What to know what EA Sports president Peter Moore things about the future of games hardware? Why he thinks this will be the biggest cycle yet? Why he wants a PS3 price cut? Why he’s pleased Nintendo hasn’t dropped the price of Wii? Why discs will disappear? What’s going on with NASCAR? Why cricket’s rubbish?
Good. Because he covers all that in the second part of our interview from EA’s spring showcase event last week. Get it after the break. Part one’s here.
VG247: What’s going on with NASCAR?
Peter Moore: Right now, we have shipped NASCAR Kart Racing. We’ve stated that we have no game in development, and that NASCAR and ourselves are in negotiations about where we go from here. And that’s about all that I can tell you.
We’ve actually done pretty well, if you follow the NPD, with Kart Racing. We finally figured out on the Wii, we have this combo – I don’t know if you’ve seen the game; I know NASCAR means zero over here – taking a kart racing view, different art style. The game’s selling much better than the plan. Not monstrous numbers, but good enough that we’re pleasantly surprised, and it’ll continue to sell. The thing we like about the Wii is that it’ll keep trucking along, and we finally got our ship-date right. The NASCAR season starts with Daytona in February, and we shipped it round there, so we’ll sell that thing all year, all NASCAR season long and into the Holidays.
But is a next generation, HD NASCAR game…
Not in development with us right now.
But is it something you’re interested in pursuing?
Yeah. NASCAR’s always been a phenomenal partner for us. But as we’ve said, right now nothing in development, nothing to announce about NASCAR. We continue to talk to each other and we’re figuring out what’s best for both them and us.
There was also a cricket game rumoured…
…which was heavily tipped. Cricket’s a worldwide sport, Peter.
Yeah. I was watching County cricket last night, wondering how it survives as a business.
I think there are some big backers.
Is that what it is? OK. I was watching Glamorgan and Leicestershire, and there was, like, four men and a dog. Anyway. Go ahead.
Are you making a cricket game?
No. I don’t know what I have to say. It’s amazing. I love cricket myself. I’m a huge cricket fan, and I go back before all of you were born, watching test cricket and sitting out at Old Trafford as a kid watching Lancashire play. I mock County cricket, but in the old days it used to be a big deal. Today, I don’t know why it survives.
EA’s done cricket, but it goes back to the original issue we talked about. These are different times right now, and you can’t afford to do things that aren’t generating the right amount of return, that can’t keep your staff employed… Unfortunately cricket fits into that. While you say it’s a global sport, it is a regional sport where the sun has set on the British Empire.
And so I have to respond to rumours all the time.
Well, we’ll consider that rumour killed.
If we’re talking about the toughness of the business, then, obviously last year you had a challenging time on the bottom line. Would you say that performance has created a more risk-averse EA Sports?
No. No, not at all. We continue to invest. The company as a whole, to its credit, although it wasn’t reflected in the sales, things like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge, all the things that people criticize EA for not doing, we did last year. Things we’re doing now, like Dante’s Inferno, Brutal Legend with Schafer, things that we’re doing with Active, finally bringing tennis to EA Sports, that’s never been done before, looking at online in very innovative ways. All that stuff. I mean, particularly online, which Riccitiello said last year. We pumped $150 million into pure infrastructure last year, getting ready for the coming years, believing in a strong use of our balance sheet.
So, while you’re referring to the P&L, the balance sheet is a multi-billion dollar balance sheet that has continued to grow for us. In today’s world cash is king, and the ability for us to either invest in a build strategy, or every now and again poke our toes in the water of a bi-strategy is there.
While it was a challenging year P&L-wise, the balance sheet continues to grow. We’re in great shape in that respect.
Have you got any more products to announce for this fiscal year?
To ship in this fiscal year?
I… Well, it all depends. Are you coming to E3?
I’m personally not, but somebody will be there.
Somebody will be there.
Do you miss the hardware business at all?
