EA is spending $250 million on a new development strategy.
EA Chief Operations Officer Peter Moore has admitted that the time has come for the company to embrace cross-platform play. EA is spending $250 million over the next four years so that FIFA players - among many others - can interact with the game via social networks, mobile devices and consoles. Bored while waiting for a train or plane? Fiddle with your avatar's loadout via your mobile phone. Want to make a strategy change or trade out a forward on your footie team, but you're at work? The cloud will save any alterations you care to make via Facebook.
As Moore describes it, this conversion is less the result of mature and thoughtful consideration than it is a realization that the world as EA knows it is crumbling. "We recognized that we are standing on a burning platform," he told Gamasutra, "it's an oil rig in the middle of the sea, and it's exploding. You can stay or you can hold our noses and jump. At least that way, you have a shot." EA can't wait for the next console generation. It either moves now, or gets annihilated.
At least he's enthusiastic for the digital transformation. As Moore sees it, this is a natural progression for gaming and for EA. The company's mission is about bringing people together through play, and he believes cross-platform is going to be the way that future games bring players together, through the devices and networks that they've become used to. "We think that the future of gaming is cross-platform play," he says, "always having something with you that's a gaming device, but everything you do connects."
Of course, there's a catch. This 24-hour play means that the customer can spend money whenever they want on whatever they want, and to EA that translates as a microtransaction bonanza. When you can connect via your mobile phone, it makes it that much more tempting to make a quick purchase - so those who already know that they have a penchant for drunk texting had better beware, lest a trip to the pub cost a fortune in tiny, tiny bites. Even Moore himself admits he spends way too much money on beating the leaderboard of his favourite games through performace-accelerating add-ons. He sees this tendency as a boon for the company's bottom line, and it surely is. Whether the customer is as savvy in this brave new world as EA is, remains to be seen.