I've been following Peter Moore's career for more than a decade. He's always been one of my favorite executives to chat with -- whether it was during his Dreamcast period at SEGA or when he was helping Microsoft turn the Xbox into the force that it is today. He seems happier as president of EA Sports than he was at those other companies. Perhaps it's because he no longer has the headaches that come with hardware... Or perhaps he's just a tremendous sports fan.
When I spoke to him yesterday at EA Sports Opening Day, he seemed more content than he has in years. During our conversation, we spoke about EA Sports' efforts on the Nintendo Wii, Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson, his blog, and more. X-Play's Adam Sessler also interviewed Moore, so keep your eye out for his excellent chat with EA Sports MVP.
G4: So Peter, I'm here with you at EA Sports Opening Day. One of the things that's easily noticeable is that you're hitting the Nintendo Wii in a big way. Grand Slam Tennis, Tiger Woods 10, and EA Sports Active look great, but how is EA Sports going to succeed where so many third-party publishers have struggled?
Peter Moore: Well, I really think sports is the key. The ability for us -- in particular with what you're seeing here today with Tiger and Grand Slam Tennis -- utilizing both the Wii Remote and Wii Motion Plus, to bring to life this authentic sports motion. We've done a reasonable job at taking advantage of these unique assets so far, but this year's slate of games take phenomenal advantage of what the Nintendo Wii has to offer. Getting the art style right has also been important. Of course, bringing the power of EA Sports and our licenses to the Wii is going to be important -- doing it in the right way -- when we look back the last couple of years, we struggled a bit to do that.
G4: Reading a lot of your quotes over the last year, you've been a big supporter of the Wii. What are third-party publishers doing wrong? The installed base is tremendous, but not a lot of third-party publishers can take advantage of it.
PM: Well, I wouldn't say that any of us are doing it wrong. I think it's more that we're finding out why on the Wii. Some publishers are having hits, but many aren't. It's like anything else; I don't want to say it's like throwing mud at a wall, but you have to try different things in order to find what Wii consumers are looking for. You have to fine your particular niche, whether it's with an art style or game mechanic that's very unique and plays well to the consumer. The thing to remember is that this isn't necessarily a casual consumer. This is a consumer that might have played two hours of Gears of War on Xbox 360 or Fallout 3 on PlayStation 3, and now they're looking for a different experience. That's what publishers have to do and what we have to be able to offer them to be successful on the Wii.
G4: One of the more interesting products you have -- not so much for the game itself, but for what it represents -- is March Madness for NCAA Basketball 09. It's a 1.5GB game based on existing assets and new customers can download it for $15. Given the state of the economy, do you think EA Sports will do more things like March Madness?
PM: Well, it's an interesting experiment. It's something we want to be able to do -- not just make a sale to a customer that hadn't bought NCAA, but really to get consumers to experience the game, particularly at a time like now when we're about to go to "The Big Dance" and the brackets are going to be announced in the next few days. It was important to us to be able to do a major sampling program, if you will, to consumers that may not have already bought the retail game. Then with a view to when the next full game comes out next year, we want them to think, "I want to do that. I want to buy that in November. I want to go again!" So hopefully March Madness leads to that. It's also a different revenue stream from people that are ready for college basketball now -- this is the most exciting time of the year for them. It's March! What goes on in March? It's college basketball!
G4: So do you see it more as a gateway product? Or something that can be developed quickly and cheaply based on existing assets?
PM: It's both. Obviously, we're using existing assets, but it's definitely a gateway product. If we provide you, at a reasonable price, a great experience when you really care about college basketball, we believe that when we ship the next game later this year at retail, you're more predisposed to giving it a go. We have to find different ways to expose our products to consumers that, for whatever reason, didn't buy it the last time. Don't give up -- you can't say, "I'll see you next year." You have to think, "Hey, you didn't buy it last time. Try it this way! And by the way, it's only 15 bucks."
G4: To promote Fight Night Round 4, EA Sports asked its fans who would win in their primes: Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson? What's your opinion on the matter?
