PS4 comfortable leader in U.S. consumer poll

Consumer survey shows 26 per cent interested in PS4 purchase, 15 per cent for Xbox One.

PS4 leader in U.S. consumer poll

Sony’s PlayStation 4 was comfortably ahead of Microsoft’s Xbox One in a recent poll on consumer interest in the new consoles this holiday season.

The survey, which was organised by Reuters and Ipsos, polled almost 1,300 people in the U.S. between September 23 and September 24. Around 26 per cent of participants indicated that they were likely to purchase a PlayStation 4 before the end of the year, compared to just 15 per cent for Xbox One.

Among the participants below the age of 40, the interest in purchasing a new console was generally higher, but the divide between Sony and Microsoft remained: 41 per cent opted for the PlayStation 4, compared to 27 per cent for Xbox One. This will be encouraging news for Sony, as the U.S. market is where the PlayStation conceded the most ground to Xbox over the course of this generation.

At Gamescom last month, Sony confirmed that it had received more than 1 million pre-orders for the PlayStation 4. Microsoft has not released hard figures, though it has already taken more pre-orders for Xbox One than it secured for Xbox 360.

However, the most popular choice was nothing at all, with 64 per cent of respondents indicating no intention of purchasing any new game hardware this year, despite a range of choices that included current generation hardware, Nintendo’s 2DS and Valve’s ‘Steam Box’ concept.

The poll also reinforced the perception of the Wii U as a failing experiment: only 3 per cent of participants said that they currently play games on Nintendo’s console, versus 20 per cent on Xbox 360, 20 per cent on personal computers and 18 per cent on PlayStation 3.



Sony’s Gara: PS4 “feels like a bit of a rebirth”

Meet the man that every UK games retailer has on speed dial.

Sony's Gara

Fergal Gara is VP and MD of UK and Ireland at Sony Computer Entertainment and he’s just about to face his first console launch. He’s had experience of retail before with nearly six years with Asda, but the PlayStation 4 puts him firmly on the other side of that fence, marketing a huge product launch at his erstwhile colleagues and contemporaries.

GamesIndustry International sat down with Gara the morning after Sony’s Gamescom press conference to talk about the PlayStation 4’s success in the pre-order market so far, why Vita is still an essential part of Sony’s offering and why it’s an emotional time to be a console manufacturer.

Q: Sony as whole seems to have been very open about the details and features of the PlayStation 4 from very early on, was that a conscious decision?

Fergal Gara: For me that goes all the way back to February 20 and Mark Cerny who said it was a five year project in listening to developers in particular: what did they need to make life easier, to get the toolkit that gave them the most creative scope? And therefore it’s been a project of opening up and embracing the development community, big and small.

I think what you saw last night was a great, rich example of the sheer breadth that comes out of having such a policy. I think we just further underlined the points that have been there since February really, of which there are more and more examples. It’s great to see that diversity, we want to be the ubiquitous home for gaming, gaming for everybody and that means every kind of user, every kind of gamer, but also every kind of developer.

Q: It does feel that with this console launch Sony have got things right. Is that how it feels internally? Do you feel confident?

Fergal Gara: There’s nothing better in any form of business than when customers are rewarding you with their custom and it’s absolutely true to say, particularly since E3, that gamers have been rewarding us with their commitment and their pre-orders. That does have a motivational effect on the team so people are more chipper, they’re more focused, they’re more upbeat and it is fantastic that the key strategies that have been laid out and planned way back, we’ve been able to not deviate from them whatsoever. It does feel like we’re getting a lot of things right and that’s helping the teams be even more motivated and even more focused on doing the best job that they can.

Q: Pre-orders must help when you’re making deals with publishers and developers too?

“Success is contagious, but we don’t allow ourselves to get smug or complacent”

Fergal Gara: Success is contagious, and it does feel like a lot of things are clicking into place now nicely, but we don’t allow ourselves to get in any way smug or complacent. But yes, we’re feeling confident and that’s a good place to be.

Q: You’ve announced the release dates now – why that particular timeframe and was that always where you were aiming for?

Fergal Gara: Yes. The release target window has been there or thereabouts for a very very long time. What’s happened in recent weeks is that confidence on the production side of the equation has grown as units have started flying off the production lines. Now we can start to allocate the volumes and calculate the volumes needed by region, by territories, so that’s allowing us to communicate the date with greater confidence.

