Despite being a work-in-progress, EA’s digital distribution platform Origin has already attracted 5 million daily users, according to COO Peter Moore.
“Like any piece of software, you launch and continue to polish it, upgrade it, get feedback and make it better. That’s where we are with Origin,” Moore told Screenplay.
“We’re only four and a half months in and already over five million people are using it on a daily basis.”
Asked what he considers to be EA’s biggest challenge at the moment, Moore hinted he considers nailing Origin a top priority.
“We’ve got a lot of people in the company that are focused on that. Battlefield 3 will be the first real test of the stability of Origin,” he said.
“And that’s why we did the beta. We’re not afraid. Betas are always risky things because your painting is only half painted, you don’t quite know where it will finish up, but you show people for free before it’s finished and people criticise.”
The executive commented that the Battlefield 3 and Origin beta was “a bit of a challenge” when players blamed software and reacted badly to crashes due to back-end testing and changes, but values the experience anyway.
“I’d say that getting more direct to consumers faster so we can have this daily interaction is one of our core strategies,” he added.
Origin is just part of EA’s strategy to adapt to an era in which traditional publishing models are rapidly losing relevancy.
“I think what we have done is redefine what a publisher in interactive entertainment means in the modern era. We’re closer now when we look at the industry to being a peer of a Facebook, or a Google, or even an Amazon, or in our world a Comcast, which is a major distributor of content by cable, than we are a publisher of video game discs sold through retail,” Moore said.
“Yes, we still do that, we do a lot of that, we do billions of dollars worth of that, but our metamorphosis from being a packaged goods company to a true internet-focused service organisation that provides game experiences, not just on launch day and then move onto something else, but 365 days a year.
“It’s been painful for a few years because we’ve made massive investments with no revenue attached in infrastructure: billing systems, back-end hardware, server farms all over the world. But as we stand here today and interestingly, as I see the stock at a 52 week high this afternoon, I think the message is starting to come through that the company that is emerging from an investment period still with great brands and still doing very well in the old business of selling discs, as you’ve seen with our numbers recently, but well positioned for the new future whether it’s on Facebook, whether it’s in iOS, whether it is in the Amazons of this world, whether it is streaming, whether it is free or whether the game is $60.”
EA’s measure of success has changed, too; it can no longer be satisfied with ruling rh holiday season roost.
“It would be very difficult to track EA’s number of ‘units sold’ when we’re so powerful now on Facebook. How does one equate for the 67 million people in two months that are now playing The Sims Social?” Moore said, challenging the assumption that EA is less successful than in the past.
“In the old days five years ago when you counted the number of discs we sold, we were holding our own nicely, but I think it is difficult now because the industry is so fragmented for companies to have massive market shares across all platforms.
“We know we’re the number one console publisher, although maybe our share certainly on a global basis is not anywhere near 25 percent, it’s probably in the upper teens depending on which month.
“We’re number one on PC, we’re number one on tablets, we’re number one in mobile, we’re number two in the world on social platforms. It’s pretty darn good. There’s no other company in the world that can look at all of those different platforms and be anywhere close to the position that we are in right now.
“In 2001, just 10 years ago, there was probably 200 million gamers, primarily in the Western world. We then fast forward to where we are today in 2011, we think there’s about one and a half billion people playing games of some shape or size, whether it’s on their mobile phones, or on tablets, or on their PCs or consoles.
“We’re looking at 2015 and I was asking the crowd, if we connect all these platforms, we’ve got a game experience for every platform, for every taste, for every wallet, for everybody’s time constraints, we’ve got an experience for you, is there going to be three billion people who are gamers by 2015 because of the ubiquity of devices that we are all enjoying around the world.”