The world of videogames is changing, the age of yearly updates may soon be coming to an end replaced by quick weekly/monthly updates like those seen on mobile devices and EA aims to get ahead of the curve early in preparation for the next-generation of consoles.
In a recent interview with EA’s executive vice president of digital, Kristian Segerstrale, GamesIndustry.biz discussed the changing landscape of the games market and how EA plans to adapt its business strategies to keep up. The first article discussed was how the early days of a new platform such as the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 will see current-generation techniques simply reworked for a new cycle without any sort of innovation, EA hopes to avoid this situation in the future by designing from the ground up.
“I think you’ve nailed that point exactly.” Segerstrale said. “We are at such an early stage of this that some of the things you are seeing now are literally an application of what we know and had before in new and interesting ways. I believe personally that the really big shift will come as we shift the mindset of design, such that we design from the ground up for that. One or two years from now is really when you will see the results of what’s going on right now.”
The current console business model doesn’t allow for constant content updates and fixes due to developers being charged for patches and the time it takes to push them live, this is where mobile devices and PCs have the advantage with weekly updates to keep content fresh and exciting. EA hopes to move passed this with next-generation consoles improving its strategies to allow for quicker and more efficient content updates in all areas to keep the consumer happy.
“I think that’s exactly right. We think more about ecosystems than about just devices these days. Almost any device comes with a billing mechanism, a connectivity mechanism, a policy on updates, and all those things that makes it more than just a piece of hardware. When we think about ecosystems, we work very closely with all ecosystems to work through how do we make these really great. At the end of the day the consumer is our collective boss, and if the consumer is happy all of us are going to be happy one way or the other,” Segerstrale explained.
“The consumer can’t be happy if on your specific hardware updates come out slower, or the experience isn’t updated as quickly as on some other platform. I think that’s where all of us have work to do; we have work to do to learn as a publisher to deal with that environment better and to be faster and to be better across the board. Ecosystems also have an evolution to go through. I think most of the time there’s a fairly deep understanding that this is going to be looked at moving forward, and I’m really pretty optimistic on that.”
EA has already begun to work some of these new strategies into current-generation development as evidenced by FIFA and Battlefield 3 updates throughout the year, but there’s always room for improvement in all areas.
“We used to make this joke at Playfish that the clock frequency of the industry has been increased by 100x,” he said. “We used to make this comparison, look, there’s a new version of FIFA every year coming out. The most advanced games for some mobile platforms used to have an update every month. Then social games initially began to do an update every week, then every day, then updates four times a day. That clock frequency of how you have to operate as a business just changes entirely. That’s something that the whole industry, I think now more than two years ago, has really come to terms with and I’m feeling good where that stands.”
The gaming world is becoming more streamlined and fast-paced, if developers fail to adapt and change their ways then they will get left behind once the next-generation arrives. Faster content updates can be a good thing for consumers, but the danger is that if it’s regular paid content then fans will get annoyed and feel as if companies are trying to bleed them dry. It’s a delicate balance, but one that EA seems to working very hard to achieve.
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