Q: Do have any idea how many units have been allocated to the UK?

Fergal Gara: Yes, but I can’t share it with you I’m afraid.

The only thing I would say is Andy [House] quoted a number last night for pre-orders, in fact he quoted a low end number, he said ‘in excess of.’ What I will say is that the UK represents a significant proportion of that, we’re talking unprecedented levels of pre-orders that we haven’t seen in 20 years in this business.

The pre-order phenomenon is a reasonably recent one, or certainly growing in recent years – but it does mean that demand is well ahead of our expectations as they were earlier in the year so our internal conversations are now all about securing volume to maximise the number of gamers we can satisfy on that day one or close to day one. It’s a problem but it’s a good problem to have.

There will be some frustration around it and we know that we’ll have to do our best to satisfy the demand and outside of that manage the frustration that may result if we’re not able to meet all of it immediately. It’s a good problem to have but a problem, and we don’t like to let anybody down.

Q: And how are you preparing with retail for the launch? PlayStation 3 was huge with free TVs and crowds, will we see that sort of thing again?

Fergal Gara: We haven’t pinned down the precise plans for what happens around the launch but I don’t see it being low key. I think it’s a big big moment for us, it feels like a bit of a rebirth to be honest in a big way so we will mark the occasion but precisely how we do it we’re working out. There’s the whole PR side of things, there’s the retail side of things, how do we bring those things together? But it’s a big moment for us so we won’t be trying to gloss over it, that’s for sure.

Q: You must be quite a popular man with retailers at the moment?

Fergal Gara: Oh yes, the phone is ringing quite a lot with one particular subject matter taking up the calls. They’re great conversations to be having, but there is an edge of frustration in there which is everybody wants more than we’re likely to be able to give them for that day one. We have to get every last unit we can into the best places we can, the most balanced route to market we can achieve, so a lot of retail planning is happening on that front.

Q: Is online retail more of a consideration now than it was when PlayStation 3 launched?

Fergal Gara: It definitely is, and one thing online does extremely well is that it’s the channel that is the king of instant reaction. So never before have we seen such an instant reaction at one moment than the E3 press conference, what happened in the 24 hours post that, particularly in the online channel, with a slightly delayed reaction but also an incredibly strong one for the traditional retail channel, was profound.

Q: Has Microsoft’s changing strategies regarding pre-owned games or independent publishing made it harder to focus your strategies for the PlayStation 4?

Fergal Gara: We can’t comment directly on the competition but what we can say is what I said earlier really, we’ve stuck to our plan. There have been no deviations, not in dates, not in times, not in business policies, not in price, nothing. So all we’ve done since February 20 is flesh things out and add the relevant details as and when it was appropriate to pin them down. So last night culminating with the date, the date was the last one of most people’s list so that slotted into place. That clearly wasn’t guided by anyone else’s communication because no one else has put their date on the table. That was when we felt was the appropriate time to pin it down and when we had the confidence to communicate it.

Q: Is Microsoft’s relationship with EA a concern? You seem to have chosen Ubisoft as a big partner for this launch…

Fergal Gara: Yes there can be some edges of competitive advantage carved out by having close associations with certain publishers or certain franchises. The way I feel about our portfolio is… well first of all the Ubisoft one is a pretty long term one. Really it’s just going on to the next chapter and I think it’s just underlined by the PS4 plan. I think it’s wonderful that they have one of the most anticipated launch titles in Watch Dogs, I think that’s hugely helpful to PS4 launch. But I think it’s also really material that we’re growing a relationship with Activision, and Destiny looks like another one, a little further off, but nonetheless one of the most anticipated next gen titles.

So how do I feel? I feel our portfolio of alliances has evolved, but I don’t think it’s any worse, maybe it’s better in terms of strength. We’re all trying to give ourselves an edge in the content front and that is one competitive landscape. I feel pretty good about the portfolio that we’ve got – whether it be the clearly truly differentiated first party titles or those close alliances that give us a bit of an edge, I think it aligns with our ‘by gamers, for gamers’ strategy in that some of those titles are the most gamer-y titles. Watch Dogs and Destiny are two big ones I’d pick out.