PM: I do. [Smiles coyly] It's a personal opinion -- I'm not speaking in my role as president of EA Sports. I'm a huge fan of both fighters. I'm very excited, having met them both over the years, to see them in the ring as I remember both of them. I'm old enough to remember Ali at his absolute prime and I remember when Mike Tyson was the most feared boxer in the world. Ultimately, I think it would be a very interesting fight and I'm looking forward to playing it out more in Fight Night. The questions would be, "Can Tyson get to Ali early? Can he get inside and work Ali?" If Ali holds him off long enough, then there's only one winner. Having said that, not many boxers could withstand those first three or four rounds when Tyson was in his prime. We shall see. I think that's how the fight would go down.
G4: I'm a huge boxing fan, too and I am of the opinion that it's Ali. No question.
PM: Sure, but you're not involved with trying to promote the game and trying to be impartial. [Laughs] I think it's Ali, ultimately. The longer the fight goes on, it's obviously Ali. You and I remember -- whether it's the rope-a-dope in "The Rumble in the Jungle," or "TheThrilla in Manila" -- it was about the strategy Ali had for a particular fighter. I'm sure if "Iron" Mike was in his prime and Ali were fighting him, Ali would find a way to hold him off, keep from getting trapped against the ropes, and keep Tyson from getting to the body -- although Ali could take a pounding to the body as he showed against George Foreman. Ultimately, with Ali's stamina -- and you remember, in the old days championship fights went 15 rounds -- he'd always get a second wind in the 10th round or 11th round, he'd start dancing again, and he'd come at you. It would be interesting to see if Tyson could go 10 rounds, pounding away at Ali, what he would have left in the tank. But you know what? Who knows?!? That's one of the reasons we're making the game.
G4: Peter, we actually have something in common: we're both awesome bloggers.
PM: Yes sir!
G4: I'm a big fan of your blog, but I was wondering how it came about.
PM: You know, I've always enjoyed interacting with the community. Certainly at Microsoft, we had lots of tools to do that, whether it was with Major Nelson or the various groups we had there. Having my own blog didn't quite feel right at Microsoft because we had Major Nelson, who was the face of the platform, which is very important to maintain. Once I came to EA Sports, it was pretty evident that we needed to do some work with the community, quite frankly. We are so deeply involved in the development process that we never really poked our heads out of the foxholes to talk to our community. And we needed to be able to do that.
The power of blogging and the social communities that follow our games are too powerful to ignore. So the communications department and I decided to let me blog. I don't generally talk about game development, because we have plenty of people that are smarter than me that can do that. We also have a bunch of great dev blogs that you can go to for each franchise. I wanted to talk about my Boston Red Sox, or my California Golden Bears, or my Liverpool football club. On top of that, I talk about the state of the business and give my opinion on things that sometimes controversial, like the state of PC gaming. Other times, I'll talk about things like cricket. It's really just about giving people a forum to get to me. People are frustrated sometimes that I just don't jump in and answer their questions all along the way, but that's not the intent of what I'm trying to do. Today I posted my first video blog and a bunch of us are using Twitter throughout today's event. We have gone from a group of people that, 18 months ago, weren't too thrilled about talking to the community to a company that blogs and tweets on a regular basis.
G4: It just seems unusual that a high-ranking executive at a major publisher to have such an honest and straightforward blog. It's not like Bobby Kotick is sharing his thoughts with Activision fans. I imagine some of your communications and marketing people have lost some hair over some of your blog posts.
PM: Well, certainly. But then they look at the org chart and see who goes where. [Laughs] My job was to set an example for others to do the same thing. We have no problems with any EA developer setting up their own blog. We've set up a really rich network for them to do that and interact with the community at all times. It's important that we say what we think and that we provide a forum for opinion -- both good and bad. And as you've seen, I got a lot of criticism for some of things that we do, but better to have that than nothing. If you open yourself up for feedback, you're going to get feedback and my skin is pretty thick.
G4: A lot of people might not know this, but you actually read a lot of these comments and criticisms.
PM: Oh yeah, believe me. When I'm online -- as we most are all of the time -- I go to my blog three or four times a day just to read comments, because we're always thinking about what the "next" thing is. I enjoy it.
G4: Here's a deal Peter. I'll keep blogging if you will.
PM: I'll deflect some of your criticism, if you deflect some of mine.
G4: Done! Let's shake on it.