The EA Sport: The Peter Moore Interview


Posted June 12, 2009 - By Billy Berghammer

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Ever since Peter Moore left Microsoft for EA Sports, he's changed the sport giant from a company that crapped out sequels year after year, to a division that innovated and expanded into different sports such as Tennis and MMA. I got a few moments to sit down with Peter this year to find out why they decided to go after MMA, what it's going to take for sports to succeed on the Wii, and their ever growing mobile and online efforts.

G4: First off, how’s E3 going?

Peter Moore: I’ve barely sampled E3. I mean, when I walked down below and then since then one of the, I say the down side, one of the challenges you have in my role is I also have to answer to investors and analysts. So, for the last two and half hours I’ve been off the floor. I have not been on the floor while the show’s been open. So, I thought we got off to a very good start yesterday. I loved the tone of our press conference. John Riccitiello has been very insistent that we bring on people that make the games and while they may not be the most polished presenters, they’re very genuine and honest and do all the real work and that’s why you’ve got people like Dean Richards from Fight Night and then Tom Singleton from Grand Slam Tennis were with me on stage. We’re a little different in there in that sports segment because we do bring some personalities on, but it just adds to what we think the brand stands for and boy, if you look at how diverse that brand was in that 15 minute segment, with Alison Sweeny and EA Sports Active, and Pete Sampras coming on stage to do a tennis game, which EA Sports has never done before. We’ve come a long way, and then announcing mixed martial arts - it’s a real different brand than it was 12, 18 months ago.

The EA Sport: The Peter Moore Interview

G4: MMA was actually a very big surprise for me because when you came on board to EA Sports you said you’d try to diversify the EA Sports brand, not just continue to do sequels of normal sports, but also do sports that appeal to different regions of the world. So why did you choose to  - tennis I understand that was this year - why is MMA the next step?

Moore: Well, MMA, if you’re point is that it feels American, it actually isn’t. I was in Rome last week for the Champions League final and turned the TV on and I’ve always known, for whatever reason, Italy is a big wrestling nation. WWE. And I had two channels there that both had mixed martial arts. Every time I’m in the UK, I see mixed martial arts. I just think it’s very clear to us that we can play a role in mixed martial arts. That we can bring a lot of technology from our Fight Night franchise to mixed martial arts and then if we can get in the cadence of every year bringing a fighting game to market, Fight Night, MMA, Fight Night, MMA it gives a good rhythm for consumers. And I think bringing an extra player into MMA and I’m a big fan. I’m bringing EA Sports into it, it grows the overall market. No doubt that we’ll challenge our competitor, make him better. It gives fans of the sport a choice and, we’ll get after it in the way EA Sports gets after it. It’s a long-term play for us. It won’t be “Well, try it next year, see if it works and if it doesn’t get out of it.” We will absolutely get after that franchise.

G4: So why Tiburon?

Moore: Because interestingly, at Tiburon, first of all we had a team that was very interested in doing it. We have some leadership there at the executive producer level that actually trains for MMA and actually asked for a number of years. We put together a team that is culturally connected, has the expertise to do it, and we were able to – we didn’t necessarily want it in Vancouver and have two fighting teams in Vancouver and it gives us a little bit of geographic distance, but two teams that are working very closely together already.

G4: So now, you’ve got quite a big thing going on at Tiburon. Has Tiburon expanded quite a bit?

Moore: No, I just think we’ve reconciled. We’re not doing a NASCAR game this year and that allowed us to be able to have some flexibility to get some stuff done. We are doing more than we’ve ever done with slightly less people, quite frankly. Our Tiger team has been able to spend a lot of time, very quietly, over the last six to nine months getting Tiger Online ready to go for this fall. Being able to redeploy some of the NASCAR team has helped us enormously. Our online franchise development group, because we’ve got a group that’s focused on that within the overall Madden team has really done some excellent work, again, very quietly over the last few months. And, building this Team Builder application has been something that has been going on for a long time and Chang did a great job in unveiling it. People are going to go gaga over that. My son, in particular.

G4: I’m also a big fan of that, especially the things you guys are doing online. With everything that’s being done via the web, the fact that you can tweak things and that everything appear automatically on game, on the server side, not just locally on your console. How long has that been in the works?

Moore: Oh, since the plan documents were drawn up for Madden 10. It was always going to have that. There’s more to be announced, so I’ll give you a little tease there. We haven’t stopped talking about what the game is going to have here. So, there were a few things we really focused on. “Fight for every yard” and we also were getting a lot of abuse for not having that online franchise mode in there and then Team Builder is something that consumers have been asking for better tools to create their teams, to develop teams that they used to play on – that they’d love to play on – and create teams from nothing, mate. The team developed the Liverpool Football Club team for me with the logos – it was very cool. It was just a lot of fun and almost simple drag-and-drop, it actually is drag-and-drop type tools to create the team. And we used EA Sports as the team you saw in the video, but this is something that has been a labor of love for some people to be able to create their team when they go online and do some web-based stuff, but it is all stuff that we have not given them the tools to do. Finally, we’ve given them the tools to do it. It went live last night. I’m sure the usage is…strong.