Q: And not feeling the need to give away a free game after Microsoft’s free FIFA 14 offer?

Fergal Gara: Well we are throwing free games at people. PlayStation Plus is a fantastic way of offering games included within the subscription and the value of that package we’re very very proud of. It’s been a little bit of a sleeping giant, very fast growing over the last year or so, but certainly nothing like its full potential. I think PS4 will take us there and it will actually underline and demonstrate the value for the other platforms as well, PS Vita and PS3, so I think there’s a tremendous content value proposition there already.

We’ve got every confidence in frankly selling out on day one, our pre-orders are incredibly healthy.

“Vita’s rate of sale has more than doubled over the course of the last few months and it’s now in solid year-on-year growth territory”

Q: It feels like Vita has been a sort of slow burn, will PlayStation 4 give the machine a bit of a sales boost because of the remote play features?

Fergal Gara: I think there was great news for Vita last night and first of all the context… yes it’s not the biggest seller in the gaming market, but its rate of sale has more than doubled over the course of the last few months and it’s now in solid year-on-year growth territory so that’s pleasing.

There were two major pieces of news last night. One is around price and the second is further developing and expanding upon the story around remote play, which looked incredibly slick, as demoed last night. Is that attractive? I think so, particularly when you bring in PS4 at an attractive opening price point, and then put Vita alongside it at its most attractive price point ever…It’s quite a powerful combo. Of course there’s no premium on the software when used for that remote play purpose. But it also services as a standalone and self contained console.

So you could buy PS4, PS Plus and PS Vita and then selected blockbuster titles for example, and actually have quite a lot of content. So you get your Vita specific download games through Plus, you get remote play and your blockbuster titles, you get additional games for PS4, so that alone gives you a lot for quite a competitive total price package. So we’re excited about that, it is bringing a PlayStation difference together for us.

Q: It feels as though gamers have come to Vita, just in their own time…

Fergal Gara: It definitely entered a much more complicated market than was expected when it was conceived and the design process started. There’s no doubt about that. And comparative value around content is one of the big issues, because there are so many freemium games out there for other portable devices. So you’ve seen a major concerted effort to address that.

First of all remote play gives you access to high end experiences at no extra cost, the Mega Pack programme that we outlined last night gives tremendous value in portable gaming and PlayStation Plus gives you more, so it’s not just a £40, £50 or nothing kind of portable gaming experience. There are tremendous value opportunities in and around it. So I think we’re slowly, or quickly actually, we starting to find its feet and of course PS4 was part of the vision for Vita long before anybody knew about PS4, so there’s a lot of things clicking into place now.

Q: The Mega Packs, are they aimed at new consumers?

Fergal Gara: What we’re seeing now is most new Vitas are being bought with a Mega Pack at the moment, so it was quite a relevant summer promotion, quite a young focus in terms of the titles that were there: summer portable fun made that promotion very relevant. As we go forward now over the coming months the likes of Killzone Mercenary clearly takes us a bit more squarely back into gamer territory, Tearaway is quite a crossover title – good for gamers, good for a broader audience too. So we’ll continue with the Mega Packs and addressing that wider audience, but we’ll tip it a little bit more towards core gamers as we come into the back end of the year.

Q: You also announced LittleBigPlanet Hub, which will have a microtransactions element. That’s an area you played with before thanks to Home and Free Realms, is it a major pillar of your business now?

Fergal Gara: Microtransactions definitely play a key role in the gaming market overall and in fact some of the third party publishers are probably the leaders in this space really. FIFA Ultimate Team is a classic example of microtransactions that are used to a very large degree. Call Of Duty is an example of where microtransactions can feature.

So is it a passing fad? Is it the future? I don’t know the answer, but it’s well worth reaching out and embracing it and seeing where it can take us, how big is freemium going to be on console? We don’t know but it seems wise to test it and if it doesn’t work, if there’s not enough transactions or no interest whatsoever then fine, we move on. What we’re doing here is playing with a whole variety of new business models and I think that gives consumers some great options and great value. Some of them will become the future, some of them might fade.

“Vita definitely entered a much more complicated market than was expected when it was conceived and the design process started”

Q: So you’ve got a few months before launch, with Tokyo Game Show coming up in September, what are you going to be using that time for in terms of marketing and behind the scenes preparation?

Fergal Gara: As a team first of all, of course November 29 is an incredibly important focus point for us, but we’ve got three children and we love them all equally, so one of my big focus points is making sure that PS3 plans are not overlooked and they’re in the best possible shape. With titles like Beyond: Two Souls and Gran Turismo 6 to come it still represents an incredibly strong proposition, so you’ll be able to get a stack of value for under £200 in PS3 land depending on which model you go for and which combination of games, and things like GTA 5 giving an enormous tail end boost current gen.

So all of that is hugely important to us and a lot of work is going in there to keep it going, because it deserves to be kept going and it deserves to be kept in the limelight.

And of course Vita as well, which plays nicely into the PS4 story.

But as for PS4 it really is into the detailed execution on stuff, media planning, launch night and thinking that through, pinning that down, and of course the retail plans are incredibly important and sort of emotional when you’ve got a position which is very high demand and finite stock. So that’s what we’re into now, lots of nitty gritty, but fast paced, exciting, stuff.



Lionhead dev: “I don’t want to sit in a studio full of blokes”

Gary Carr thinks gender balances are beginning to shift in the development workforce

Gary Carr

Lionhead’s creative director has predicted the industry will see a more even and more balance of genders in the next five to ten years.

“I don’t just want guys making games for guys. I want guys and girls making games for guys and girls,” Gary Carr told OXM.

“You have to reflect that in your workforce, and it’s starting to happen. I think that five to ten years from now, it’ll be pretty much 50-50.”

Lionhead is currently at work on Fable Legends, which it revealed at Gamescom. Alongside Carr on the studio’s management team are John Needham and Louise Murray.

“I think as developers, in terms of job applicants, we’re noticing now that we’re at last getting the diversity we want when you’re coming up with a creative team. I don’t want to sit in a studio full of blokes, I want to be part of a diverse team.”

So change is coming, but slowly. Back in April Game Developer Magazine’s annual survey painted a depressing picture, with women as low as 4 per cent of headcount in some disciplines, receiving lower salaries in all but one area.



Industry must ditch “private club” mentality – Murasaki Baby dev

Ovosonico’s Massimo Guarini bothered by defensive responses to outsider criticism, also says publishers still best option for indies

Murasaki Baby dev

Sony’s Gamescom media briefing saw a big push for the PlayStation Vita, including a price cut on the hardware and announcements for a number of new exclusives and indie games. One title that fell into both categories was Murasaki Baby, the debut effort from Italian studio Ovosonico, created in cooperation with Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios Europe. Speaking with GamesIndustry International this week, Ovosonico CEO and creative director Massimo Guarini discussed the genesis of the project, which sees the player guide an unusual balloon-holding girl through a dark fantasy world using the Vita’s touch screen.

“During a business trip, I saw a little girl holding a balloon in her hand on a train,” Guarini explained. “And I was moved by that image, and thought how cool would it be to interact with her just by holding her hand. It’s as simple as that. I really thought it could be the perfect tool to create some emotional content around the game.”

As for why he settled on the PlayStation Vita as the ideal platform, Guarini said he narrowed down the potential platforms as soon as he thought about a gameplay mechanic, where the player swipes the back of the Vita to change the background of a level (from sunny to rainy, for example) as a way to solve puzzles. And when he took the idea to Sony, Guarini said the PlayStation maker was on board in under a minute, with no hesitation about the game’s female protagonist or other such concerns.

“We honestly never ever thought about the market, the target, or anything like that,” Guarini said. “It was so immediate to understand, so touching while we were all trying to play this weird game inside our heads, that there was no strategic discussion done of the product. I guess this will come up eventually, but honestly we didn’t care too much about [marketing].”

The primary action in Murasaki Baby is simply holding the hand of a lost little girl.

Given the game’s unusual premise and its home on a still-struggling Vita platform, one might expect Guarini to have had some inner conflict given his roles in charge of both the studio’s creative direction as well as its financial well-being.

“There might be situations where wearing two different hats isn’t very comfortable, but that’s how it is in a small developer,” Guarini said. “Fortunately, not being a company who does work-for-hire or any kind of services for third parties, we’re in a good position where we can focus 100 percent on the game.”

