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EA trying not to be greedy ‘beast,’ CEO says

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson spoke at the BC Tech Summit on Tuesday. 
Michael Mui, 24 hours

Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson spoke at the BC Tech Summit on Tuesday. Michael Mui, 24 hours

Electronic Arts has a bad rep among videogamers as a big, greedy corporation, the company’s CEO Andrew Wilson acknowledged Tuesday at the B.C. Tech Summit — where he shared details of what the company has done to adapt.

“If you understand the videogame business, EA — the branding is this corporate beast that just wants to take money from them while people play our games,” said Wilson, an Australian man who took over as CEO in 2013.

“That’s not actually what we’re trying to do.”

The traditional model for how consumers get their hands on videogames has been to go to the store, buy a game cartridge, go home — and that’s the end of the gamer’s connection to the company.

The introduction of the smartphone and the Internet has changed this model. Now, gamers are constantly connected — companies like EA have access to potentially millions of customers by way of free or low-priced apps.

The company still makes money in these mobile titles through a number of in-app purchases that gives the consumer the choice of whether they want to invest further into a game. And given the connected nature of games nowadays, the relationship with the gamer no longer ends at the store — games can be updated to be brighter, bigger, better, reflecting the growth of their audiences.

And even for the traditional console and computer categories, the steep price associated with purchasing a game — which can often be $60 or more — is being eroded.

Wilson pointed to the company’s new Netflix-like initiative, EA Access, available for computers and Xbox One, where users pay a fixed monthly price ($5 in this case) to enjoy a catalogue of games.

“For the longest time in civilization, we would spend money as human beings, then we would spend time where we spent our money. That’s reversed now,” he said.

“You come in, and play a bunch of games, and ultimately you invest after that.”

Burnaby is home to a large EA campus of 2,000 employees where many games, such as the popular FIFA or UFC titles, are produced.