G4: So, say I build my team online, can you use that same team either on the PS3 or Xbox 360 - it’s not going to matter?

Moore: Yes, so you build it online, so you’re a month ahead of the game shipping and once the game’s ready to go, you just import it. I mean, the idea is to give you – you don’t need to be in front of the TV with your console – your Xbox 360 or your PS3 fired up to get building. That’s why we made the tools available last night.

G4: That’s cool, especially for people who have friends that don’t have the same consoles that I have.

Moore: Yea, well, I’ll push the team, I’ll let them get through E3 week and we’re going to start looking at what’s being made up there and what’s being created up there and because you can share a lot of this stuff as well. So, we’ll see how the usage is.

The EA Sport: The Peter Moore Interview

G4: Being an avid iPhone user, I’m super excited that you guys have gone that route and made an app. What do you see the future of these connected devices, and since you worked at Microsoft, what kind of stuff do you guys really want to bring to the table with that at EA Sports?

Moore: I think of two franchises in particular. Our focus is on two major franchises: Madden and FIFA. And how do I bring a Madden – well it’s called football in both instances – experience to wherever you are, regardless of what device you’re on, that you can do something to build your game. You probably remember, boy, about 4 E3s ago, Billy, where Bill Gates and I stood on stage and talked about Live Anywhere, I don’t know if you remember that, and that’s still a dream, not quite there, but the old idea in those days, it’s interesting, if you remember, it was Forza, and I’m on the train and I’m actually tweaking the suspension of my car, on my blackberry.

I, in that instance was tweaking my suspension, then I get to work, and then I do the livery – I remember this like it was yesterday – and I would actually paint, but my suspension tweaking went up to a server, and I get to work now I’ve got my whatever-I’ve-got and I’m working on the paint job on it and it goes up to the server then - and I’ve created my car. Then, I get home on my Xbox 360 and on Xbox Live, bring the car in, and drive, and that was the dream. A lot of complexity there, obviously. But, our ability at EA to be able to give you a Madden 365, should we call it, no matter where you are, on what device, wherever you are, as long as you’re connected in some way, even offline, you can do some stuff and then upload it. That is the goal.

G4: One thing that I was really happy that you guys did, you had some serious ESPN integration. What happened to that relationship and why are we seeing less of it now?

Moore: The relationship’s fine, but we’re rationalizing the relationship in regards to where the integration makes sense and there’s relevance to the consumer and they’re very good at doing it, but then you’re going to see a deeper and deeper, and we’re in some instances, we have challenges because ESPN isn’t a broadcaster, pretty evident when you play NHL, because then there’s no ESPN broadcast, so you can’t do it - it’s not there at all. So, you’re going to see more and more deep integration where it makes sense and no integration where we’re not going to argue with a league and the broadcaster. And it’s bigger than just the integration ability as well, I mean, we go deep with them in broadcast. We share technology, the Virtual Playbook, I mean, EA Sports and ESPN getting an Emmy together was something that was a big deal to us a few weeks ago. So, people only see it in the game, but they also recognize when it’s an advertising platform for us, we have deep integration, John Robinson was just in here. He writes for EPSN, and he’s obviously a great friend of EA Sports and we give him a lot of access to get deep for sports fans. Hardcore sports fans who want to understand deep integration and what’s going on. So, the relationships better than ever now. and I was out there a few weeks ago and we were in New York a couple weeks ago, as well, just figuring out what our plans are together. I think it’s fair to say the relationship’s better than ever right now.

G4: You guys have really been aggressive with attacking the Wii with EA Sports. The first two times didn’t really seem to work too well. There’s probably mixed reactions, but for me being a hardcore gamer, if I’m going to play Madden, I’m definitely going to go play it on a 360 or PS3. There’s no question about it. My friends aren’t going to want to play it on the Wii. However, my dad might want to play Madden on the Wii because it’s more accessible. Now, this year you guys are really going at Wii MotionPlus in a big way. Do you think Wii MotionPlus is the answer to make sports on the Wii more viable?

Moore: I’m not sure it’s “the” answer, Billy.  It’s certainly a great help. Have you played them yet? Have you played Tiger and…

G4: Tiger’s unbelievable.

Moore: Unbelievable because now you’ve really got to have your sh** together, right?

G4: Well, no. I could never hit the same, and I said this on X-Play, I could never hit a straight shot in the first two iterations of Tiger.

Moore: Yep.

G4: And, I was always hooking or slicing. I mean, it pissed me off. I’m like, holding it straight and it just didn’t work, so at E3, first shot that I took…

Moore: You went “Woah…”

The EA Sport: The Peter Moore Interview

G4:..right down the middle. And I’m like “You gotta be kidding me” and I double-bogied the first hole and the second hole I birdied.

Moore: …and you got your short game right for the game too.

G4: …and I’m like “This is awesome.”

Moore: Do you play golf in real life?

G4: I try not to.

Moore: Okay.

G4: But I play the hell out of Tiger.