Even with self-publishing for indies set to become a standard on next-gen consoles and already ubiquitous elsewhere, Guarini said there were still some significant advantages to the traditional publisher-developer model.

“If we really want to be a more serious form of entertainment like movies and music are, we need to talk a broader language.”

Massimo Guarini

“For me, working with publishers is still probably the best way to go for an independent developer, rather than trying the lottery and going on iOS or the App Store,” Guarini said. “In that case, you would be literally overwhelmed by the amount of business development and marketing work you would have to do… On iOS, you definitely have access to a broader market, but you have a crazy average of like 100 new games a day coming out. Regardless of how good they are, the fact you have to be visible against 100 new games a day is just insane.”

Guarini expects the indie scene on consoles to grow significantly as well, but no matter how influential or lucrative it gets, the developer said there’s no way a PlayStation, Xbox, or Wii platform would see the same scale of competition issues. At the same time, he’s not expecting indie games to be the lone factor in determining the outcome of the next-gen console wars.

“I really see the market and the content pool expanding quite fast, actually,” Guarini said. “It would be a huge mistake to say independent developers aren’t important for publishers or aren’t going to be there in the future because of AAA. I’m not saying these smaller, creative games are going to be the future of gaming, in the same way I don’t think free-to-play isn’t the future. It’s just another additional market segment for games. We’re just expanding, not turning into something different.”

Expanding the market is a recurring theme for Guarini. But to achieve that, he believes the industry needs to break some old behaviors and stereotypes.

“I feel the industry is celebrating itself all the time,” Guarini said, “and whenever somebody who’s not in the industry says something about games, you get all this bad reaction from people. ‘How dare you say this? You don’t know video games!’ Well, you know what? I like comments from people who don’t know video games and don’t play video games, because that’s exactly the kind of market we should look at. If we really want to be a more serious form of entertainment like movies and music are, we need to talk a broader language. We need to talk to normal people, not just to people who live inside of World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings.”

“It makes me feel like we’re really like a private club. And from a creative point of view, I really don’t like that aspect.”

Massimo Guarini

Guarini admitted that breaking that behavior will be challenging, and called on creators across the board to be more willing to expand their vision beyond the typical subjects and to try “something a little bit more comprehensive.” He also suggested that developers themselves are the cause of much of the problem, saying many of them cling to a teenage mindset, even if they’re 40 or older.

“Whenever somebody tries to say something about expanding the medium, you get all sorts of negative reactions, like you’re a sort of traitor and you’re disrupting the whole thing,” Guarini said. “But it’s not about disrupting. It’s about growing.”

He pointed to David Cage as an example. Regardless of whether or not someone liked Heavy Rain’s approach to gameplay, Guarini would like to see people try to understand what he’s talking about rather than just trying to shut him up or slinging abuse his way on forums. Guarini was likewise dismayed by the amount of abuse celebrities and non-gamers receive when they talk about the industry.

“You can agree with them or disagree with them, but give them space to talk about games. You don’t need to be a video game guru to talk about games,” Guarini said. “It makes me feel like we’re really like a private club. And from a creative point of view, I really don’t like that aspect.”

As for how such widespread behavior can change, Guarini said it was just a matter of time.

“I expect it’s going to take another 10 years before we acknowledge the fact that it’s OK for other people to make video games,” Guarini said, “no matter if they’re not Miyamoto or don’t have 20 years of experience in the industry.”



EA’s Moore: “Microsoft has been very aggressive with us, as had Sony”

The COO explains the tricks and troubles of preparing for the new consoles

Peter Moore

Electronic Arts was responsible for one of the definitive moments of Gamescom. Not at its own press conference, not during an interview that went on in its giant press area, but during the Microsoft conference when it revealed that all European pre-orders of the Xbox One would receive a free copy on FIFA 14. Has EA chosen its side in the console launch war?

Speaking to GamesIndustry International EA’s COO Peter Moore denies the charge of favouritism, explains that free-to-play isn’t the devil, and describes how the company is preparing for the logistical nightmares that simultaneous console launches present for publishers.

Q: What are your priorities as the launch of the new consoles get closer?

