Electronic Arts COO David Gardner outlines seven key objectives
Interrupted halfway through his keynote by a false fire alarm, EA's David Gardner described such issues as attracting more female gamers and facilitating more user-created content as a couple of prime objectives in the years ahead.
1. Female gaming: "If EA were to crack this market," Gardner said, it would be worth "a billion extra dollars per year in sales" for the publisher. "We've been talking about this for a long time, but it's a market we need to crack." He pointed out that The Sims, one of the world's most accessible franchises, was most popular with women under the age of 25 because "it's about building relationships, not developing motor skills or honing twitch abilities."
"Women don't want pink games with Paris Hilton or Britney Spears putting on makeup," said Gardner, although he conceded that EA is a long way from solving the puzzle of the female gamer. He acknowledged the failure of The Sims Online, and stated that one of the reasons it didn't succeed was because "girls didn't like it."
He said, "It's about the creative teams, new experiments and new people." He pointed out that among EA's 11 internal studios, four are run by women. "Investment in talent is critical," he added.
2. In-game advertising: "The debate ends this year. It's here, let's get on with it. In-game advertising adds credibility depending on the product. We're not talking about US TV-style ads that are constantly interrupting the experience. [In-game ads are] part of the fabric. We just have to get on with it, and as creators, we must fit it in seamlessly."
3. Multi-tasking: Gardner talked about the "mind-numbing wallpaper" of television compared with the thought interactivity of videogames, and argued that all media are seeking ways to attract the multi-tasking media generation.
He predicted that the hardcore audience was committed to total immersion, but the casual gamer is more of a free-roaming consumer, and in order to attract that consumer, game makers might have to be more flexible. "One idea might be shorter levels where players can achieve a sense of accomplishment in an hour instead of over a period of three hours," he said.
Gardner also talked about how EA Sports is integrating ESPN content into its games, including the news ticker seen in previous games, as well as in-game ESPN radio updates, ESPN.com access through the gaming interface and even ESPN TV broadcasts.
"Gamers can experience real-world sports within the EA Sports environment."
4. New talent: "New talent will fast-track on a much shorter learning curve," Gardner said. "Writers and artists from other media will make a bigger impact. Students from universities who have grown up with games are creating great innovations."
5. Legislation: Gardner predicted that more legislation attacking games will take place, despite recent victories against it. But he said that game makers have an obligation "to understand what we are building and explain that to consumers and to their parents." He added, "Most of this legislation is sponsored by politicians who have never played a game."
6. User-created content: "Developers will encourage user-created content as a feature. Open environments like YouTube and MySpace have created a Wild West out there, but the game industry can provide controlled environments backed up by an economic universe where the content is either paid for or adds to the game experience."
He showed a demo of Spore, which he described as "a massively multi-player single-player game," referring to players' abilities to upload and download user creations.
7. Britain's role: He light-heartedly suggested that Britain "can help lead the industry creatively." He joked that great games rarely come from a good climate, and pointed to standout British gaming contributions such as Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto.