, boy, when people think about sports on any of those three platforms, I think they think about EA before they would think about the platform-holder sports experiences.
So, it's our job to be the first-party sports publisher on all three platforms, even though we're a third party. And I think EA Sports has done that very, very well over the years, even going back even to Sega, to the Genesis days. EA Sports was a powerhouse on that platform.
GS: Now, EA Sports has secured exclusivity for every kind of football, short of fictional and Canadian leagues, for years to come. But one of the worries people have is that with EA's football monopoly, for lack of a better term, the genre might stagnate.
PM: Yeah, but that hasn't happened. This year, you've seen the best Madden review scores in, what, the last four years? Now, having come from Microsoft, the M-word will not come out of my mouth. I will say the ability for us to be able to continue to actually excite the consumer is not based on having an exclusive deal with the NFL--it is in really innovating the game experience. Otherwise, they'll simply shrug their shoulders and turn their back if we don't push their buttons.
But it's a criticism I'm well aware of. It's a criticism I heard a lot a couple of years ago when the deal was done. I hear less of it nowadays. If the product stands up, and the product is competitive, and the product innovates every year, our consumer says, "This is a great Madden." Then, I think we're doing our end of the job and continue to keep the experience fresh.
GS: Now, another criticism leveled at EA Sports is that you're overextended the NFL license. You've got Madden, NFL Coach, NFL Street, and now NFL Tour. How much is too much?
PM: I'm not even sure if it's enough yet. I think that this country's appetite for the National Football League is boundless. When I look at sports brands around the world, I look at the National Football League as one of the premier sports brands. At the same time, our partnership with ESPN continues to push us, and we push them as regards the boundaries of which we want to take the experience as a way that sports is broadcast and the way that sports is played in a virtual sense.
So, I think there are still a lot of people that haven't played an NFL video game yet because we haven't actually tapped into an interest. And maybe you can point to the Wii Fit as something that we're still getting the hang of. And I think that's an untapped opportunity of bringing an NFL experience in many different ways.
So, I don't think, in any way, that we're overstretching our license. In fact, I think there are still opportunities for us to look at ways of bringing the NFL experience to more and more people that currently wouldn't actually go out and buy a full-blown copy of Madden.
GS: You mentioned the Wii Fit board. With that, you could have NFL Training Camp, where the coach works you out...
PM: [Laughs politely but not especially enthusiastically.] Yes, there are many different ways that I think we can bring the NFL license to life.
GS: Okay, going back to the three-way console war. If you were running Sony, what would you do to pull the PlayStation 3 out of third place?
PM: Well, I think all three platforms still have a lot of work to do ahead of them. You could argue that the Xbox 360 has got to get more mass market more quickly, and that the Nintendo Wii has got to be able to get into some deeper experiences with more hardcore consumers. The PS3 has got to, at some point, get its pricing in order. I think all consumers still see, whether we like it or not, that price is still a barrier to purchase. I'm hopeful that, as we've seen from Sony over the past 10 to 15 years, they understand what they need to do to start getting down to the mass market. And I'm hopeful and optimistic that they will execute against that in the not-too-distant future.
GS: Do you see the Wii as pulling ahead in the long term?
PM: Well, the one thing I will say is that I'm happy to see the three platforms really develop a point of view of who their consumer is, what their positioning is. And I think that allows the consumer to make a conscious decision. What would be the worst is if all three consoles were identical in price point and experience. I think very quickly, then, one, if not both the number two and number three [consoles], would fall off.
But what I'm happy to see is the Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii, and the Sony PlayStation 3 have a very distinctive personality, very distinctive proposition to the consumer. It's going to be up to the consumer on whether that's the games they have, the price point they have, the level of connectivity, the first-party exclusives, the third-party exclusives, all of those things. I think consumers look at and make a conscious decision to buy one, both, or all three. I am infamous for the "Wii60" concept, and I still believe in that we're going to see a tremendous amount of multiplatform ownership in homes because of that distinctive experience. I hope the PS3 comes to play in that as well.
I also think that we're about to enter a very interesting and a very dynamic part of the industry, where the battle lines are being drawn with a tremendous lineup of games. It's going to be a phenomenally interesting holiday even though, unfortunately, Grand Theft Auto IV has backed out. All three platforms, as I just mentioned, offer different propositions to the consumer whether it's price, whether it's connectivity, whether it's the experience of the Wii Remote, in particular. It's our job at EA to be able to tailor our game experiences to whatever that consumer wants. So, I think it's going to be a fascinating holiday, and I think it's going to be a great holiday for the industry.
GS: You think so?
PM: Oh, yeah.
GS: You don't think that it's overcrowded, that there's just too much coming out?
PM: I'd rather have that than the opposite, I really would. I think the cream rises to the top. I've seen these holidays before. I think, overall, a lot of people are going to be going into stores to pick up one game, and it's my experience that they typically pick up another, or look at some value-priced opportunities to pick up an accessory or two. There's nothing wrong with a lot of people being puzzled about where to spend their money, believe me.