Peter Moore: Now the picture is becoming clearer each day with dates, it’s still a little piecemeal, but dates, countries, we need quantities. A company like ourselves we need to figure out where the numbers are going so we can deploy our marketing resources accordingly. But you were at the press conference yesterday, you saw the games, we feel like we’re in a great position to really nail the launch with the big franchises.

“Not everybody’s going to get next-gen. Everybody thinks they will, but very few will”

We’re still looking at the conundrum of how do you get consumers still to remember current gen is there? And everyone’s excited about this big shiny object that’s a next-gen console but hello, we’ve got some stuff here and so that’s a little bit of a challenge for my teams in the field, because not everybody’s going to get next-gen. Everybody thinks they will, but very few will, so it’s the classic conundrum of the transition – the interest starts to wane in the current generation, and at the same time the next-gen, they just can’t make enough for the demand.

So we as publishers have to manage that and bridge that gap and get people still to pay attention to a very vibrant, powerful community called Xbox 360s and PS3s, tens of millions of each. And then at the same time you’re doing two separate ad campaigns for things like FIFA and you want to make sure that we get people excited but not so excited they forget the other thing. It’s a classic transitional thing that those of us in the publishing world have to worry about.

Q: And this is the first time the two consoles have launched so closely…

Peter Moore: Almost simultaneously. The challenge is more for the retailers and we have to work with them and Microsoft and Sony have to work with them and if they’re literally within a week or two weeks of each other it’s not easy for retailers to manage their retail presence, what do do they focus on, hardware takes up a lot of room in stores and back rooms, what are their allotments? And so it becomes a real challenge for retail and we have to work with retail to make sure we can help.

But our titles have to flow in for 360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, all have to be merchandised correctly. Manufacturing becomes an issue, because they’re both on Blu-ray. So things that gamers don’t have to worry about but we have to worry about is getting the flow of manufacturing right, getting the quantities right, making sure everything is at retail. Depending on which goes first they may want to change the store to focus on the new console coming out, I mean it’s just what we do. That’s the work we do, that’s the business that we’re in.

But to your point this is precedent setting, it has never happened this way. There’s always been a period of time, a sorbet between consoles, that has cleansed the palate and allowed us to move on. It might be a week, who knows? Microsoft needs to cough up the date.

Q: EA seems to have developed, and obviously you personally have, a very close relationship with Microsoft. What are the advantages for you in that?

Peter Moore: We have relationships with both companies that go back many many years, so I think that what you saw yesterday was, just from a phasing perspective, you saw a little bit more of the Microsoft stuff. We have a lot of partnership opportunities with Sony, with the PlayStation 4, which we have done for many many years, that maybe we should start talking more about.

“Microsoft, particularly in Europe, feels it needs to catch up a little bit with the PlayStation brand”

But it may have seemed that way, I don’t think that we’re favouring one over the other, we love them both dearly. It’s important to the publishing community that both are very successful and I think they will be very successful. I think the gamers, the fanboys, I’m an Xbox guy, I’m a PlayStation guy, they’re going to make their choices. I see a lot of talk about people who are going to try to get both.

Microsoft has been very aggressive with us, as had Sony, we’re a very powerful publisher obviously, that has the ability to deliver great content and makes a difference on their platforms, and they want to make sure they get that.

Q: One of those partnerships has been the free copy of FIFA for every pre-ordered Xbox One, that seems to be breaking the rules to give away your biggest seller?

Peter Moore: There are rules? We look at opportunities to put as many copies of FIFA into consumers’ hands as we possibly can. We’re very proud of that game, we’re very proud of the fact that it’s not just a game that you play off a disc but the digital services, FIFA Ultimate Team, in particular is important to us, so the more consumers that own FIFA the better opportunity we have to interact with them, to be able to offer services to them, so it’s worked out well.

Microsoft, particularly in Europe, feels it needs to catch up a little bit with the PlayStation brand and this is one way to do it. You take soccer and you add Europe to the mix and then you bring it together. And I suspect as well Microsoft is looking at ways to add value, as I’m sure Sony is here to make the price points feel a little bit more of a bargain. We sat down a while back and talked about this and that’s how it happened.

Q: How important is the arrival of free-to-play on consoles for EA?