I miss my friends. As you can imagine, I talk to everyone from Robbie downwards on a regular basis as personal friends. I enjoy the purity of the software business, and combining that with sports. As I think I’ve said publicly, if the label structure was not in place I would never have left my job at Microsoft.
We’re a Bay Area family. My wife and kids wanted to get out of the rain. I’m a big fan of what EA’s done, and EA and I danced with each other many years ago before I actually went to Microsoft. So, the only job I would have left doing what I did for was to run EA Sports, that combination of what I’ve done in my previous life, as a PE teacher, and as a soccer player, and as somebody who worked in athletic footwear for 17 years between Patrick and Reebok. Being able to combine that love of sports and that experience in sports marketing, and then ten years now in videogames, and to be able to bring it together. It’s the only job in the world I would have left it for.
Yeah, I miss some of the jousting we used to do, and some of the fun we had. I saw a post this morning. Peter Dille. And my name popped up again. “It’s just not the same since Kutaragi and Peter Moore left.” What was it? Sony owns the living room, Microsoft owns the office and Nintendo own the closet. I think it was on Kotaku, I can’t remember.
How do you see the hardware race panning out? You have to measure it in terms of discs now, I guess.
Well, the good news is that, boy, I’m excited that Nintendo hasn’t even taken a price cut yet. They continue, in some instances, to not be able to keep up with demand, which blows me away, especially in the US.
Do you expect them to drop this year?
I don’t know. I mean, no reason to right now. If I were their side of the table, when demand is as strong as that, and you know you’ve still got people who are willing to line up, there’s no reason to. You’ve got to make money in the hardware business when the sun shines, because when you do drop the price, all of a sudden that’s a big hole in your P&L. But I think the good news is that if they feel there’s any softness in the market they have that ability to do so. It’s good for the industry.
I think Microsoft, as I was obviously aware of the plans, have been very aggressive, and they’ve reaped the benefits of having very competitive pricing, and your hope is that Sony can now feel confident that they can [drop]. You know, they’ve just done it with the PS2, and I think they’ve still got a long way to go.
So I think from an industry point of view, how long the cycle is, I think we’ve still got a long runway here ahead of us, and as a software publisher I’m enthusiastic. I think this could be our biggest generation ever, when you think of the sheer numbers.
Are you nervous about switching over to the next platform, whatever the next platform is? It’s pretty clear it’s going to be a very long cycle.
As any software publisher will tell you, the longer that thing is out the better off it is. I think we’ve got a lot of money we can make in this generation ahead of us here, and hardware manufacturers in the same way, don’t want to start making that investment while there’s still a lot of money to be made. The way that the cycle works, right, is that the money’s at the back end when your attach rate’s up, and you get your costs and your building materials under control. In the hardware, that’s where the money’s made. You’re hemorrhaging in the front end. We’re excited about the future. There’s no inkling of any new development being done. I mean, I’m sure somewhere, someone in all three companies is working on it, but nothing that we see, and we’re excited about that, quite frankly.
There’s been an awful lot of talk about a consoleless future. Do you have any belief in that belief?
Obviously you’re referring to OnLive, Cloud gaming. We’re fans of that. But it’s got to work, right? I hope it does. Who knows if it’s ten years or 15 years from now, but ultimately I think the first thing that will eventually disappear is discs. Do the console manufacturers a decade from now decide that they’re going to take the cogs and put it into a bigger hard drive, and take the cogs from what a disc drive would have cost them to put into storage, and have the courage to go, ‘You know what, if you still need to buy a disc then we’re not interested in you as a customer’?
You’ve got this theoretical, blue-sky visionary stuff, which I’m sure all the console manufacturers are noodling right now. Who knows what’s going to happen ten, 15, 20 years from now? But I do know that discs go away. I think everyone understands that. Look as the music industry. When was the last time you bought music on a CD? We’re a long way ahead of that because of the physical size of a game download, but it’s just a question of time, right?