Moore: I mean the key is, as you saw, is once you have this there’s so much more control. Obviously, with the regular Wii remote, there’s so much going on and I mean, you pretend you, as you well know, you can sit and play golf like that, right? But this Wii MotionPlus allows you to do, I think that, and I hit them straight as well, you get that motion that you do. Even playing tennis yesterday, I didn’t necessarily have to do the broad backstroke, but it’s just so much fun to do it. I think it’s one of the answers to us having even better impact on the Wii than we already do. And obviously, EA Sports Active give us another way of getting at that consumer in a completely different way.

G4: What do you think the next step is to try to make sports on the Wii where people want to play them just as much as they want to on the 360 or PlayStation 3?

Moore: It really becomes what experience you’re looking for because I don’t call it a Wii consumer, but it’s a Wii experience. If I want to play Madden, I am, quite frankly, going to play it on a 360, but there are a lot of people who love football that just have a Wii and we’re trying to find that right recipe for them in getting the best out of the hardware. And not to disappoint them, but playing into the mechanic of that game. Art styles become important and getting more intuitive usage of the Wii remote is always important. I’d say, Tiger, Tennis, Active, those three jump to mind immediately where we’re going to have a very strong impact this year.

G4: Do you think you’re going to put any more into Madden?

Moore: No, Madden – have you played Madden on the Wii down there yet?

G4: Yes.

Moore: I mean it’s just – it gets better every year, but it’s – I’m not going to pretend that it’s going to replace what is the classic core Madden user’s desire of unbelievable graphics, great sound, lots of button combinations for whatever they need to do and sitting there and playing like that. At the same time, I think it’s a great user experience for the Wii consumer. I like playing it on the Wii. Again, I can’t keep going back to art style, we’ve tried to do a lot to figure out how we can celebrate what the Wii is about from an art prospective, rather than trying to make it feel like a sim, but not quite get there.

G4: The other thing that I was also really surprised about at EA3 was Tiger for PC. The online, initially, will it be a free to play model?

Moore: It’s going to be a subscription model. From base layers, and we haven’t really talked, but we’ve said this hybrid here. These subscriptions, micro-transactions, and ultimately looking at ways to bring more people in. Well, there maybe a free element to that. We’ve yet to determine it, but I think that the real key for us is figuring out – would you pay me $5 per month to have some level of access to all the assets we have with Tiger and sat here, if you were waiting for me for 15 minutes because I was finishing up something – I’d guarantee you you’d play 3 holes because I’m on the beta and it’s a blast.

G4: So, why not make it that accessible and easy to play or why not a fully blown out title, kind of like Links used to be?

Moore: Well, there’s an accessibility thing – I don’t want you to have to download anything. I want you to click on a browser, have it recognize your password, and you’re ready to go. And that’s what this is. Downloading a heavy client, which is what Links would be, I remember how big it was, probably 1GB, right?, if you run all the courses, I think the future is wherever you are, whatever device you’re on, you click and you’re playing.

You’ll get on there and it’ll be a beta, so you’ll have to do some work and give us some feedback, but the idea is – one of our guys was on a Delta flight , which was a great story the other day, and he’s on the beta – they have wi-fi on Delta now and he played all the way across the country.

G4: Jesus. That would be awesome.

Moore: You’d never get any work done. That’s the only issue, I think, for me, because I’d be playing 36 holes there. The ability to play golf all around, that would be a killer. Particularly then because you’re connected – you can go head-to-head and do competitive stuff. That was the only difference with things like Links, it’s an offline experience. But the online elements that we’ve built into this are "shit, I wish I had a better 9 iron." Well, for 50 cents I can get you a better 9 iron. Off you go. I mean, so we’re excited. Early days on it yet, but we’re going out figure this out, but I look at golf in particular, as so many people that are golf fans that are still not console owners willing to pay $60 for Tiger Woods and we’ve got to figure ways to bring them into the fold of playing games. Knock down some barriers such as price and being at home is a barrier. And the sweet spot for me is somebody like me, whose flight’s delayed 45 minutes and I’ve sat at the gate and I’ve got a great wireless connection and off I go.

G4: Yea, but you can say the same thing for Madden, too. I mean, is this something you’d like to see brought across all of EA Sports?

Moore: Here’s what you do with these things…

G4: Because you haven’t had Madden on PC, ya know?

Moore: Don’t get me going there; you’re leaving soon. We always go out and you put something out there and you say “Okay we’re going to learn a lot here” because you’ve got to learn to publish these games in a very different way, because there’s nothing physical, right? So, you publish this very differently. How do I do offline management? How do I make sure that I’m doing something like on Friday nights I’m going to sell you Bethpage, who was in the US Open for 50% off? I mean, all this stuff is very new and unique to us. We’re going to learn a lot, we’re going to get ahead of the curve and then, yes, you can imagine if it works one sport, why wouldn’t it work for another? And of course, in Asia we already do. FIFA and NBA Street, we do in Asia. Very different. Deeper, not so much 15 minutes, but more 2 hours every night. I mean, imagine Tiger as leading the way, and then we’ll figure out what this thing’s all about and I’m sure more sports will ultimately follow.

The EA Sport: The Peter Moore Interview


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