Peter Moore: Free-to-play does a very simple thing, it just brings more people into gaming. We’ve knocked down the barrier to price because it’s free, everybody has got a device that they can play it on so there’s no reason not to. It brings more and more consumers that we then can engage with, but you’ve also got to be comfortable with the fact that the great majority of those people are not going to pay you a cent. Not a red penny. And you have to be comfortable with that. Which we are.

But if you’re playing PvZ 2 you can see that nice balance. I have not been, and I’m maybe not as deep into it yet, I don’t feel like I’m being pushed. There’s no pinch points, I know I’m going to buy a lot of plant food as I get through the levels, I just… it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, to get that plant food. When you get into the panic situations… But then again I can grind and do that, the glowing zombies that you kill give you some plant food, I think that PvZ 2 is a game that I think is well balanced, nicely tuned, if you don’t want to spend money it’s still a lot of fun, if you really want to progress through the game and get deep into the game, spend some money, buy some plant food, the choice is yours.

Q: People perhaps just need to accept that free-to-play is here to stay now…

Peter Moore: I watch the debate that goes on on your site and your sister site about free-to-play and it’s just… and then some voices of reason kick, actually because of our Popcap conversation which you guys reported on and it went pretty deep in the comments and then you had people come in and say ‘look, it’s just a business model,’ because it’s like the Satan spawn to some people and it’s the end of the world because games are free-to-play. And then you get some voices of reason – it’s just yet another business model, it’s bringing more people into gaming, it’s a way that publishers can continue to build a growth strategy in a world of turmoil and disruption that is our industry right now.

“It’s like the Satan spawn to some people and it’s the end of the world because games are free-to-play”

People can shout about [free-to-play] all they like, there are hundreds of millions of people taking advantage of the fact that they wouldn’t have considered themselves gamers a while back, and you can thank games like Angry Birds a few years ago, PvZ came in where as tablets exploded and smartphones exploded… people aren’t going to pay $10, $15, $20 when you have a free-to-play game on there and I think that brought people in, that funnel now gets wider. And we as an industry should be so much happier that more people are playing games.

Q: Do we need to find a different way to do free-to-play on consoles? Online is either very hardcore, or very casual, console players are a different audience.

Peter Moore: I think you’re going to have to. You look at games and console is a different experience. You’re sat back on the couch, 10 feet away from the TV, using a controller so you need to have your wallet – press A to buy or whatever, it’s got to be pretty simple, but I think you’re right. I think there’s got to be something that feels more relevant to a lean back, 10 foot experience that has a game controller rather than a keyboard or a touch screen. Otherwise it just feels like it’s gimmicky, it’s maybe redeployed from a different platform, it’s just not going to work on consoles.

And it has to be right as well because also one of the things with console gaming is you sit down, you get comfortable and you’re going to go for an hour, two hours. If the free-to-play on the consoles in constantly stopping, having to play with your buttons and triggers to buy something or whatever, that’s going to get really old, really quick.

Q: How do you feel about the next-generation’s focus on the independent developers? Is there any way you can be a part of that as a big publisher?

Peter Moore: We own a company called Chillingo, we’re very proud to have them up in Macclesfield, of all places, that deals almost exclusively with indies. That’s what they do. And every now and again a game will come through – they discovered Angry Birds, they discovered a little company called Rovio that was on the Chillingo platform and every now and again something will come through that’s innovative and really redefines what that type of gaming is.

“If three guys in a garage are able to do better than we are with the resources that we have then that’s our fault”

At the console level, and both Sony and Microsoft in the last few days have been talking about indies and self-publishing, I think its complementary, if three guys in a garage are able to do better than we are we the resources that we have then that’s our fault. But they might do something very cool, very different, remember like LittleBigPlanet came out for PS3 a few years ago? And everybody said – that wasn’t an indie game because it was a decent sized studio – but they needed a publisher and Sony loved it, Sony bought into it, it became one of its first creative type games, it was very cute, so you’re going to have those things come through.

We don’t see it as a threat, I think it’s complementary, it gives us an opportunity to see talent, maybe we can nurture that talent, maybe they need publishing help which we do very well, I like them. If they’re providing great, innovative, different game experiences for gamers it’s all good.

Q: EA has made a habit of acquiring successful studios, is that still part of the plan in these more costly, transitional times?

Peter Moore: Absolutely, it’s been a tradition for 20 years.

There’s less and less though of the independent developer that can afford, without a publisher already locked in, to develop games. So we’re seeing less of that, but we are doing, and this is something Chillingo does very well, looking at the mobile space. We’re seeing tonnes and tonnes of innovation in the mobile space. More and more people who might have been working on big console titles seem to be moving over to mobile development.

So Chillingo again does that service for us, we’ve got business folks there that manage tonnes of content coming through and every now and again they spot a game and say ‘this is a lot of fun.’ And then they get that in front of Apple, they get that in front of Google and get it as a featured app or whatever. And that’s what Chillingo does very well.

Q: With such expansion in mobile and free-to-play, is AAA still the core of your business?

Peter Moore: Core, what we call our high-def business, is still the lion’s share of our revenue this year. We will sell a lot of discs, the demise of the packaged goods is grossly overstated, with the console cycle coming up again and refreshing that gives us the opportunity to actually grow our packaged goods business.

But fast on the heels is mobile, free-to-play. The mobile business is just on a growth spurt for us because we’ve got great games, Simpsons: Tapped Out, Real Racing 3, Plants Vs Zombies 2, three great games that make a difference. Free-to-play is going to be our entry into some markets where we’ve never had a lot of success, we’ve just announced Brazil and Russia for FIFA World. You’ve got the free-to-play publishing group which currently sits in Stockholm right now, and then you’ve got the great brands that we have, particularly with FIFA, then it’s a good recipe to go in finally with some real relevance for a Brazilian or a Chinese consumer – we’ve just done a deal with Tencent for FIFA in China.

So yeah, I think the free-to-play market is going to be a growing market, you’ve just got to figure out where it sits from a mobile perspective. When we talk free-to-play we typically talk out of the browser, but now the free-to-play model is most ubiquitous in mobile and we don’t do premium mobile anymore, everything is free-to-play.

Q: How is the PC market working for you these days? Still have some big PC only IP like Sims, and you have the Origin service…

Peter Moore: We’ve been the number one PC games publisher forever, we’ve never walked away from the PC. Sims has been a part of that, our shooters have been a part of that, some of our sports games, FIFA on the PC, Command and Conquer, Ultima is still running somewhere, so you have enough presence on there and it’s been very powerful, it’s the roots of the company. The company was built on the Apple 2 and the Amiga PC, and has never stepped away from PC gaming ever since

We enjoy the PC platform, it’s an open platform, you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission, we can deliver updates and patches as fast and as frequently as we like, it’s a great platform for us, we’ve always done well on PC.

“The demise of the packaged goods is grossly overstated”

Q: You mentioned the Sims franchise, you’ve announced just Sims 4, what it is about that series that has such longevity?

Peter Moore: It’s pretty simple, The Sims as a community has been there since the get go with us. And the idea of Simming Life, which was Will Wright’s vision for it, I think gets you deeper inside a game experience than playing a Battlefield, playing a sports game, because those things happen and then you put the controller down and they’re gone. With Sims you’re always thinking about your Sims. What’s happening there, what you’ve built, the relationships the Sims are having and it’s persistently going on.

We touched on something when Will did the original Sims and we’ve been able to keep that alive and innovate, the expansion packs are a very important part of that otherwise you get bored, but then you get a new expansion pack and off you go. I just think the level of engagement with The Sims is higher than anything I’ve ever seen in games before. Even shooters.

Q: Can we expect any more big announcements before the consoles launch in November?

Peter Moore: Well we need to deliver the games now. We’ve hyped them enough at both E3 and here, we’ve done a nice job in getting a lot of excitement, now the teams go back and now it’s heads down. You certainly know when Sony’s launching so you’ve got one delivery date there, because it gets very chaotic. Particularly the launch of a console, you’ve got to get it in line for disc manufacture, you’ve got to get in line for cert and submission, the QA resources have got to be there because now everything is coming down to the finish.

Now you know where the finish line is, so in Sony’s case it’s the 15th and the 29th, and you need to make sure that you’re ready. A lot of panic, you’ve got this operational time to when you go theoretically final to then you deliver it, first time going through this generation, through cert and submission, all different processes than we’ve probably had before, yeah, it’s head down and go time now. We have to deliver.